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Alex Kip: The Hoarse Whisperer

Alex Kip: The Hoarse Whisperer

This is Chapter 18 in the on-going story of Pelotonia rider Alex Kip, 23, and his battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Type B) cancer – which is now in remission. Click here to read chapter 17 and watch the video of Alex ringing the bell at The James!

 

Dr. deSilva has just stuck a needle in Alex's neck and told him to say E - and hold it

Here’s the drill: Alex’s voice-specialist doctor sticks a needle into his neck, close to his vocal chords. The needle is attached to an electromyography machine, which will be able to determine if the nerves around his left vocal chord are active or dead.

 

The answer will determine if his voice – for talking and especially for singing – will ever return to normal, or remain a gravely rasp.

 

The first clue, a little more than a year ago, that there was a cancerous tumor growing in his chest, was a persistent cough that still remains, and voice issues. This voice problem was huge for someone who was a senior at the time in Michigan’s prestigious School of Music, Theatre & Dance – and was hoping for a career singing on Broadway.

 

Alex’s left vocal chord, which is a muscle, is the problem – and it doesn’t seem to want to work.

 

“Say E,” said Dr. Brad deSilva – and Alex said E – and held it for a few seconds. The wave monitor on the computer screen began wiggling up and down, which seemed like a good sign.

 

The doctor poked and prodded with the needle, and Alex kept saying E on command.

 

It's hard to see, but those squiggly lines on the left side of the computer monitor are a good sign

“The nerve is connected, but damaged, but that’s a good sign,” Dr. deSilva told Alex after he removed the needle from his neck. And yes, it hurt about as much as you’d think a needle in the neck would hurt.

 

“There’s a chance, with more time it will continue to improve and you’ll get your voice back.”

 

Other options, he said, include an injection of a gel or surgically implanting a piece of goretex material.

 

Alex decided to wait it out – and come back for more tests in a few months. He reasoned it’s only been a month since his cancer treatment ended, not enough time for the nerves to fully recover. Dr. deSilva agreed.

 

“This is basically the news we wanted to hear,” Alex said later. “What could have happened was the pressure from the tumor was so intense it could have snapped the nerve that makes my left vocal chord work – or pressed so hard against it that it would never come back and if that was the case, my voice would never come back.

 

“But this test showed us the nerve is still working, but hasn’t fully recovered and we just need to give it more time.”

Alex and his high school mentor Cindy (L) are co-directing...

In other words: Alex has to be patient, which can be tough for a 23-year-old ready to move on to New York to get on with his career and start auditioning for shows.

 

Alex does test his voice, from time to time – in the shower, in the car, when he’s listening to music.

 

“Basically, my range is intact, but there’s no volume.”

 

And then there’s the whole raspy thing, that does seem to be getting better, little by little, but at a snail’s pace. And not even one of those fast snails.

“People I haven’t talked to in a couple of weeks tell me I sound better and that’s unsolicited; I didn’t even ask them how I sound,” Alex said. “I’m cautiously optimistic. I want it to come back and be the way it was, and now I know there’s the potential this can happen. But, at the same time, I have to be ready if it doesn’t.”

 

In the meantime, Alex has been co-directing the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie at his old high school, Gahanna Lincoln High, with his old theater teacher, Cindy Macioce. She has been a mentor and friend to Alex for years.

 

The show opened last night.

 

“I love it and it’s definitely kept me going and allows me to feel connected, although not in the performing aspect. There’s still the rush and excitement, but in a different way. You’re not up there performing, but you had a hand in it and you’re guiding them to be the best they can be. And I’ve learned a lot by helping them.”


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1 Comment

  1. Brice Corder - May 13, 2011

    Kipper!! So proud, and hurray for good vibrations!! You will make it!! Your voice is going to as well!! 🙂

    Weathervane supports ya and so do I buddy!!

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