Shania Twain has never been a quitter. As she crisscrosses North America this summer belting out hits on tour, few realize the struggles she overcame to get back onstage. “I had to come to terms with losing the voice that I had,” Shania says, “and rediscovering my new one.”
She started encountering changes in her singing voice after she was bitten by a tick in 2003. The vocal-cord muscle paralysis she suffered, called dysphonia, is a rare side effect of Lyme disease. “When you’re a singer and it’s your voice, it is just a terrible, terrible feeling,” says Shania, 53, who underwent two “intense” throat surgeries and began working with a voice therapist. “What I’ve learned through therapy is how to manipulate my voice to get it to do what I want it to do, or at least close enough,” she says.
Acceptance didn’t come overnight, but the Queen of Country Pop has always been a fighter. “Shania was off the road for more than eight years after getting Lyme disease, and her split from [first husband] Mutt [Lange] was right in the middle of all that, so there were days she felt like, ‘Oh, Lord, why me?'” a friend recalls.
Fortunately, the pity party didn’t last long. “Emotionally I survived, and I am just ready to keep going,” Shania says. “You’ve just got to be willing and give in to change. You have to accept that you don’t always have to be the same.” Frederic Thiebaud — the ex-husband of the woman who broke up Shania’s marriage — provided emotional support through it all, and the two married in 2011. “He is kind, encouraging and a great listener,” says the friend. “Without Frederic, Shania may never have reclaimed her career.”
Shania, who in 2017 released Now, her first album in 15 years, has adapted so well she’s announced a new Las Vegas residency beginning in December. “I’m embracing it,” she says. “It’s been a long, really rewarding journey.”
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