Twain on ‘de­bil­i­tat­ing’ Lyme dis­ease

Tick-borne bac­te­ria led to vo­cal is­sues

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - NEWS | ENTERTAINMENT - BY VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

Sha­nia Twain was rid­ing high in the early-2000s, com­ing off the smash suc­cess of the hit-packed “Come On Over’’ and the re­lease of “Up!,’’ which topped Bill­board’s al­bum charts and got her booked to per­form at the Su­per Bowl.

Then she saw the small bug. “I saw a tick fall off me,’’ Twain re­called in a phone in­ter­view Thurs­day.

The Cana­dian coun­try-pop mu­sic su­per­star was bit­ten by the tick in Nor­folk, Va., and started im­me­di­ately ex­pe­ri­enc­ing symp­toms that threat­ened her per­for­mances.

“I was on tour, so I al­most fell off the stage ev­ery night,’’ said the Tim­mins, Ont.-raised singer-song­writer.

“I was very, very dizzy and didn’t know what was go­ing on. It’s just one of those things you don’t sus­pect.’’

Twain sought treat­ment and was sub­se­quently di­ag­nosed with Lyme dis­ease, a tick-borne bac­te­ria that leads to flu-like symp­toms and can spread within the body.

For Twain it re­sulted in dys­pho­nia, a vo­cal cord dis­or­der that even­tu­ally left her un­able to sing for a while and forced her to un­dergo ex­ten­sive speech ther­apy and vo­cal train­ing.

“It’s dif­fi­cult work,’’ she said. “It’s like deal­ing with an in­jury. I’m just glad that it’s not my heart or my kid­neys or some­thing like that. At least I can do some­thing about it.’’

With a con­fes­sional new sin­gle on the charts — “Life’s About to Get Good,’’ off her up­com­ing al­bum “Sha­nia Now’’ (due Sept. 29) — Twain is talk­ing for the first time about per­sonal is­sues in­clud­ing her Lyme bat­tle.

Though she was di­ag­nosed right away, she didn’t re­al­ize un­til re­cently that it was Lyme that led to her vo­cal is­sues, which au­di­ences first learned about on the 2011 docu-se­ries “Why Not? With Sha­nia Twain.’’

“It took all th­ese years to de­ter­mine that,’’ said Twain. “Then it was all about, ‘Now what do I do about it? How can I fix it?’ So that took sev­eral years, just work­ing out what ther­apy would work for me, with­out even know­ing how well it would work in the end.

“But with per­se­ver­ance and de­ter­mi­na­tion, I was able to record the al­bum and I was able to tour. Get­ting through all of that, I’m en­cour­aged now and I feel like I can tour again and I’ll make more records. So I’m feel­ing re­ally suc­cess­ful with that chal­lenge.’’

The five-time Grammy Award win­ner cau­tions na­ture lovers to be vig­i­lant about search­ing for ticks.

“(Lyme) is very dan­ger­ous be­cause you have a very short win­dow to catch it and then treat it and then even when you treat it, you could still very well be left with ef­fects, which is what hap­pened to me,’’ she said.

“Nor­mally it can at­tack your ner­vous sys­tem or the vi­tal or­gans — heart, liver, kid­neys, ner­vous sys­tem. It’s a de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­ease and ex­tremely dan­ger­ous. You can’t play around with it, so you’ve got to check your­self for ticks.’’

Twain said she counts her­self lucky that she saw the tick fall off her, not­ing many peo­ple don’t.

“You’ve got to check out where you are and what­ever re­gion you’re in and what the rate of Lyme dis­ease is in the re­gion, if you’re go­ing to go out in na­ture,’’ she said. “And I love na­ture, so that’s a big bum­mer for me.’’


Sha­nia Twain per­forms on NBC’s “To­day” show at Rockefeller Plaza last month in New York.

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