Thomas Wade was already the successful lead vocalist of an award-winning country-music band, an accomplished songwriter, and an emerging solo artist when he was diagnosed with Oromandibular Dystonia, a neurological disorder that affects speech. Wade noticed troubling symptoms affecting his vocal chords when his band, Wayward’s End, was achieving domestic success on the Canadian charts. Their path towards national recognition was fully realized when Wayward’s End secured three Juno nominations and seven CCM Awards.
Wade’s success on the national charts was a big leap from his small-town roots in Burford, Ontario. Wade came from a musical family and was surrounded by musical influences in his childhood. At age seven he learned how to play guitar at age and taught himself how to write songs at age ten. He moved towards bigger goals when he became the lead singer of his family’s band Silver Wings. By the time he had graduated from Fanshaw College with a degree in music, he was lead singer of Wayward’s End and on tour. He sought more challenges and expanded his skills in music. Wade and his band looked towards the international market when nation-wide fame became a reality. At this point, however, his vocal chords had started to fail him but he didn’t know why. Despite acquiring a vast skill set in music, his voice was the critical element in helping him to launch his successful career in music.
For years, Wade struggled with vocal difficulties. At first, he had difficulty uttering words. He could not understand why he was losing his voice. His ability to sing also started to diminish. His limited capacity forced him to cancel shows when entertaining a crowd with his voice was no longer possible. As Wade found himself unable to sing at all and entertain crowds, Wade grappled with losing an integral part of his identity. By the time Wade received an official diagnosis that could help him understand what was affecting his voice, he could no longer speak. Along with an official diagnosis, doctors let Wade know that Oromandibular Dystonia is incurable.
When confronted with the possibility that he might never speak or sing again, Wade made a crucial decision in his life: to learn as much he could about the brain. Wade wanted to defeat his dystonia rather than let it rule him. Wade learned about neuroplasticity, a groundbreaking technique that enables the brain to reorganize itself. Wade even formulated his own exercises, using the principles of neuroplasticity to recover his speech and voice. By 2011, five years after his official diagnosis, Wade was able to sing again.
Despite being able to recover his singing voice through neuroplasticity, Wade decided to take his musical career in a different direction. He realized he didn’t want to go back to doing what he did before. In the years between when he noticed difficulties with his voice and an official diagnosis, Wade turned his attention towards writing and producing. He focused on what could be done with the gifts he still had rather than direct his efforts towards what was out of his control. During these years, he wrote for other artists, developing a successful writing career. Once he had gained the use of voice again, Wade decided that he wanted to approach music with a new sense of discovery and appreciation rather than chase the next upward trajectory in his career. Wade had decided to divert his attention from trying to recapture his relevance in the music industry. Instead, Wade sought inspiration from other artists and decided to concentrate on creating the music he had always enjoyed and hoped to make.
Through hard work, determination, and tremendous effort, Wade has continued to pursue music with a different vision of where he’d like to take his writing and singing. From where he now stands in music and in life, he hopes to share his story with others.
Learn more about Thomas Wade and his book here.
***Click here to read about Thomas Wade as the 2020 Dystonia Ambassador for Chuck's 5KM Virtual Run, Walk and Wheel for Dystonia.