Abbriano finds voice after setback


Ava Murphy

Senior Cristiana Abbriano uses singing and music as a guide through the tougher times to look on the bright side for most of her life. “Singing, as well as music in general, is a huge passion of mine and I want to be able to do it for the rest of my life. It allows me to express how I feel and also makes me happier when I am not in a good mood,” Abbriano said.


For two weeks, senior Cristiana Abbriano couldn’t talk. For two weeks, she had to constantly write everything down. For two weeks, she could not sing. She couldn’t do the one thing she loved most in her life. Sing. 


“We went to a vocal specialist, and they did a laryngoscope on me, which is like, they stick a camera down … and then they realized the lump there and that we went on from there,” Cristiana said. 


With all the singing and performing Cristiana does, her vocal cords started to collide into one another. 


“I’m someone that sings a lot. I love music, I love singing, I sing at home and I sing at church and I sing at school. I also, last year, did musical theater. I think it was just too much stress on my vocal cords. I just was singing too much,” Cristiana said. “I’m someone that when I sing, I always give it my all, which is not always good to do because your vocal cords need a break, so it was just too much stress on my vocal cords which caused a cyst.”


This past summer, Cristiana underwent her first of many vocal cord surgeries. Her first two helped with the swelling she was enduring. 


“They call it like a steroid injection and it’s just to reduce the swelling because the swelling was causing my vocal cords to smash into each other,” Cristiana said. 


However, the recovery process was challenging. After her first two surgeries, Cristiana was forced to go on vocal rest for two weeks. 


“This has been really hard for me. Just because I love singing so much. It’s been really hard for me to refrain from it and to not do it,” Cristiana said.  “Especially when I’m alone, in a moment of sadness or anger, I like to go on to the piano or the guitar and sing a song. But, I haven’t been able to do that. At first, that really affected me was kind of like an everyday routine that I wasn’t able to do anymore.” 


In Jan., Cristiana underwent her third surgery. Unlike the first two, this surgery burned out the cyst on her vocal cords by a laser. 


“So the hope is that I don’t have to continue [with surgeries]. But their hope is that it’ll go away, and then through coaching and things like that, I’ll be able to still sing and talk normally, but not cause the problem again. Now it is something that like people can struggle with their whole life, but it does get better,” Cristiana said. 


Through all of this, Cristiana was able to find support through her friends and family. Martina Abbriano, Cristiana’s older sister, did what she could to support her sister during this time. 

“My sister is awesome. She’s very positive all the time which is really great. She loves to sing and dance. She’s very active in chorus and theater. I would say she’s a very sweet, kind and positive person,” Martina said. 


Martina says that she and Cristina have a very close relationship. However, watching her sister go through this was hard for her. 


“It’s been really hard because our family is like ‘you can’t sing, you can’t talk, you have to rest your voice’ and it’s very frustrating for her,” Martina said. “She gets mad about it and so I think the way I’ve supported it is just whenever she was sick after surgery I’d get her ice cream [or] tropical smoothie but it’s really hard to support her because it’s a really tough thing for her to do.” 


Cristiana’s chorus teacher, Eric Wilkinson, has been teaching her since her freshman year. Similar to Cristiana, he began noticing her symptoms last year. 


“I found out about her vocal cords, I think her parents sent me an email over the summer. I remember listening to her a little bit last year and I think some concern started…she started to get hoarse and lose her voice a little bit,” Wilkinson said. 


Despite Cristiana not being able to do what she loves, Wilkinson still supported and helped her through her difficulties. 


“Funnily enough we both have the same vocal therapist at MUSC and so I was going through some of my own vocal difficulties and so I was empathic to begin with but even more so just knowing that I’ve been going through some troubles myself,” Wilkinson said. “It’s intense when it’s a part of who you are. Singing is a part of Cristiana, it’s like woven into her DNA. So it’s really hard for her during this time when she has to not talk or not sing.” 


Despite this setback, Wilkinson says he doesn’t want Cristiana to stop singing. 


“Cristiana is unbelievable. She has so much positive energy and enthusiasm and it’s contiguous,” Wilkinson said. “ Cristina is an amazing student. I would love to see her grow into the idea of being a music teacher herself. She’s got the spirit for it and the nurturing aspect of it too, wanting to take care of other students and have a positive influence on other students and I think she would be an incredible force for good in that way.”