Scottsdale woman overcomes voice disorder

Esther Zack has battled a voice disorder called spasmodic dysphonia and is leading a walk in Scottsdale Oct. 22 to raise money for research into treatments of the ailment. (Special to the Progress)

Esther Zack’s dance with adversity started as a young adult when her husband collapsed and died on the golf course, leaving her with two children to support.

The stress was enough to bring on a virus that took her voice away. She needed her voice for her job, which consisted of long hours on the phone on behalf of her company “Debbie Temps.“

No one knew what to do for her. Her friends and colleagues thought the cause was psychological trauma. She went to ENT doctors who had no clue what was wrong. Nothing worked.

But one day she received a recommendation to visit an ENT at the Mayo Clinic who did know something about her condition—and it had a name: spasmodic dysphonia.

Spasmodic dysphonia, or laryngeal dystonia, is a disorder affecting the voice muscles in the larynx. Muscles inside the vocal folds spasm and make sudden, involuntary movements. This spasm causes voice breaks during speaking and can make the voice appear strained, breathy or trembling (vocal tremor).

It is a chronic condition that can develop suddenly, start with mild symptoms, and worsen over time.

Zack tried every conceivable treatment – even crystals and voodoo.

So, she and her new husband started a video business for which she was the marketing director, a position which required a lot of talking to promote the business.

But even cancer did not stop Esther! She continued with careers and hobbies that involved a great deal of talking—financial advisor, customer service shopper for Sears, advocate and host of jazz concerts for her neighborhood clubhouse, and volunteer for various organizations.

After her second husband passed away, she served for 2 ½ years as a fulfillment representative for Charity Benefits Unlimited. As a representative she had to use her voice for eight hours a day on the phone, doing 500 calls a day.

How she was able to do this with spasmodic dysphonia is a testament to her incredible fortitude.

Zack attributes her ability to lead a normal life to some of her adjunctive treatments. Tai Chi has been a godsend because it has taught her how to breathe correctly with her diaphragm rather than through her chest.

CBD oil also provides her with much relief, along with the Lifewave stem cell activation patches. Even singing has helped her voice.

Zack supports and volunteers for Dysphonia International, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by the ailment.

She advises that people with dysphonia seek relief by visiting neurologists, consulting with speech language pathologists, taking up Tai Chi and joining support groups. Both the Mayo Clinic and Banner Health have programs available to patients with voice conditions.

Zack co-chairs the committee that leads Dysphonia International volunteers in Arizona in fundraising efforts. She is organizing this year’s “Walk for Talk” event on Oct. 22 around the lake at the Mercado Del Lago Mall on North Hayden Road in Scottsdale.

Sign up to walk, give a donation or sponsor the event by visiting dysphonia.org.

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