A long and winding journey

It started with a tweet.

The tweet, if I recall correctly, said something like, we are looking for more hosts of this podcast (probably more eloquently than that, given Mike and Raj’s much more succinct writing style)

I thought to myself… yea, why the hell not. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing something like this for a while, but creating something from scratch seemed like far too much work.

The only problem was, you could barely understand me.

Let me rewind. 

In October 2017, I started a side-gig teaching self-defence with Women’s Self-Defence Network, Wāhine Toa. It was amazing. They get funding from the government to teach self-defence in a kick ass feminist non-victim-blamey way to women and girls Aotearoa-wide. I had found my tribe. The other teachers were amazing, true wāhine toa, and I had never been surrounded by people that I was simultaneously in awe of and afraid of. Like everything I do, I threw myself into head-over-heels. I taught back to back courses with increasing numbers of young teenage girls. 

I started losing my voice. It would come back a bit raspier each time. I thought to myself, it’ll be fine, the school holidays will come round and I’ll get a chance to rest it.

Each time I lost my voice, it came back slower, and it was definitely huskier.

Not this kind of husky

So by the time I answered that tweet, it was with great trepidation. I mean I really wanted to do this, but how could I do a radio job with no voice? 

It was also a really emotional time for me. Those that know me personally will know that I love public speaking, have done so since I won a speech competition at 14 and caught the bug. I am constantly doing conferences (not quite keynote, but watch this space) and presentations… losing my voice was like a football player losing their leg. 

I really didn’t know how to keep on going on.

I had put my name down with the DHB, but there was a waiting list, and “losing your voice” is not really life-threatening, so I could only imagine what the waiting lists was like. 

I forged ahead anyway. 

Mike and the team welcomed me aboard. And I started thinking about who to interview for my first foray in the rodeo.

Luckily, it was the lovely Sarah Bickerton who answered my tweet. A twitter friend and a kindred spirit, the interview went smoothly, well as smoothly as it could with my voice breaking every few minutes.

With no solution in sight for my woes (I had an appointment booked in October!) I forged ahead. Speaking less and less with each interview, and declining most speaking engagements in public. I had also quit teaching self-defence, heartbroken that I couldn’t demonstrate to the girls what a loud “BACK OFF” sounded like.

Then I got the news I had been waiting for. An endoscopic scan showed some kind of growth on my vocal folds. The surgeon decided that it looked bad enough for me to be put on the list for surgery. I called all the private surgeons in the hope that I could circumvent the waiting list for a wee bit of coin (spoiler, Aotearoa is too small, it’s the same surgeons, the lists are the same!) 

And so I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Then all of a sudden in February 2019, there was a cancellation and I had to have surgery in less than a couple of weeks. 

I was both excited and terrified. 

What if the surgery went wrong? And I lost my voice completely. I started to think of all the jobs I could change to. 

I had just started a role with the Pam Fergusson Charitable Trust as their Professional Development Lead. My entire role consisted of talking to people, loudly, in rooms. 

I was worrying unnecessarily. The amazing Dr David Vokes and his team took great care with me. I came out of the surgery instantly healed and back to my loud self. 

It turns out that it wasn’t just the one growth, it was two...bilateral growths on either side of the vocal fold. Dr Vokes said that it was the worst he had seen in a while (although he declined to give me a medal for it). The only cloud on the horizon is that medical science don’t know why these things happen, so it could happen again.

So, here I am. I’ve done a few more podcasts since the surgery and the rest of the team are shocked by the difference. I feel great and I wanted to write this to thank them. Thank you Mike and Raj for having the faith in me, even when I couldn’t talk properly, and thank you listeners for bearing with me.