Jump to content

Concerned About Voice Post Op Polyp Surgery

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

I'm wondering if there are any members here who have experienced polyp removal, and what your experiences were 3-4 weeks post op? I had surgery 3 weeks ago, and I have been talking and doing therapy for 2 weeks now. My concern is that my voice is totally broken up, strangled, and hoarse still, even after having started my therapy.

I've looked up some videos of people talking around this same point post op, and their voices sound normal, if still weak. Mine speaking voice now sounds like my singing voice did pre polyp surgery. And I'm experiencing a good bit of diplophonia during the exercises.

I'm going to the Voice Center at Duke U, and I know they are top notch. But my concern and depression over the situation is making matters even worse, and my therapist can only tell me that everyone is different and she's seen people with my problem make a recovery. Which isn't very comforting to say the least, haha.

I was diagnosed with sulcus vocalis as well, but this was evident before my operation, and did not interfere to much of an extent in my singing voice, and certainly was not evident in my speaking voice. But at this point in my recovery, I'm having totally broken up and raspy speaking voice - and I tried to do some scales (haven't gotten to full voice scales in therapy yet) at home and it was a total disaster...My voice couldn't even make pitches, it was a crumbly broken mess.

So I guess my question is - Anyone here been through this surgery and can tell me how your voice quality was within 3 weeks after the surgery? I can't get out of my own head on this issue, as I am a professional singer, and I am supposed to go back to touring 10 weeks after the surgery (only 3 shows the month of February though, a much lighter workload than full time).

Thanks so much!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I havent been through this personally, but have been the therapist for many similar cases. You absolutely have to be patient, everyone's recovery is different. But in general, 3 weeks is still active recovery, tissues are still swollen, and if you COULD get voice to sound instantly normal, you'll be doing it with bad technique! Partial voice rest (conservative amount of speaking, and singing only as your therapist recommends) is still reasonable at this stage.

Worst things you can do are (a) constantly test the voice, push to see if high notes are there yet (or whatever), which will stress out the cells and reinforce bad habits of tension; (B) future-trip too much about what-if-I'm-not-healed-in-time, which will keep your body in anxious-revved mode rather than restorative/healing. Mental discipline is essential.

it might help to set a deadline with MD and producer or tour manager or whomever, "Decision to go/ no-go/ will be made on such-and-such date." Until then focus 100% on healing. Stay in present time not the future.... If people around you are bugging you, "hey man hows that voice doing, are you gonna be able to ____" you just have to deflect their anxiety. Work out a Plan B, worst-case scenario, if that helps, just to know what your options are. ( NO SINGLE TOUR IS WORTH WRECKING VOCAL FOLDS THAT AREN"T READY FOR PRIME TIME. Unless, MAYBE, its a gig at the Grammys ... :) )

But with conscientious care, mindfulness, one-step-at-a-time problem-solving, you might be in reasonable shape 10 weeks from now.

So think positive, stay away from scary online anecdotes, do your therapy without over-doing, and treat yourself to a neck massage.

best wishes --sincerely --

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please, please, please, read and live by Joanna's words. If you can't do the tour, don't do it. The tour, no matter how advantageous it is, is not worth losing your voice for the rest of your life. There will always be another tour. There will NOT be another voice if you lose this one. You simply have to wait.

When I was recovering from my self-induced partial laryngitis thing, I had scared the snot out of myself. You just have to wait. And if your voice is really good, there will be other opportunities. Don't let others pressure you. They can always buy another guitar, replacement heads for the drum kit, etc. There's no "body shop" that sells voices.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the advice!

It's truly frightening as I am not sure if the lack of my voice coming back at this point is from the sulcus, which I know I've had but I don't know to what degree it affected my voice issue compared to the polyp, or from taking more time than normal to heal. My speaking voice just sounds breathy and hoarse, like I had been yelling all the time, although I'm using my voice very sparingly and only doing my daily exercise routine. And like I mentioned, if I try to do even a moderately ranged scale, my voice breaks so badly it sounds like a cat walking on a piano. I guess I'll just have to continue to move forward and book my shows as though everything is okay, and take stock of things once I get closer to the dates. Being that this is my living, it's very difficult to worry about not being able to return to the road, and wondering if I'm wasting time when I should be focusing on applying for jobs and such for a different career. I read about Connie Fisher and her battle with sulcus vocalis and worry if I'm not going to suffer the same fate.

Yuck....But anyway, thanks for the advice and I will truly do my best top stay in the present with my recovery rather than second guess the future.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

It's been about a month since I posted, but I thought I'd share an update on my voice.

Unfortunately, it turned out that I had a very bad case of bronchitis the week following my voice surgery. During a follow up on Jan 12, a stroboscope revealed that I had developed an abnormal bump at the surgical site of my vocal cord. This was basically what was tearing up my speaking voice and not allowing me to sing at all. After 2 weeks of therapy were unsuccessful in reducing this bump, I went in for a second surgery on January 31st. When I went in 7 days later for follow up, my voice was "normal" for the first time since before the first operation. I could talk clearly with my normal voice, and the surgical site looked great. I went back to talking fairly limited for the next week. After about 3 days however, I noticed significant degradation in my voice again, and this week I went in for my therapy appt and my therapist insisted on conducting another strobe right away. Sure enough, there was another small abnormality forming again at the surgical site.

My Dr looked at the stroboscope footage and can't explain it. I'm on acid reflux medicine, and nasal spray meds for allergies. I haven't been excessively using my voice at all, and the new bump appeared only days after the surgical site looked okay.

I'm a professional touring singer, and I have been out of work since December. I had been booking my return for March. Unfortunately this week my doctor told me to cancel all of my upcoming shows and go back on voice rest indefinitely until the vocal cord returns to normal. I've been doing that this week and sent my family to my in-laws as not to talk. However, I've been having to talk to creditors on the phone several times this week due to the financial stress of not working (had only planned on being out for 3 months at the most). My throat feels dry and stings throughout most of the day even though I haven't spoke now in about 36 hours and have been drinking about 80 oz of water a day.

I'm pretty much at the end of the rope, it looks like my professional voice career may be over, as I will be unable to continue without any income, and finding outside work won't allow me to focus on healing nor allow me to perform if I could make a limited come back.

I'm just baffled by the whole situation. I can't find anything anywhere like this, and my doctor says he's never seen anything like it either. I'm over $20,000 in debt just from the surgery and I feel like I can't just throw that all away with my voice by giving up, but my family can't take much more of the stress and we are about to lose our house. Sorry to vent but it's impossible to discuss these things with anyone, so I guess it's just easier to vent anonymously online. Has anyone ever heard of anything like this before?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, that's a really rough and frustrating position. I'm really sorry to hear all the troubles you're going through. Is the bump basically where the polyp was? It seems like if the doctor went in surgically the 2nd time he should have a very good idea of what the post surgery bump is. I mean did he cut anything out that resembled another polyp, cyst, or nodule, where was it just inflamed tissue that he scraped down? It seems like you should have a little better explanation for you given that he went in surgically for a 2nd time and fixed it and got a close-up visual of what the 2nd bump was. It could at least help you research and ask the right questions.

It's really important to stay positive during this time. I know that's what everyone always says, but there are actual studies about how being positive makes your body heal better than being negative actually releases chemicals that interfere with healing. I think the fact that you were able to have a normal voice for that window of time is still a good sign. Just because this Dr. hasn't seen this happen doesn't mean another one isn't very familiar with this kind of thing. Maybe your surgery was done with the laser and they would react better to mechanical means, or vice versa. I know you're tight on money but a 2nd opinion could be very useful here if you can manage it. But stay optimistic that there is a solution or that time may heal.

Are you the only money earner in your family or are you getting help with that? And do you have health insurance? Perhaps you can find a job that has minimal voice work for now. I'm sure your therapists should have some guidance on this topic.

Best of luck and keep us updated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've never, to my knowledge, had a polyp or nodule. As for earning a wage, I am not paid to sing. Many times, in my career as an electrician, I would be digging ditches. There, they want you to shut up and keep digging. I was a dirty dog from head to foot. And I could quote Shakespeare. And sing "Jack City Woman."

The one other thing I can think of for you until your voice comes back is writing songs. f you can write sheet music notation, you can write the notes. And sell it to others. Songwriters make more money, on average, than performing and recording artists, anyway. Probably half of Bob Dylan's fortune is through others making gigantic hits out of his songs. Start your own publishing company and get registered with BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC. Shop your songs out, even if you have to hire a "stunt" singer or voice double.

And get well. That's an order, soldier!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As someone who works on the healthcare side, I am so sorry that you're facing this, and totally understand the frustration. But if you can find any funds at all I would strongly suggest seeing a different doctor!! Occasionally, surgeries like this don't take care of the problem; or the lesion (bump) turns out to be the type that grows back; but rarely this fast.

More telling is that if MD can only recommend vocal rest, or giving up on your career, they are not an experienced expert in taking care of singers. There are usually other options. If you contact me off-list & tell me where you are located, I may be able to help find a clinic for 2nd opinion.

Meantime, take care of yourself & family as best you can; get emotional support for the (temporary) disability, and try to find a light-quality speaking voice that allows you to take care of business without a lot of strain.

Focusing on other aspects of career, as Ron suggests, is also a great idea -- writing & arranging, cleaning up your fan database, instrument practice -- whatever keeps you busy & hopeful while the vocal thing sorts out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks so much for the replies and the advice. After a 2nd strobe the week after that last post, the bump appeared no larger or smaller than before. My therapist did the strobe as the Dr was in clinics so he called me the next day after reviewing and basically said, well, it will either heal or it won't, you have an appointment March 22, so come back then and we'll see if it's made any progress. So I've pretty much gone off of voice rest and trying to do things normally right now and explore what my career options are. We are still scheduled for a number of shows this summer, but I don't know if I'll heal in time, and I also don't know if performing will even be viable if I do heal. It seems that by canceling the shows we had scheduled throughout March and April, the venues will not re-book these shows until I'm already out on the road and can prove myself again. Unfortunately without venues to book me, I can't very well be out on the road proving myself.

As I mentioned in my original post, the place I am going is The Voice Center at Duke University. This was established and modeled after the Voice Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and the otolaryngologists at Duke are trained and work almost exclusively with singers. There are many household names these folks have worked on, and that's why it's all so baffling to me. Especially that since before the surgery in December I could still sing, although my high end was pinched and raspy. Now, I can barely speak and it's been almost 3 months since my first surgery and 5 weeks since my last.

I'm the only income in my house, as we have 2 preschool age boys, and I have been touring full time since they were newborns, so my wife has been home to care for them. I'm exploring some different options such as booking and management since I have been booking my act and managing it for the past 10 years. I also spent most of last year recording my solo CD (my voice was giving out during the sessions), and it will finally be released this Tuesday. The plan was to release it while touring, but obviously that's changed now. So I guess in the interest of full disclosure, if anyone wants to hear what my voice DID sound like, LOL, you can check out my music here.


So I will keep my spirits high and continue praying that this surgical scar tissue (that's apparently what it is) will go away on it's own. Thanks again for the positive comments and suggestions....



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jeremy - what have the speech therapists at Duke advised? Did they give you exercises to help cords recover? Best anti-scar regimen I hear about is pitch glides, relatively quiet, a little bit every hour. Goal is not to sound great but to physically stretch the cords = counteract the stiffness of scar tissue.

I got hit with bad tendonitis in my arms years ago, right when a new album was coming out & I had lots of gigs scheduled (couldn't drive or cook, let alone play guitar). So I really empathize with your dilemma & am praying for a good outcome for you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...