Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Botox, Baby!

There are a few of you who will read this who already know what I am about to say, but for those of you who don't, let me explain.

About 3 years ago I was diagnosed with a rare voice disorder called Spasmodic Dysphonia. To make a long story short, what this means is that the part of my brain that sends signals to my vocal cords to make them work/sound normal basically misfires and causes my vocal cords to move when they shouldn't. This causes my voice to sometimes sound strained and/or shaky. There is no cure for this disorder but the treatment is that I get shots of Botox (yes...Botox) into my vocal cords about every 4 months. The Botox basically calms down the vocal cords so that the sound I produce when I speak sounds more normal. Then, as soon as I can feel/hear the shaky sounding voice again, I know it is time for another shot.

Unfortunately, there is a side effect which is that right after I get the Botox shot, I lose my voice for 2-3 weeks. It sucks and I hate it. I mean, let's be honest. It effects everything in my life from my job to talking on the phone to ordering food in a restaurant to people thinking I am always sick - it all becomes just slightly more difficult and annoying. No, I will not die from Spasmodic Dysphonia and yes, there are A LOT of worse things people deal with in life, but it is still a huge pain in the arse and I hope every day for a cure. But, until that cure comes, we with this condition are slaves to Botox. Sweet, sweet Botox.

Prior to my diagnosis I, like most people, thought that Botox was simply yet another cosmetic aid used frequently by the rich and famous. On many occasion I scoffed at celebrities in the magazines who had obviously had a tad too much and couldn't move their faces. It was a superfluous extravagance that had nothing to do with me and never would. Oh life...it does like to throw us zingers, doesn't it?

Botox is now somewhat of a life line for me. Being able to speak...simply speak...is not something that many of us really ever think about until it is jeopardized. In the year before my diagnosis I noticed the voice that I had had all my life slowly changing and morphing into this unrecognizable, fractured and strained sound. Saying words became difficult and I struggled with doctor after doctor to figure out what was wrong with me. At first it was stress, then acid reflux, then a speech disorder but I knew in my heart that none of these were correct. Finally I was sent to a voice specialist and an ear, nose and throat doctor and within minutes they were able to diagnose me. It was both a relief and a sadness to finally know the answer - an incurable brain disorder that makes me sound funny - BRILLIANT! Shortly thereafter I received my first Botox treatment and I have been going back for more ever since. I really don't know what I would do without the stuff and I am thankful every day that even though there is not a cure, there is a treatment.

Seeing as Botox drastically improved my quality of life, I became curious about other uses for the blessed little diluted poison, and what I found was that Botox helps A LOT of people. Wrinkles schminkles - this stuff goes waaaay beyond vanity. Besides giving me my voice back, here are some other conditions which are aided by Botox:
  • Bladder disorders
  • Muscle spasms
  • Hyperhydrosis (excessive sweating)
  • Cerebral palsy spasms
  • Cervical Dystonia (painful condition affecting head and neck)
  • Excessively oily skin
  • Drooling
  • Hair loss
  • Eye twitching
  • Crossed eyes
  • Clenched jaw
And the list could keep on going. Doctors seem to constantly be finding new uses for Botox and the FDA is continuing to approve its use for more treatments. Who would have thought that one of the deadliest poisons in the world could help so many people? Every rose has it's thorn. Wait - that's not right...er...every thorn has it's rose? Hmmmm...every cloud has a silver lining? Sure - we'll stick with that one. Anyway, it is so much more than a cosmetic aid - it is a quality of life aid and I just wanted to tell my tale of how much it has changed my life.

I guess I also wanted to spread the word because I think that too often people judge a book by its cover and this whole experience has really opened my eyes - not only to the medical benefits of Botox, but that just because someone can't stop shaking or has a funny sounding voice or has a misshapen neck/back/whatever, does not mean that they are dumb or inadequate or not qualified. This may seem like a dumb thing to say, but I think that these types of feelings/ideas happen more than people realize. Hopefully one day all of the brilliant and talented doctors out there will be able to find cures for all of these strange little abnormalities, but until then it is a matter of acceptance of the problem, understanding from other people and a little precious baby by the name of Botox.

ps - If anyone ever reads this who has my, or a similar condition, please let me know. I have never met anyone else with Spasmodic Dysphonia and I would love to hear how it has affected your life.


  1. well you have a lovely voice on here...writing is a beautiful thing!...I totally caught up on your blog...Im not a weirdo I swear I just recently came to know the world of blogs and some stand out because they are well written...its been fun! ps my parents live in Astoria! Oregon is a beautiful place!

  2. Yay for Astoria! That is quite the famous little town ;) Where is it that you are from?


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