So, you’re thinking about getting a tonsillectomy? Scary stuffy as an adult, hey! I remember feeling petrified before I went in for my surgery, and it’s a relatively straight forward procedure… However, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably googled it beforehand and scared yourself silly. I was on the NHS waiting list for a long time (recurring tonsillitis which of course presents issues if your voice is your main instrument), but was informed there was a spot for me only 1 week before my actual surgery date.
As my tonsillectomy experience is quite fresh (I only had the removal in February 2023), I thought I’d note down the key points that are essential for moving forward post-surgery, including a little bit about what it’s like from a singer’s perspective.
Side Note: This blog is from my own experience of having a tonsillectomy as an adult, and this isn’t medical advice. It’s just a sharing of my own personal experience and what worked well for me.
#1 - Prepare yourself, It’s a rollercoaster ride
Get ready for A LOT of back and forth. One minute feeling great, the next lousy, repeat, repeat, repeat! This was the worst bit as you start to feel perky and then it hits you like a ton of bricks. Day 5-8 felt like hell for me, it was by far the worst of my whole experience. The scabs started to come off (yikes I know – gross!) and I felt sick a lot, along with all the other symptoms and pains.
#2 - Give yourself time
After all, it is a surgery. Let your body recover. Go easy on yourself and use the time for binge watching your favourite TV shows and movies. If you’re anything like me, your sleep pattern might be messed up, so just go with the flow and don’t get too stressed about what you can’t control.
#3 - Sleep = recovery
Even if your schedule is out of whack and you’re sleeping during the day, make sure you get some. It’s one of the best things for us and it aids recovery.
#4 - Say bye to food because this is a foodie’s worst nightmare
So, before I went in for surgery, everyone was telling me about the new way that people do things and how “you must eat toast to get the scabs off quicker etc” – no way on earth could I even go there. I was completely swollen, and the pain was so intense that I stuck to smoothies and jellies for a few days. Once it calmed down, I did try to manage soft, thin bread, but NO WAY to toast or anything harsh within the first 2 weeks. From my experience I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. On a side note, after surgery my TMJ kicked in really bad, so I could barely open my mouth anyway. The key thing is you need to figure out what works for you. For me: smoothies, jelly, sorbet, soft bread, eggs.
"They took them out and then my voice completely changed for the better.” – Perrie Edwards (Little Mix)
#5 - A slightly raised pillow does wonders
Every time I would lie down flat I struggled to breathe post-surgery, prop your pillow up a little and it’ll help, this should only last for a few days before you can get back to normal comfort.
#6 - In the words of No Doubt, Don’t Speak
Well, basically, I couldn’t. Surgery day, when the morphine was still pumping through my veins, I was relatively chatty post-surgery. However, the minute it wore off it felt like everything closed and became swollen. Every time I tried to talk, it made me burst into a coughing fit, and it felt too sore, so I took around 10 days of vocal rest to be on the safe side. Google translate became my best friend because I could just type the words in English and get it to read aloud.
#7 - Get ready for that first sneeze
Get ready for that first sneeze. A little silly one, and something you can’t prevent (you shouldn’t try to either). But trust me, the first time you sneeze post-tonsillectomy it’s going to feel horrendous. Just know it gets better as time goes on.
#8 - Back to singing
If you work within speaking or singing, take things at a suitable pace. It’s not a race! I’ve wrote a more detailed blog on this which you can check out here. Do your research, get advice, talk to singer friends, try and book an appointment with a speech therapist if this is within reason and you feel it would help. You’ve had the tonsillectomy for a reason, so now is a good time to get into good habits and get back on track slowly but surely. Don’t force or rush anything.
#9 - Drink plenty of water
Keeping hydrated helped me a huge amount and occasionally eased that burning feeling you sometimes get after a tonsillectomy. Cold water works a treat.
#10 - Follow your doctor’s advice
If they give you something to take, it’s for a reason. On a few occasions I thought I could be brave and get by without pain meds, then it just ended up biting me in the ass because it felt 10x worse. Stick to the timetable they give you and fingers crossed, all will run smoothly!
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re either a) thinking about having a tonsillectomy, b) due to have a tonsillectomy or c) have already had a tonsillectomy. Feel free to get in touch with me to talk more. Best of luck and lots of love!