My Tonsillectomy Story

I decided to start this post off on the same topic I ended my last post on. My recent tonsillectomy. Ugh. I’m sure in a few months from now I’ll be able to appreciate not having to deal with my tonsils ballooning every time I get so much as a slight cold, but at the moment, I’m not far enough removed from the pain to enjoy the results!

I decided to have my tonsils taken out after having mono this summer and noticing that my tonsils had become even more prone to inflammation and infection. The surgeon warned me that it was quite possibly going to be the worst pain of my life, but I figured that after 20 years of dealing with throat pain, I could handle it (spoiler: I could not, in fact, handle it)(at least not very well).

Below is a day-by-day walkthrough of my experience with the surgery! If you’re just looking for advice, my next post will be a list of my tips and tips I’ve seen pop up a few times online!

Day 1, the day of the surgery, the pain was fairly moderate and definitely manageable! I drank lots of water, ate some Kraft Dinner (mac and cheese, if you’re not Canadian), and immediately started alternating between two Tylenol Extra Strength and two 5 mg morphine tablets every two hours. At first I tried to take them crushed up and “dissolved” in water, but as neither pill really dissolved, this mostly just created uncertainty about whether or not the little crushed up bits of pill ever made it down my throat, or if they just sat in my mouth. Not super effective, so I switched over to just taking the full pill.

Day 2 was worse but similar, and I noticed that popsicles and Ensure shakes (which were my life-saver when I had mono) were making my throat feel clogged. Soft noodles, broth, scrambled eggs, and tiny bits of chicken seemed to go down better. I was sleeping during the 2 hour spaces between taking my meds, and this helped make sure that I never went too long without drinking water, but also left me pretty exhausted.

Days 3 and 4 were much worse, mostly because I started getting jaw pain, tongue pain (apparently they clamp it out of the way?) and earaches.  I dealt with the jaw pain by icing the sides of my cheeks and down my neck for 10 minutes per side, which took down the inflammation. After that, hot baths helped relax the muscles, which also helped with the earaches. The earaches weren’t as consistent as the throat pain, they just flared up whenever I swallowed and hung around for a while after, but they were awful. I also started feeling nauseous, probably because I was failing hard at getting food down, so I was taking painkillers on an empty stomach.

I didn’t have any new sources of pain on Day 5, which was nice. What wasn’t nice was that the pain I already had was pretty much doubled. I was miserable, especially since my surgeon had told me that the first three days were the worst. When my Day 4 rolled around and the pain was still increasing, I figured he must have meant the three days starting the day after surgery. So Day 5 was kind of a hope-crushing one, and I mostly just moped in bed.

Day 6 was the day that my passionate love of bread won out over the pain. I was starving and grumpy and I really needed carbs. I had read online that doctors in Australia and the U.K. recommend avoiding a liquid/soft food diet, so I took that as permission to cut the crusts off of two pieces of bread, toast them, apply generous amounts of butter, and eat them. Best decision ever. It went down easier than soft food, maybe because you don’t have to work as hard to swallow it all? It also helped make my throat feel a little bit clearer. This isn’t to say it was painless; swallowing anything at all caused a lot of throat and ear pain. But I had to eat something, and it might as well be something that helped relieve a little bit of my throat discomfort.

Day 7 was horrible. Horrible, horrible, horrible. I have never experienced worse pain in my life. The spikes of jaw and throat pain that I had when I swallowed on Day 6 were my new normal. The spikes of pain when I swallowed on Day 7 felt like someone was hammering a screwdriver into each of my ears, and everything I swallowed felt like shards of glass.

Day 8 was just as bad, but it was the first day where I didn’t wake up worse, which was a huge mood-booster. Unfortunately, I then slept for 5 hours straight and it turns out that the nurses weren’t joking when they said the pain gets so much worse if you let your throat dry out. I don’t have words. It hurt so much that I think I was actually in mild shock, though I was still aware that my head felt like it was on the verge of exploding. During one of the few times I managed to pull myself out of bed, I weighed myself and found out I had lost 11 lbs, which is a lot considering I’m 5’7” and only weigh about 125 lbs. to begin with.

Day 9 was the first day I woke up feeling better! The tongue and jaw pain were mostly gone, and the ear pain was less terrible. In terms of my throat, it didn’t seem noticeably better until Day 11, but it was much more manageable when everything else was feeling better. Being able to sleep without being woken up by the sharp earaches probably helped speed up the healing process, because from this point on, I got a decent bit better every day!

By Day 14 I could eat and drink normally with only a little pain! I never experienced what I’ve seen a number of people say that they have, which is having food taste different to them for a few days. It’s tasted the same all along to me. This was also my first day back in the gym, and by extension, the day I realized just how much progress you can lose in two weeks (especially since I wasn’t eating or sleeping properly). I’ve put 5 lbs. back on, but my normal warm-up left me exhausted, and I could only do half of my usual workout, even with lighter weights.

Day 18 was the first day where I had absolutely no pain, even when swallowing! I still have random moments now (Day 24!) where it feels like my throat forgets how to work, and this typically ends with whatever liquid I was trying to drink coming right out my nose, but I feel so much better and all the scabbing seems to be gone.

All in all, it was an absolutely brutal experience. Unless you’re positive that you stand to gain a lot from having your tonsils out, I wouldn’t recommend it, and I didn’t even have any post-op complications. If you’re having it done, prepare yourself! You’re definitely going to need time off, and it really helps having people around you to help out. The pain is awful but you can make it through, and I’m sure we’re all going to end up happy we chose to have it done in the long run. My next post is going to be more advice-heavy and less whiny, I promise!

Kate

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