Vocal Health: Me, my cyst and I…
If there’s one thing that can shake a singer to their very core, it’s hearing the words nodule, haemorrhage or in my case cyst! Any vocal discomfort can be worrying. And a lot of the time we find ourselves feeling confused as to how such things can develop, how to recognise when they are there, and more importantly what can be done to rectify them.
Vocal SOS – Get seen and don’t delay!
Do NOT procrastinate
As soon as you notice any of these symptoms, get yourself referred to a Ear, Nose and Throat specialist
*Consistently horse sounding voice
*Strong Urge to drink water before and after singing
*Voice cutting out half way through speaking
*Trouble maintaining pitch
*Running out of breath when singing
*Unable to access different areas of your vocal register (Mixed, head voice) go through bridges easily
What’s up doc? – Do your research and find the best doctor for the job
Our vocal folds are incredibly delicate so its worth knowing whose hands you are leaving them in.
Get on Google and do some research as you can always mention a specific consultant to your GP and get referred on the NHS
Highly experienced and qualified Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon Dr John Rubin performed my surgery. Look him up, he’s great!
Knife me not – Surgery is not the only way!
Most consultants will want to start with the least invasive form of treatment – speech therapy and in many cases, an intensive course of speech therapy can help to improve those with vocal nodules and cysts but this tends to vary from person to person
Sadly in my case speech therapy did not rectify the problem and I was referred for a ‘Micro laryngoscopy’ – A non-invasive surgical procedure performed under general anaesthetic where the cystic legion is removed with no need for sutures.
As with any surgical procedure there are the following risks:
Infection & Bleeding post surgery
The chipping of teeth when surgical instruments are inserted into the mouth
Recover. Don’t regret! – Postoperative rest is vital so do it
To avoid the development of scar tissue, resting the voice after surgery is imperative. So here are the things I did post surgery.
*Avoided using my voice for two weeks. This meant no talking, coughing, laughing or crying
*Got myself a notepad and pen so I could write down anything that I wanted to say
*Downloaded all the seasons of Breaking Bad and any other box set I could get my hands on to distract myself from the vow of silence
*Adapted my diet. As boring as it sounds avoiding fatty foods, and foods that contain high levels of sugar and dairy really helped me with my recovery *Instead I increased my intake of fruit and vegetables making sure to stay clear of citrus fruits as these can irritate the voice
*Avoided the consumption of any alcohol for 3-4 weeks post surgery
*Avoided loud and crowded places as well as areas that contained cigarette smoke
You’re voice. You’re choice
After surgery you will be referred to a speech therapist who will assesses the quality of your voice and begin a course of speech therapy using ‘Tube resistance exercises’ – Ask your speech therapist about them.
Although you will receive a professional recovery plan. There are things you can do at home to help aid recovery, so here are my three key tips:
*Steam your voice three times a day. The best way and safest way to do this is to buy a specially designed vocal steamer so get on amazon and buy yourself one pronto.
*Drink water regularly to keep the vocal folds moist and hydrated. At least 1-2 litres of water a day, but don’t go crazy, as drinking anything from 5-10 litres will land you back in hospital!
*Get plenty of sleep. Going to bed at a reasonable hour and sleeping for at least 8-9 hours a night can do wonders for your recovery so make sure you get plenty of shuteye.
For other tips of how to look after your voice, check out our blog Vocal Rest Tips