Adrenal Achievements Series- Voice of Silence Musician, Vinoj

Adrenal Achievements Series- Voice of Silence Musician, Vinoj

Adrenal Alternatives Foundation is proud to feature this month’s adrenal achievement article with musician, Vinoj of Voice of Silence music.

Vinoj was diagnosed with Addison’s disease and has recorded a song about his battle with adrenal insufficiency called “Temple to Castle.” We were proud to interview Vinoj about his journey managing adrenal disease and how it has inspired his music.

We are also proud to announce that Vinoj will be headlining our benefit concert hosted at the Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers, Florida in December of 2021. (Details TBA)

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Vinoj of Voice of Silence – Artist Biography 

Scarborough-based spoken word and hip-hop artist Voice of Silence is well-known for twisting the way  everyday life is perceived with simple yet profound imagery. His style is constantly evolving, just like  himself, and his newfound approach to fuse musical elements from hip-hop and his South Asian  background with his poetic raps creates an experience that cannot be found elsewhere. 

While also working as an artist educator in schools and community programs, Voice of Silence has  performed at countless events, including opening for ¡MAYDAY!’s ‘Fire in the Sky’ tour, UNITY Charity’s  yearly showcases, and the third annual R.I.S.E. Edutainment ‘416RISE’ showcase. He is seven-times  published in various Canadian poetry collections, including Island Magic and The Tracery of Trees, and he  has released his debut poetry/hip-hop album, Befriending Silence, in April 2017. For his integration and  support of the Toronto arts community through his first album, Voice of Silence received the first ever R.I.S.E. Edutainment Community Development Award in 2016. He was also part of the Scarborough Arts  EAST Mixtape Challenge program in 2018, which allowed him to further develop his hip-hop craft through  a collaborative mixtape titled Time Waits for No One. His passion to tap into his full potential and to connect souls one song at a time keeps the ink flowing and  his pen moving. With his new album coming soon, he released a new EP, Roots, which is a three-song  journey of rekindling and redefining his relationship with his creativity. Roots is available now on all music  platforms!

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Q- Please introduce yourself?
My name is Vinoj, and I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. By day, I am an engineer, working in rail and transit, and by night, I am an artist educator, a spoken word poet, and a hip-hop recording artist and performer.


Q- What form of adrenal disease were you diagnosed with?
I was diagnosed with primary adrenal insufficiency, more commonly known as Addison’s Disease, in September 2019.


Q- Can you tell us about your song you wrote about your Addison’s diagnosis?
The song “Temple to Castle” was born in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, about a year after I started to experience the more severe symptoms of Addison’s pre-diagnosis. I was in a very self-reflective space and was looking back on my journey with Addison’s and how it has impacted my life and shaped me over the past year. As most can relate, I was feeling more alone than before having to be cooped up inside during the lockdown. Poetry and music is my way of expression through which I’m able to connect with others, so I channeled the frustration I felt having these extra obstacles, having to rely on daily medication, and having to work harder to rebuild my physical health into writing this song.

Inspired by Pharoahe Monch’s verse on “The Fight Song”, I wanted to write the intro from the perspective of Addison’s, as if it was a living entity haunting me and wanting to be recognized just like other more common diseases. The following verses were inspired by “TFB” by King Iso, where he treated going to the gym as “training for battle”, and I wrote my verses as building my physical health and motivating myself to continue to fight the symptoms of Addison’s and continue pushing forward. The chorus became an anthem-style battle cry, where I “declare war” on Addison’s and flip the meaning of the phrase “your body is a temple”. I had to make my body a “castle” instead so I can have the physical and mental strength to accept and live with this disease.

I created this song in hopes of connecting with others with similar diagnoses, to show that we are not as alone and rare as health professionals say we are, and to inspire others to not let adrenal diseases hold them back from living their life to the fullest.


Q- Did you struggle to accept your diagnosis of adrenal disease?
Very much indeed. Being 25 at the time, I felt “invincible” and that I will never have to rely on any medications or have any health complications (at least not for a long time), so when I heard about my diagnosis, I wasn’t able to fully take in the gravity of it. It wasn’t until 2 months later, when I had to go back to the hospital because a fever left me completely weak and unable to function that I realized how serious of a condition I have. It probably took me a whole year to finally feel comfortable and accept that I need to live with Addison’s and not against it.


Q- How has adrenal disease changed your life?
Having an adrenal disease has forced me to slow down and listen to my body more. Before all the symptoms and diagnosis, I was always “on the go” and filled up my days from morning until night with things to do. Looking back on this though, I felt that I had spread myself too thin and did not take the time to appreciate the simpler aspects of life. I’m now practicing a lot more self-care through meditation and yoga and learning what my body needs and how the medications affect it as well. Instead of trying to do as much as I can, I am focusing on what matters to me most and what my passions are. Although all of this seemed like a downfall at first and I did feel that I was not being as “productive” as I used to be, I am beginning to appreciate the slower pace and having a more grateful outlook on life.


Q- What goals do you hope to accomplish with your music?
My goal is to connect with others through relatable stories and themes that are captured through my music. I want to capture everyday life in poetic and refreshing ways that allow people to be more aware of themselves and appreciate the immediate world around them.


Q- What is something you wish the world understood about life with adrenal disease?
I wish the world understood that having adrenal disease does not mean we cannot live life to the fullest. I was often told through health professionals and online articles that Addison’s is rare and that it’s even more rare to meet others with it as well, and it’s not easy to regain your physical health, but through the release of “Temple to Castle”, I quickly learned there is a vast international community out there ready to support and inspire each other with their own life stories.


Q- How do you use your music to help you cope with adrenal disease?
Music is very therapeutic to me, as I can spend a whole day just listening to music and being carried away into the world the artists create through their lyrics and instrumentals. It inspires me to tell my own stories in creative ways through music so that I can get lost within the worlds that I create. It is both an outlet that allows me to escape the reality of having Addison’s and at the same time, a tool to allow me to express my journey with it as well. I consider my poems and music to be time capsules that capture what I’m feeling and experiencing in that specific moment, and when I look back at them in the future, it allows me to appreciate how far I’ve come and be inspired by my own experiences.


Q- What is something you wish you could tell all adrenal disease patients?
This disease is not a wall. Although there are some rough days and it feels like a burden, it is just another weight you carry with you on  your shoulder throughout life. It is most definitely possible to live the life you want to while adapting to the routines you now have, so keep pushing onward!


Q- What quote best motivates you?
This quote by Randell Adjei never fails to motivate me: “I am not my struggles, I am not my pain. They are just roadblocks that prove how far I came”

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Vinoj is an example of how you can still accomplish your dreams despite your disease! For more information, you can follow Vinoj at his social media links below-

Website: https://www.voiceofsilencemusic.com/ 

Instagram: http://instagram.com/voiceofsilencemusic

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/voiceofsilencemusic 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/voiceofsilence_

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This content has been brought to you by Adrenal Alternatives Foundation, a 5o1c3 non profit organization. We appreciate all contributions which allow us to further our mission, Education, Advocacy and Awareness for all adrenal disease. EIN: 83-3629121.

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Adrenal Achievements Series- Meet Artist Karen Gozzo Nolan

We were proud to interview freelance artist, Karen Gozzo Nolan for a feature in Adrenal Alternatives Foundation’s Adrenal Achievements Series!

Artist Bio:

     Karen Gozzo Nolan was born in Connecticut.  She resided in Connecticut until she was 28 and then relocated to Vermont.  Always a lover of art, life didn’t allow her the pleasures of following her dream of being an abstract painter in her younger life.

     Karen painted abstracts throughout her life, though being a single mother, it was difficult to dedicate herself to art.  Karen had also spent many years battling a rare pituitary tumor. After a near death experience, Karen vowed to live life to its fullest, and to follow her passion of art.

      It wasn’t until relocating to Rotonda West, Florida in 2013, that she was well enough to pursue this dream. Shortly after making the move, she began her professional career as an abstract artist.

     Karen is a primarily self taught abstract expressionist. Her paintings are influenced by music, the emotion that comes from it, and her love for vibrant color. 

Karen says…

  The paint and brush become the instrument and art is the song it plays. Music is the inspiration for my art. It begins by selecting musical artist for the piece, and laying out my medium as rainbow before me. The emotion of the music will choose the palette, along with an assortment of tools. The process is very private, exhilarating, yet exhausting in a good way. Disappearing into the art my tools become the instruments, the paint becomes the music.  Once a piece has begun, it moves forward with the same musical artist until complete. I have been labeled an abstract expressionist by my peers. My paintings are emotionally vibrant, and painted  with the passion of the song.      As far as my memory goes, connecting music with color was something I thought everyone did. At different periods in my life, I would paint this connection. Imagine, color connecting with sound.  Synesthesia, is a gift in which two neurological senses connect, for me its color and sound. Creating art professionally has been my dream since childhood, and the path to this dream has been rewardingly bumpy. As a self taught artist, I am devoted professionally to pursuing my dream and to continue to create art to please the eye for years to come.

Q-Please introduce yourself?

A- Hello, gosh it is so hard to describe who I am, first thing I think of would be a woman who was met with many challenges, during her years, yet overcome them with strength, bravery, love for life, and full of dreams.  You can read my bio at the end of this article.

Q-What form of adrenal disease were you diagnosed with

A-I was diagnosed with Secondary Adrenal insufficiency after two pituitary surgeries damaged my pituitary. I have 1/3rd of the pituitary remaining and it is non functioning except for the posterior section. The surgeries were performed because I was diagnosed with Cyclic Cushing’s Disease. I did get a “cure” from Cushing’s with the second surgery, but have to replace all hormones.

Q-Can you tell us about your service dog you had to help you manage your adrenal disease

A-One year ago I lost my service dog Gus at the age of 17. We volunteered in the hospital for 13 years together as a team, visiting pediatrics and the chemotherapy lab. While I was volunteering with him, if I suddenly grew ill, he went through each step with me and alerted that I needed help. I had several negative side effects from my surgeries, two of them being seizures and sodium crashes. I had several addison’s crisis as I was weaning off of a very high dose of steroids. Gus would alert and me that I was low in cortisol. He would stick close to me, follow me and would lick my fingers rapidly. I hadn’t figured it out for a bit, but he was telling me crisis was coming. He became my service dog then.

Once back to work in the hospital, my boy did some amazing things. He was always amazing but one time he alerted on a small boy for seizure. I had no idea he was doing it. He was always well behaved in hospital, but this day he was barking his head off, looking at me, and the boy’s Mom. Not fully understanding what he was doing at that point. One month went by and I was in the lobby of the Hospital, I could see a woman was flagging me down from the other side of the lobby. Upon approaching me she asked if I remembered her (which I didn’t) but then she said, “Your dog was barking in my boys’ room. I just wanted to tell you that he was alerting for the impending grand mal seizure. My Son went into seizure within 2 minutes of the time you left.” The hair stood up on my arms because I was shocked.  Gus must have learned the scent of impending health danger from alerting on me!

Three months after Gus passed, I decided to rescue a Yorkie puppy and hopefully train him to be my service dog. He is smart, so sweet, and loving. He is already very in tune to my emotions and scent. Finn knows when I am not feeling well, he does not leave my side. Finn has just turned one year old recently and now is ready for more training. This when the serious work begins, it will be more difficult now because I manage my disease well. But don’t get me wrong, I have my days. Finny will be a great service dog someday.

 

Q-Can you tell us about your art?

 A- While painting, I disappear into a place where there is nothing but music, my hands and color. No thoughts of everyday life. I am just there, in the moment. It is very freeing and like a meditation. It is therapy. The paintings are rarely planned and I more often paint in the expressionistic style. Large paintings are my passion, more room for expression.

Q- How do you use your art to help you cope with adrenal disease?

A-Art has allowed me to fulfill a lifelong passion. At a young age I had decided that I was going to study art in college, that didn’t happen. But the passion stayed. Always making different things, and here and there I would paint and give them to friends.  Then I became a single mother, so art supplies were scarce. Still the passion was within. Later in life, after going through the two brain surgeries I knew I was going to pursue art as a career. With my last surgery in 2007, I experienced a CSF leak (cerebral Spinal Fluid leak) so it took me a while to recover. After having the two back to back surgeries, it took a lot of work and determination to recover.  Cushing’s disease robs me of everything! It took my strength, my looks, my health, every aspect of my life. It was a long road to recovery.  I painted a bit in recovery, and the paintings were always abstract and always to music, still not realizing that I was actually painting the emotion of the music.

As we know with adrenal disease stress is a “no no.” Painting is a stress reliever and an anxiety crusher. When you think of painting, I bet you think of a person sitting at an easel. Painting a large abstract can be very exhausting, a lot of motion, using all types of tools and painter’s knives. I rarely use a brush and never sit. It is quite a workout, but it manages the stresses of life and as the result you have made something beautiful!

Q- What is something you wish you could tell all adrenal disease patients?

A- We are all so different, all having different causes for Adrenal insufficiency. I believe the best thing that you could do for yourself, would be to read. If you have a question ask it, or ask Mr. Google and read respected sources, educate yourself, learn everything about your own body, pay attention to what your doctor is saying and know when to move on and find an expert. You deserve to be cared for with the best of care. Do not settle for a doctor who is not qualified to help you and know when you are being fed medical baloney. Not to sound harsh, but that advice has really helped me.  Also, if you’re Secondary AI and do not produce hormones (panhypopituitary), I am hesitant to trust one medical professional to handle the balancing of all of your hormones. I go to a naturopath for thyroid, and reproductive gynecologist for female hormones and DHEA and Testosterone and also pituitary expert to handle steroid and growth hormone. It took me 14 years to figure this out. If one of your hormones is off, they can all be off, so balance is so important.

Q-How has adrenal disease changed your life?

A- It has made me look at life differently. After knocking on the door of the gates of Heaven, you think differently. There is no time for petty things, drama is something to avoid. People who have not experienced a life threatening disease would never understand. We always have to think of the way we feel, small things can trigger a trip to the hospital, it makes you more aware, and appreciative of life. it has pushed me to follow my dreams.

Q-What goals do you hope to accomplish with your art?

A- Artists do not paint for money, they paint because they need to, to soothe their soul. Money is nice though. When my art is exhibited in gallery’s around the world and I am able to leave my name in the art world, my dreams will be fulfilled.

Karen Gozzo Nolan pictured with AAF founder, Winslow Dixon at Karen’s art show in 2018.

Karen is an example of how you can still accomplish your dreams despite your disease! For more information on her work please visit her facebook page- https://www.facebook.com/Karen-Gozzo-Nolan-Art-288525484648179/