Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Lingual Tonsils: Cryotherapy vs Tonsillectomy.

So I wasn't going to post anything about my operation on my lingual tonsils because, well, it doesn't really fit with the 'brand' of Lux Life. But then I remembered why I started this blog and how it's about my life. I have to remind myself of this sometimes, and forget about the fancy branding aspect of it. I was going to post a blog post today about my recent trip to Milan, but I've been feeling so awful since my operation that I just can't really concentrate enough to do a good job on telling you all about Milan (it's gonna be a huge and very lengthy -but awesome - post), so thought I'd get all my thoughts and feelings on my operation down instead.

My Background Issue & Symptoms

So just a bit of background info, for the past two years I've suffered from a really extreme sore throat and very croaky voice. It took 18 months to diagnose this as very swollen lingual tonsils. I went to my NHS doctor multiple times over the course of 18 months, each time I went, I went on an 'emergency' appointment because otherwise I'd have to wait 2 weeks, and well, I'm really impatient. 

So because I would go on an emergency appointment, I would often see a different doctor. I did see my normal doctor a couple of times though. Each time they would tell me it was an infection, throw antibiotics at me, and send me home. Even though each and every time I told them the last round of antibiotics didn't work, and even though I told them all of the symptoms I was experiencing. Which were:

- Sore throat
- Constant cough
- Changed/croaky voice
- The feeling of a large lump in my throat
- An increase in the number of asthma attacks I was having
- Stop breathing while sleeping
- Trouble swallowing (sometimes I'd even struggle to drink water - it was as if my throat had forgotten how to swallow).

Now, looking at this list, you would naturally think these symptoms were cause for concern, right? So why did every doctor ignore me, make me feel as though I was wasting their time, and make me feel like I was crazy?

So after 18 months of trying to be taken seriously, I decided to go private. I get private healthcare through work with Bupa. I still have to pay for it, but it's much cheaper than doing it any other way. I was referred to a private ENT specialist and had an appointment within a few days. After 10 minutes of discussing my symptoms and looking down my throat I had a diagnosis - my lingual tonsils, which are located at the bottom of your tongue, were so swollen the ENT specialist couldn't even see my voicebox. He literally could not see down my throat at all, when it should be clear. 

He sent me for an MRI which revealed the true extent of it - no wonder I'd been suffering from sleep apnea, and no wonder my breathing had been awful, and no wonder I could barely swallow water let alone food...there was literally no room in my throat for anything to pass through. I've always had issues with 'that area', I had my normal tonsils out when I was 4, and I've had my adenoids out three times at the ages of 4, 9, and 18 because they kept growing back.

So I was booked in for surgery to remove them. The surgeon recommended Cryotherapy, which is basically where you freeze the tissue under general anesthetic, and gradually over a few weeks it dies and you (*vom*) swallow it when you eat and drink without noticing it. The recovery time is less than a surgical tonsillectomy because you're not actually *cutting* it, and it's much less painful.

The First Operation - Cryotherapy

Despite paying hundreds for private care, I had to have this done in an NHS hospital because the private hospital weren't allowed to use the equipment for it. I went in a week after my birthday, at the end of April, and was lucky to be the first person in to the operating theatre. I came round a while later and was stuck in the recovery room for an hour or so because they didn't have a bed for me back on the ward.

Eventually they moved me to some random side room where I was forgotten about for four hours. I paid hundreds of £ to be left in some random room. I was not happy. I had no clue what was going on, no one told me anything or knew what was happening, and when they finally came to move me back to the ward hours later they had to put me on oxygen because my heart rate was so high. Erm, hello, why were they surprised after all the extra stress they were needlessly putting me through!? I then had to wait hours for my heart rate to go down so it was safe for me to go home.

The recovery from the cryotherapy was hard, but not too painful. I was in a small amount of pain but it was manageable and I only took the painkillers for the first two days. It was mainly the total exhaustion from the anesthetic and procedure that really wiped me out. I went back to work after 10 days, but it took me about two weeks before I felt fully 'right' again and another week before I was back in the gym. 

The problem was I didn't see much of a change...and at my post-op appointment the specialist said that unfortunately it didn't work. The Cryotherapy had only removed about a third of the lingual tissue. A few weeks later I went back again to see if any more had shriveled up and disappeared, but still only 50% was gone and there was still a very large amount blocking my throat. I was still having the same issues and it hadn't alleviated the symptoms at all.

Which brings me on to....

The Second Operation - Surgical Tonsillectomy

So last week I had a second operation. It was all very last minute because of a reason I'll reveal in the next coupla weeks, but basically last week was the only week they could do it. Because the Cryotherapy didn't work last time, the specialist wanted to do a straight up surgical tonsillectomy so we know it *definitely* worked and they were definitely gone!

Because it was plain ole surgery I could have it done at the local private hospital, so I got my own en-suite room with a beautiful view over Pewley Downs, and I got jelly in a fancy glass instead of in a plastic pot. It's the little things ;)

NHS jelly vs Private Hospital jelly

After the surgery the surgeon came to speak to me, and told me just how bad my lingual tonsils were. He removed as much as he dared without damaging anything, but I still have a very small amount left. In total he removed a cupful worth of lingual tonsil tissue. And as there was 50% left from last time...in total before both operations I had TWO of these cupfuls worth of lingual tonsil tissue right in my throat. Your lingual tonsils are supposed to be very small and flat. 

It blows my mind how all of that could even fit inside my throat, and makes total sense as to why I was suffering so much. Why I spent years with horribly interrupted sleep because I would stop breathing, years coughing constantly, years with my voice sounding totally different to how it used to sound, and years not being able to eat almonds or popcorn without choking on it! And it feels SO good to know that I wasn't just imagining a lump in my throat like the doctors all thought - I literally did have a lump in my throat. I'm not crazy - woohooo!

But. The surgical tonsillectomy has been A LOT more painful than the cryotherapy! As soon as I woke up I was in excruciating pain, and it's gradually been getting worse over the past few days despite taking strong painkillers every four hours. I showered and got dressed for the first time since my operation on Sunday, and just doing that completely wiped me out and exhausted me for the rest of the day. 

I'm feeling very sorry for myself, and really struggling. I can't talk loudly, everything is a whisper, and even just whispering hurts. And I can't eat or drink properly due to the pain - it feels as though someone is dragging razor-blades down my throat constantly. It feels all dry and sore no matter how much water I drink, and doing anything normal hurts like crazy - yawning, coughing, sneezing, laughing. Ugh. It just hurts. And I feel really nauseous too which doesn't help with the eating thing. I can only have really tiny meals before I feel full and icky.

And I get so bored so easily sitting at home doing nothing, but I know my body just has to rest and recover properly. I'm not even allowed out of the house until tomorrow to reduce the risk of infection (I got an infection after I had my adenoids out at age 18, and it was NOT pleasant), and I'm not going back to work until next Monday.

So I've finished the box set of Friends, and I tried re-watching Gossip Girl but it just really annoys me these days for some reason? I'm not sure why because I used to LOVE it! So I thought 'well I can catch up on some blogging', except I can't really concentrate very well (aka, like right now I'm just rambling), so every time I go to write my '24 Hours in Milan' post I just feel like I'm doing a shitty job at it. 

Anyway, so I'm feeling all sore and ouchy and am gonna go get another Frozen themed icy-pole now and have a nap. Thanks for listening you guys, I'll try and do the Milan post tomorrow if I'm feeling a bit more with it, and normal blogging will resume in the next few days :)

UPDATE 21/07/2016 - An Emergency Trip to A&E

So after the events of yesterday I'd definitely recommend cryotherapy over surgical removal. I woke up early yesterday morning choking on my own blood, I ran to the bathroom and before I knew it the room looked like a crime scene; blood splattered everywhere and me unable to stop it flowing out of my nose and mouth. My parents rushed me to hospital, and it turns out that when you turn up in A&E in PJs with no shoes on, clutching a bucket splattered with blood and choking up more blood into it, you get to go in first.

They rushed me in, I passed out from the blood loss, and before I knew it I had two canulas in my arms and blood clotting meds sorting me out. Because I'd swallowed so much blood while I was asleep my stomach was in a crazy amount of pain, I was pretty delirious at this point and just remember screaming and howling at the top of my lungs for them to take the pain away while blood was still coming out of my mouth.

They got a load of paracetamol into my other canula, and put ice packs around me to bring down my temperature because I was sweating so much and had such a high temp. Gradually the pain subsided and the bleeding stopped and I started to feel a bit more with it and more comfortable.

From the moment I went in to the moment I left I had two nurses who were there from the very start. Both of them knew exactly what had happened and I was in their care until I left. It was the first time I've had to go to an NHS hospital during an emergency (only other time was in Australia), and everyone there was just amazing. They all calmed me down and made me feel safe, and when I had the option to be moved to the private hospital next door as I have Bupa cover, I literally begged to stay where I was.

It was one of the scariest days of my life, seeing that much blood coming out of your mouth and nose is a bit of a shock, and I actually thought I was gonna die or something. I'm back home now and resting up, turns out something in my throat ruptured after I was coughing loads the night before. Apparently this actually happens quite a lot with surgical tonsillectomy's, they just don't warn you or tell you how bad it can be.

Super super grateful to the NHS and how amazing they all are, and will never take them for granted again.



  1. Glad that you are on the mend! I can't believe how dismissive some NHS doctors can be - and why they're so reluctant to trust people! Hope you feel better soon :)
    Georgie xo

  2. I know exactly how you feel! Ive been in the exact same situation for 4 years suffering and I finally after consuming probably more antibiotics in weight than an elephant they have taken it seriously and have an appointment with a specialist next week! Hope you feel better soon, its hard for others to understand that its more than 'a bit of a sore throat!' X

  3. Gosh what a palaver you've had getting the right diagnosis and the right treatment! Hope you get well soon. I recently rewatched all of The Hills when ill. Maybe give that a go :) x

  4. I am so, so sorry that you're going through this Catherine. I just finished my batch of antiobiotics from a bout of tonsillitis last week and it felt like torture for the three days my throat was really bad - I can't imagine how frustrated/low you must feel right now to be in so much pain all the time. Every single swallow hurts - I know! I'm glad you had the operation to deal with it, though - you've been very brave to face it all head-on, despite the frustrations. It must be hard to remember, but this pain will only be temporary and it WILL go! I watched Gilmore Girls back-to-back on Netflix when I was sick and at some point in my fever-induced state, I felt like I actually lived in Stars Hollow, haha! Sending you lots of get well wishes ...

  5. Thinking of you lovely and hope you feel better soon.

  6. Just catching up on posts - what a horrible experience for you but I have to agree. While NHS GPs seem to be bloody terrible (I'm guessing this is due to being overworked with too many patients and not enough time) the care I have received in specialist/hospital/emergency settings has been incredible.I hope you heal up and are back on your feet soon lovely xx

  7. Hi Catherine,

    Found your post because I too am seemingly having lingual tonsil problems - I don't have breathing issues but I have had a sore throat for 7 months and also a lump sensation in the back of my throat - my latest ENT told me my lingual tonsils were inflamed - - side note: I had my tonsils taken out about a year ago and also had an episode of significant bleeding - this episode had my parents kitchen looking like the set of a horror movie - luckily it stopped on its own while I was back at the hospital - - and yea having blood in sitting in your stomach is a horrendous feeling - - anyways I would like an update - to know if you're feeling better post surgery - specifically about whether or not you're still dealing with a sore throat - There isn't much stuff on the web about lingual tonsillectomies-- So a response would be greatly appreciated!!

    Edwin in Denver

  8. Hey Edwin,

    Unfortunately I'm still having sore throat issues :( The operation made it better for about six months, and then in January my cough came back and I have the same symptoms as before. I've been back to the doctor but they're convinced it isn't my lingual tonsils again - I'm going to see an ENT specialist soon though. Really getting fed up with it all! I'm wondering if air conditioning has something to do with it though, as my symptoms came back when I changed jobs and their air-con is insanely cold!


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