In 2002, Shania Twain became the first-ever artist with three RIAA Diamond-certified albums (meaning, she sold more than 10 million copies of each), according to E! News. Then, in 2003, she lost her voice. She saw doctors for six or seven years, and one finally realized it was due to nerve damage from Lyme disease, which she contracted while horseback riding. Now, she’s opening up about this difficult period in her life in a new interview with InStyle.
Twain didn’t sing for years after she got Lyme disease. It took two “open-throat” surgeries and a lot of persuading from her longtime friends Gladys Knight and Lionel Richie to finally try again in 2011. “After I had the surgery, I was petrified to make a sound. I didn’t know what was going to come out,” Twain told Instyle.
When she finally did, she was pleasantly surprised. “It did scare me, but I just had to take the leap and make a sound. And I was so excited about what came out,” she said. “It was a connection to the vocal cords and it came out very easily. I was really, really, really excited.”
Her voice is still different from before Lyme disease and the surgeries, something that’s evident in both her singing and speaking. But her new voice has also allowed her to take the stage once again. Twain went on to do two artist residencies in Las Vegas, as well as multiple tours.
“It’s easier for me to make loud sounds than it is to make soft sounds,” she told InStyle. She says she’s learned to work with the changes, including singing with the Gore-Tex rods that stabilize her throat. “When the air is dry, it’s harder to get that resonance. When I’m loud, it happens, which was the opposite problem before I got the surgery.”
This isn’t the first time Twain has opened up about her voice changes and battle with Lyme disease. She also detailed her experience in the Netflix documentary “Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl,” which was released in July 2022. In it, the trailblazing singer talks about everything from her divorce to the tick bite the gave her Lyme disease and how it drastically changed her life.
“I thought I’d lost my voice forever.”
“My symptoms were quite scary because before I was diagnosed, I was on stage very dizzy. I was losing my balance, I was afraid I was gonna fall off the stage,” Twain shared, noting that this was also during the peak of her career. She had released her album “Come on Over” a few years prior, and she was preparing to go on tour when she was experiencing symptoms of the disease. “I was having these very, very, very millisecond blackouts, but regularly, every minute or every 30 seconds,” Twain added. She explained that she would stand farther back on stage, away from the edge, because she was afraid of falling. And then there was the worst symptom of all: “My voice was never the same again,” Twain said. “I thought I’d lost my voice forever.”
Lyme disease is caused by a specific bacteria spread through the bite of infected ticks. There are various symptoms associated with long-term Lyme disease — including muscle and joint pain, episodes of dizziness, nerve pain, headaches, and facial palsy — and they can persist for months or even years. Doctors disagree about exactly why symptoms continue even after treatment.
Still, against all odds, Twain has made an incredible comeback, which continues with her latest album, “Queen of Me,” which comes out Feb. 3.