Paralyzed Vocal Cords following TT

When I had my TT and partial lateral radical neck dissection, as well as my vocal cord nerves wrapped around a tumor, my vocal cords were paralyzed and I spoke in a very high Minnie Mouse voice for at least 2 months. I don't see anyone talking about that in any blog here...Has anyone else suffered from this?

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I cannot ascertain from your post if you are still speaking with the high voice? How long ago was the surgery? Did the surgeon tell you what he did.....were the vocal cord nerves cut during the surgery? I doubt both were cut since people usually need a trach if that is done. If it is one that is paralyzed or cut then there are options to restore your voice. Your ENT surgeon can explain these options. The first is an injection that will plump up the paralyzed cord and give you a more normal voice. This is temporary and will wear off. It may be enough for you to get your voice back to normal and you may need no more treatment. If that fails then there is a permanent implant that can be done on some patients that will restore your voice.. You do need to clarify your situation with your surgeon as if the surgery was recently it may be that the cord is swollen temporarily and your voice could come back soon.

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My left vocal fold (cord) was paralyzed after my TT in April. There is some movement now, although still not normal. I've been going to voice therapy twice a week for over a month. Unfortunately, my speech therapist discovered that in addition to my Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve being disturbed, there was damage to my Superior Laryngeal Nerve. That nerve controls pitch and the ability to sing high notes. And, unfortunately, often overlooked because the surgeon is so concerned with protecting the RLN. Unlike you, my voice is deeper now and I don't have much range and almost no pitch. I almost WISH I sounded like Minnie Mouse, at least some of the time. :/ I'll continue with my voice therapy and see how it goes. I've heard that SLN issues don't always resolve and I may never get my singing voice back. My speech therapist said we need to give it a year, though. She also told me that restorative surgeries like thyroplasty don't really help with pitch, at least not to the point of regaining my previous soprano singing voice. BUT, she's also a great believer in the power of positive thinking and visualization. So, we shall see!

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Oh my - I'm quite nervous. I am a vocalist for a living - and the Dr. thinks we should be "OK" - but "OK" is not very exciting when I am hoping for strong reassurance.

He listed risks about vocal chord damage, the nerve that controls pitch and potential for loss of sensation in my neck.

Egad. How worried should I be about this?

I go in for surgery in 3 weeks - bilateral neck dissection.

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Oh yes. I too had a tumor that metastised to my larynx . My doctor was completely taken back when I was able to answer him back when I was in recovery. He had just told me that he had to cut my larnyx and I may be able to speak in a year or two with speech therapy. I said "nothing keeps me from talking" . Mind you, I talked like Carol Channing.If you know who she was(?) An actress from the 50's & 60"s that had a very raspy voice. I no longer talk like that, but it was a good 3-4 months to talk normally again. Although my voice does not sound like it did...the average person can't tell any difference.
This was 41 years ago. I do have more problems with swallowing when eating food, though. I always have to have a glass of water with my meals, to keep from choking sometimes. ( I think it may be scar tissue that has built up plus as you age gravity sucks...that incision that used to be at the crease in my neck is now a half inch lower !) And scar tissue is not as flexible.
Don't fret. You can always use it to your advantage or have fun with it. Best of wishes to you. You have made it this far. You will do just fine.xoxo

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My surgery was in Aug 2012. While recuperating (and back to work) maybe 5-8 weeks later, I suddenly experienced extreme pain in my left shoulder (which I had re-torn and was supposed to undergo surgery before I was diagnosed but never did!) so I had some percocet left over from my original surgery the year before. Within a few hours, my voice started sounding different. I was like, hmmmm, so I took another one. Within 2 days I sounded like a 13 year old boy whose voice was changing, and within a week I had as close to my own voice back as I could get. When I went to my surgeon and told him - he was like 'pah!" a coincidence that's all. I was like, no way, my voice was totally Minnie Mouse before I took that pill. I went so far as to write to the company that makes percocet, writing that even tho it didn't cure my pain, it made my voice come back so maybe it was a "crossover" pill, you know, a pill that is prescribed for one thing but can work on another issue....I got 5 letters back from their quality control dept apologizing that my pain was not handled!!!! Not ONE word about the possible crossover issue. To prove my point further, I recently came back from CA and ran out of the percocet. While on the plane descending, my eardrums burst and I couldn't hear and I couldn't talk - my voice was Minnie Mouse again = I was horrified to be this way 8 months later!!! I got my prescription refilled and within 3 days, my voice was back.. I don't know - it's the lowest dose you can take - 5/325 and I only take 2 a day, one in the morning, one in late afternoon and it stops the terrible inside swelling in my throat and keeps my vocal cords in line....I don't know what to think. Contrary to what the doctor says, I do not get high, I do not get constipated, and it doesn't even stop my pain!!!! I believe, based on these 2 situations, that it must have something to do with what is paralyzing the vocal cords, but I'm not a medical person so I don't know. But if it works and I can keep that Minnie Mouse voice away, that would be great! I tell everyone I used to have a 1-800 voice. Now, the only people I would attract with the Minnie Mouse voice are child molesters!!! One must have a sense of humor, no? Have you ever heard Minnie Mouse laugh!!! My boss refused to let me answer the phones at work!! LOL!!! The first song I sang with my high voice, was Lionel Ritchie's "Dancing on the Ceiling" playing on the TV at the hospital!!! I don't even know if there really was a tumor around my vocal cords as it doesn't show up in operative report!!! I don't even know if the surgeon did the surgery or if I was "graduation thesis" for one of his "fellowes", as I read that he only needed to be present in the room.
@thiamia - I still have issues choking on food, including laryngeal spasms where my throat just locks up for no reason and absolutely NO AIR gets in. I try to make sure all my food is rare (meats) or creamy and stay away from soy products and mayonnaise, vinegar, wine, and sometimes even ketchup and mustard. And I also keep a glass of water, especially during dinner, to help get that food down. And sometimes I end up projectile vomiting across the table or into a napkin, which is why I rarely go out to dinner anymore.

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I had my thyroid taken out along with goiter
In Oct now a million dollars in debt
Lower man voice
Food hates me and also dealing with RA
Not many books on the subject
Feel like my life will never be the same
I am fearful and highly emotional!

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My TT was in June 2012 resulting in one of my vocal chords being paralyzed. A year later, my vocal chord has not "come back." I sound pretty much like normal when speaking, for which I am extremely thankful! But, I also was a vocalist, and I have totally lost my upper range (I used to be able to hit the highest of high notes), but now I'm strictly an alto, contralto, tenor range--and my breath support is definitely weaker. I think I sound awful, but I think God still finds it to be a joyful sound.

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Third time have u had this more than once?

Most Sincerely,

Linda

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Linda: I assume you are asking if I have had more than one injection? No, I had just the one at the same time as my third surgery. He took out the nerve to the left vocal cord that had become paralyzed suddenly one day. The injection was wonderful.....I had been talking like Betty Boop since it was paralyzed and now it is close to normal. This was 18 months ago so the substance is now worn off but my voice remains close to normal altho it is weak. I have to pace myself when I have a day that I know I will be talking a lot. I will do another injection when necessary. I cannot do the permanent implant as I have too much damage from external beam radiation that was done after the last surgery. I had some cancer on my trachea between the trachea and esophagus. The surgeon did not want to damage the trachea so advised EBR. I do recommend doing the injection....most ENTs insist on having you under general anesthesia for it but it is quick and you go home after.

Good luck to you.

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Hmmmm never heard about injections I had
Nuclear medicine and have to go back again.
Do u have issues with food and r u still scared?

Best of Luck

Linda

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Treasures4---Oh, how I can relate. I used to be a soprano/mezzo soprano and now, like you, I have no range. I'm also an alto, contralto, tenor range. It breaks my heart not to be able to hit the high notes. Sometimes when I hear a song playing I start to sing along and then I quickly forget that I can't sing like I used to. My breath support is also weaker. And, I have to be careful when swallowing certain foods.

AnnieOakley---I don't know what I would do if singing were my profession. It's bad enough just as a "recreation singer." I would talk to your surgeon and ask him to not ONLY use an EMG (monitor on your recurrent laryngeal nerve) but to also take particular care to protect your superior laryngeal nerve. That's the important one for pitch. I wish now that I had known about that or I would have discussed it with my ENT surgeon. She was so good about monitoring the other nerve, but they say the SLN is often the overlooked nerve.

As for talking normally, I'm better than I was, but my voice tires easily and without the range, I sometimes feel like I sound angry because my voice is somewhat monotone and deeper. And, projecting is more difficult. My speech therapist has me doing vocal exercises for loudness and clearness. They've helped. But, I'm still so disappointed in my lack of pitch and not being able to sing. :(

I've learned more about the anatomy of the neck and larynx from my speech pathologist than I have from my doctors. She has really explained what the structures and muscles do inside my neck. Right now my thyroid cartilage isn't rocking normally because the cricothyroid muscle isn't working as a result of the damaged SLN. It isn't sending my brain the correct message.

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Wow
I am most talkative person ever
It is crazy to lose that!
This whole battle is scary
Best of luck

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@comiclinda I was going to say I know what you are feeling, but that is never the right thing to say. I know what I felt, and it was deep depression and sadness and I stopped talking to everyone and didn't want to see anyone and didn't even want to get out of bed in the morning to go to work. It is a so very sad feeling and I wish the surgeons and endos and ENT doctors would recognize it and discuss it with us before the surgery so we were prepared to face it. Life certainly changes after cancer, in our case thyroid cancer. It has taken me 11 months, with not such a great support team (mostly because my family doesn't know what to do because I was always the strong one) to see the good in life again. It's the small things, really, like my orchid, which died last year - it's been reborn and is going to put out not just one bloom but several!! For me, that's a small miracle - never had any luck with orchids before. We can never get back to normal so we have to find a new normal. I really think you should try the percocet - I think everyone should try it because it made such a major difference in my life....
@thirdtime - the problem with my surgery is that my surgeon and my old ENT said very little to me before or after the surgery. It is a major teaching hospital so much of the talking was done to the "fellowes" who followed him around - his ducklings, I called them as they would follow in a line behind him. He did describe to me (I am 59) and to my mother that he had to peel back my vocal cords and scrape the tumor off the nerves. But as I said, none of this appears in the operative report which took me 8 months to get with his signature on it!!! So once again, I am not sure if he did the surgery, if one of his fellowes did the surgery. He put me on a regular diet in the hospital when i couldn't even drink water. I had to ask the hospital chef if he could please make my oatmeal as thin as possible, which he did, God bless him. But to clear me for regular food???? I'm still having problems with regular food 11 months later. As you can see, I have great anger against my surgeon, who probably saved my life, mostly because he didn't and still doesn't communicate with me. And doesn't want me going online to research things!!! My Endo is so overwhelmed with patients that I never heard from her at all....even tho I recently (a month or more ago) changed Endo's, she should have at least called me as my dosage of Synthroid changed (because I had to ask them to take blood because I knew something wasn't right) and it's probably been at least 3 months since I last heard from her and she doesn't know I am seeing another Endo.. I really think there is something to the percocet and the paralyzed vocal cords and I wish I could get someone to listen to me...It has nothing to do with narcotics or addiction but if it was able to almost immediately stop mine from being paralyzed and give me my voice back and help with the swelling in my neck, then there has to be something to it. Maybe it's my own metabolism, but as noted above, I am even afraid to get a shot of novocaine for fear of what might happen in my surgery area as God only knows what he actually did.
I am not a professional singer, but I liked singing along to songs in the car while driving, in fact, I was actually singing on the operating table while they tried for a long time to get a line in me to start the surgery! For the first months I sang in my head. I could also quietly sing high pitched songs. Now I can sing, but not out loud, more to myself....I am thankful for that.

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@linsifer - it's amazing how much damage is done during these surgeries, mostly because of the location of so many nerves in the area. I can tell you one thing - you do NOT want to sound like Minnie Mouse : ) !!! I had to take each of my guys at work individually and talk to them with that voice and laugh with them about it so they wouldn't feel uncomfortable around me. And when my voice started getting better after the percocet, they were able to say, hey, your voice is sounding better today. And it was nice because they are young guys and I think I helped them deal with it. Recently, my mother let me listen to a voicemail I had sent her in my Minnie Mouse voice after the surgery - tears started rolling down my face......I couldn't hear a single part of "me" in that voice....

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I can really relate to your post. They did not tell me a lot ever before they started cutting away. it is super scary. have to go to Dr weekly. RA severe depression. Food hates me. Seems like thyroid affects everything. Yesterday I was on toilet or in bed all day. Sure glad I found this website. Never felt so scared or alone in my life! I am supposed to be a comic or selling commercials but thatis hard. No insurance and afraid they are going to take a house. now my daughter is having health scare too MRI on Monday. Now I have to be strong for her!!!!

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Utahgirl----I definitely get what you're talking about when it comes to the quality of our voice. My speech therapist understands and has validated my feelings regarding the way I sound. She said we so strongly identify with our voice that it's very upsetting when something goes wrong to alter it. She also told me that WE think it's worse than it really sounds because WE can FEEL the abnormality whereas other people can't. With the exception of the singing and trying to make my voice higher, she has a point. I record myself on an a Recorder app I have. I really don't sound all THAT different when I'm speaking in a normal tone. BUT, it's rough and deeper when I talk loud and no variation in pitch. And, like I said, there is just no WAY my singing is even CLOSE to normal.

I really regret not recording my singing voice before I had this surgery. I can't prove to anyone (professional or who hasn't heard me sing before) that I actually COULD sing and that I had a pretty darn good voice if I do say so myself. I could hit operatic level notes. I feel like my voice died and I don't have any memory of it. No record whatsoever. I'm in mourning over my singing voice! And, I honestly feel that most people, including my doctors, aren't taking me seriously when I try to express my grief and disappointment. I think they feel because I don't sing for a career that it's not that big of a deal if I lost the ability to sing higher notes. It's so frustrating! And, again, since they have no record of my previous voice, they have nothing to go on. For all I know they're secretly saying to themselves, " Surrrrre she could sing! She probably just THINKS she had a nice voice. Wink. Wink." They haven't seen me back when I sang very hour of my life; in my house while doing chores, in the shower, in my car, on a walk, you name it! I always had a song to sing! Now I can only hear myself sing in my head. I want to be able to hear it out LOUD!

And, I had planned on joining a women's choral group before all this happened. Even the lady who asked me to join sent me a message on Facebook in May telling me the next session was beginning soon. Ha! I had to tell her that there is no WAY I could sing, much less even talk normally at that point. And, It bothers me when people downplay it. "Oh, you don't sound bad. Maybe like you just have a cold or something." Or, "You sound great!" Hey, I know I've had improvement, but these people only hear a fraction of my voice. If they had asked me to sing or try to speak in a higher range, they might see that my voice is NOT so normal after all!

I notice when I have to talk for longer periods of time, I feel like my voice is trapped in there and simply can't get out! It's almost a choking feeling around my larynx-- as if someone has a hold of my neck and refuses to let me vocalize normally. It's put a damper on my social life and I hesitate being in places where I know I can't project enough to be heard.

Okay, that's my sob story for the day. Sometimes I wish I could get all my fellow "laryngeal nerve damaged friends" together and we could have a pity party. We could even "sing" and laugh at our new voices. :)

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I had a TT in 2001 and during the operation one of my cords failed due to nerve damage during surgery and the other failed after radiotherapy. However, I did sound like minnie the mouse to begin with but when the other cord failed, my voice was more balanced, deeper and rather attractive. I can't scream any more or even sing! The tumour was wrapped about my vocal cords too. If I get a chest infection I take antibiotics and steroids to ensure I have enough breathing space. I have a good chink there through which to breathe. It does get better and you get used to it in the end. I did have a tracheostomy for my third operation but that was removed within three months.

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I know what u mean I kinda sound like a guy
And if I complain about my fuzz hair they look at
Me like I am crazy! Xmas I couldn't even hmm
Drummer boy...
As a performer voice and looks gone
Still funny at times when not crying
Probably losing house and my best friend
Whose has not had cancer or sick daughter
Wants me to listen to long lecture about things
I cannot control like cancer and insurance
So I went from trying to be positive today
To I am crying and want a beer

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Yes! You are so right about people saying we sound the same when we know we don't! It's amazing..my old voice is on my answering machine so I can hear it every day. What I also did, before my surgery (of course, being me, I did it in case I died!!) but my husband had a voice recorder that I bought him for work with the ability to record in 5 different places on it. I recorded words for my husband on one line, each of my daughters on the next two, and one to my mother. I still have them but haven't listened to them. I had to buy my husband another one because I refused to get rid of them when I "survived"!! But at least there is a remembrance of me in my voice. Doctors are the worst. I was talking to a new ENT and he said to me "your voice sounds fine" and I was like, " no it doesn't, it's extremely hoarse and starting to squeak again - I didn't sound like this before!" Whenever I go to the doctors, I don't take my meds so my voice is always hoarse and squeaky to prove to them that the percocet works. I understand completely about your throat. Right after my surgery, I felt like I had a laundry cord tied tightly around my throat. Now it just feels like someone is strangling me on the left side!! Just wondering...what if you tried singing easy songs, like lullabies, songs that are soft on your throat, then build up to other ones and so on and so on...even if it takes months or years...It IS okay to mourn your singing voice and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's not a pity party when you lose a part of yourself, it is a loss and with loss comes grief and the three stages of grief which I really believe in. And YES, we should all get together and have a singing party and sing as loud as we can before we all lose our voices for the night - LOL!!!
I also notice when I talk for long periods of time, my voice starts to go....when I am on the phone with people and know I will be on for awhile, I tell them truthfully I had surgery and I am not able to speak louder and if they need me to repeat myself, that's fine, and people have been really, really nice about it.

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so have a beer.

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