"Everyday is so wonderful, then suddenly it's hard to breathe."Linda Perry
I was searching through some old videos and found this performance of me at a local competition that I did about ten years ago. I’m performing the song Beautiful, written by Linda Perry (4 Non-Blondes) and made hugely famous by Christina Aguilera. The video was taken by my husband, Kent and is so wobbly and shaky, it will almost make you dizzy to watch it. He is high up stands and was so excited, I think he forgot he was still filming. You can hear him along with the rest of my friends and family cheering me on as I am introduced. Anytime I play it back, that part always warms my heart.
But this post really isn’t about that performance, but about the song itself. Since I was a kid, I used songs and music to get me through the toughest of times and to express how I felt when I just couldn’t put feelings into words. So, in 2007, after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I sat in the surgeon’s office waiting for him to come back in with my pre-op instructions. He walked in and gave me some partially optimistic news. He said, “Your prognosis is very good here and I don’t foresee any issues, however, I need you to be aware that with this type of surgery, there’s always a chance the pitch or sound of your voice could be altered permanently.” “What?!?!”, I said, ignoring the first part of his diagnosis. “But I’m a singer, I can’t lose my voice! I’ve even sung at the Kennedy Center.” I pleaded. He looked to me, tilted his head sympathetically and said “It’s never perfect is it?”. I felt the walls of the room and his words implode in on me in that instant. I think I staggered out of the office, shell shocked in disbelief.
However, with all my astonishment, I also had to ask myself, “Was I really a singer?” I hadn’t sung in front of people in years, aside from the occasional family wedding with my standard Ave Maria. But, if I were really serious, in that moment, I would have had to have answered that question as no.
Over the next few weeks as I waited for my surgery date, I negotiated that perhaps I can trade my right arm to save my voice! I talked more about the loss of my singing ability than the cancerous tumor that was on my thyroid. Thank goodness my Mom shook some sense into me to say, “Tina, you have cancer and you have to get rid of it”. Finally, as in the last stage of grief comes acceptance; relinquish control and whatever will be will be.
And as my surgeon said, there were no issues with my surgery. He used a nerve stimulator to navigate around my vocal chords. All went well and I am still healthy, but with the whole ordeal I felt that the universe was tapping me on the shoulder to say, “What the hell are you waiting for? I’ve given you a second chance.”
I knew if I were going sing again, I needed something with a personal message to bring me back. Not just a song, I needed an ANTHEM. And it turned out that it just there waiting for me – with its poignant lyrics and empowering message, the beauty of the melody and the challenging vocal parts. It was my song. Beautiful was the first song I learned after my surgery and this competition was the first time I performed in front of anyone in years. Although I came in fourth place, I still considered it quite a personal triumph just to be out there singing again.
Since that time, I have never looked back. Now, I say with no reservation that I am a SINGER and to this day I still consider Beautiful my anthem – it pulled me out of doubt and pushed me out on stage to not just perform it, but confront my fears and empower me to realize my capabilities. There is definitely power in song; so, I urge you to keep singing yours.
What is your power anthem and how has it inspired you?