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Céline Dion says singing with stiff person syndrome is ‘like somebody is strangling you’

Céline Dion is shedding light on her health and how seriously her stiff person syndrome has affected her ability to sing.
In her first broadcast interview since she revealed in 2022 that she has the rare neurological condition, the Canadian superstar spoke with Hoda Kotb for an upcoming primetime special about what it’s like to try to sing with it.
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“It’s like somebody is strangling you,” Dion said in an excerpt of their conversation that aired on June 7 on TODAY. “It’s like somebody is pushing your larynx/pharynx this way.”
Dion then raised her voice.
“It was like talking like that, and you cannot go high or lower,” she demonstrated. “It gets into a spasm.”
Dion, 56, first shared in December 2022 that she has stiff person syndrome. The disorder not only causes stiffness in the torso and limbs, but it also can produce intense muscle spasms, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
She said in a May 23 interview with Vogue that she first began noticing symptoms while on tour in 2008.
“Quite rapidly, I was having difficulty controlling my voice,” Dion said.
The singer told Hoda that she first began feeling it in her throat and initially thought, “OK, that’s going to be fine.”
However, the muscle spasms and stiffness in her hands and feet soon became a serious issue.
“It can also be in the abdominal, can be in the spine, can be in the ribs,” Dion said. “But it feels like if I point my feet, they will stay in a (stuck position), or if I cook — because I love to cook — my fingers, my hands, will get in a position.”
“My feet — it’s cramping, but it’s like in a position of you cannot unlock them.”
The muscle spasms are so severe they can cause serious injuries.
“I have broken ribs at one point because sometimes, when it’s very severe, it can break some ribs as well,” Dion said.
The condition caused her to cancel her Las Vegas residency in 2021 and her recent Courage World Tour.
She told Vogue France in April that she receives therapy five days a week for stiff person syndrome, working everything from her toes and knees to her voice. The “Titanic” songstress said she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to perform again.
“I can’t answer that. … Because for four years I’ve been saying to myself that I’m not going back, that I’m ready, that I’m not ready. .. As things stand, I can’t stand here and say to you: ‘Yes, in four months,'” she told Vogue France.
She expands on that topic and more in her full interview with Hoda, which airs June 11 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
Dion also gives a glimpse of her life with stiff person syndrome in the documentary “I Am: Celine Dion,” which will be released on Amazon Prime Video on June 25.
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:

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