A surgery to remove lesion from her throat resulted in her losing her singing voice forever.
Julie Andrews swooned the world with her four octaves singing voice, full of warmth and depth. With movies like Mary Poppins, Victor/Victoria, and The Sound of Music, she became one of the most popular, respected, and talented actresses of her time.
With her beautiful voice and acting skill, she soon received an Oscar for the Best Actress in a leading role. But everything changes after a point because that's how the world works. But for Andrews, this change wasn't good. In 1997, a simple vocal cord surgery cost her the voice which made her a star.
In 1997, Andrews experienced vocal issues during the two years she'd been starring in the Broadway musical version of Victor/Victoria and was diagnosed with a lesion on her vocal cords, reported Biography.
According to People, it was noncancerous nodules or a benign polyp but in 2015, while talking to the Hollywood Reporter, the actress revealed that the lesion which was a "weak spot" was more like a cyst. When the Broadway run came to an end, Andrews was relieved that she'll now get to rest her voice but to her shock, Victor/Victoria's production team along with her husband Blake Edwards were planning a tour of the show instead.
Looking for any kind of quick and permanent solution, Andrews gave into her doctor's suggestion and agreed to get a surgery done to remove the lesion. She was told that there would be no effect on her voice and within just weeks after the procedure, she would regain her magical voice. Being a hardworking individual, she would do anything to continue working and so in June 1997, she underwent the surgery at New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital.
In the 1990s, surgeries often used tools like forceps or lasers, so it was possible for the vocal cords to get damaged pretty easily. That's exactly what happened to Andrews as well. Her once sweet voice was reduced to just a rasp; what was worse, her enchanting four-octave singing voice was gone. Saddened by his wife's condition, Edwards told People, "I don’t think she’ll sing again. It’s an absolute tragedy."
In 1999, according to CBS News, Andrews filed a lawsuit against the doctor and the hospital claiming that she was not informed about the risks of the surgery. She said that it "ruined her ability to sing and precluded her from practicing her profession as a musical performer." In another statement, she said, "Singing has been a cherished gift, and my inability to sing has been a devastating blow."
According to the New York Times, after the surgery, she tried getting her voice back through vocal exercises, multiple surgeries, and a different doctor, Steven Zeitels, who successfully removed some scar tissues and stretched her remaining vocal cord that effectively enhanced her voice.
The doctor revealed that the restoration of Andrews' singing voice was impossible because of the damage of her vocal cords, reported The Newyorker. Talking to Independent in 2015, she said, "It's nothing that is going to grow back."
Singing had been a part of Andrews' life since she was a child. She had practically grown up on stage. In her 2008 memoir, Home, she wrote, "When the orchestra swells to support your voice, when the melody is perfect and the words so right there could not possibly be any others, when a modulation occurs and lifts you to an even higher plateau … it is bliss."
The actress checked into a clinic in Arizona to receive grief therapy. Talking to People in 2015, Andrews said, “For a while, I was in total denial,” but then “I had to do something.” Talking further she said, “If it had happened earlier, it would have been really devastating. As it was, it was devastating.”
She channeled her sadness into writing books and co-authoring Dumpy the Dumptruck and The Very Fairy Princess children’s series with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. Talking about how life makes ways for opportunities, she said, “What I say in the [The Sound of Music] is true: a door closes and a window opens." She believes if she had not lost her singing talent, “I would never have written this number of books. I would never have discovered that pleasure,” she said.
She also thinks that one loss paved way for her to make movies like The Princess Diaries and Despicable Me which made her popular among the new generation too. Recalling the old days she said, “I thought at the time [of the surgery,] my voice was what I am. But it seems it’s not all that I am.”