Shania Twain says battle with Lyme disease affected her vocal cords

Shania Twain recently revealed she has been suffering from Lyme disease. As she prepares to release a new album, Twain reveals how the disease required extensive speech therapy and vocal training.

The country singer said she contracted the disease during 2003 Up! tour

Country superstar Shania Twain opened up about her battle with Lyme disease. (Photo by /Getty Images for Billboard Magazine) (Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

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."

A throwback from Shania's Up! days, hosting the Juno awards in 2003. (Tom Hanson/CP)

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."

Caught in a 'very short window'

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."

Twain is one of several celebrities who have spoken out about their experience with Lyme disease, including fellow Canadian Avril Lavigne, Alec Baldwin, and former US President George W. Bush.