Vocal Weakness-Nerve Damage

So I am writing to say how scared I am.. I have had vocal weakness for almost 2 weeks, sometimes it gets a bit better but then feels strained throughout the day. I record my voice daily to check on improvement. I am embarassed to go out in public and talk to people.. I feel like "they know"...
This voice issue consumes my thoughts every day.. plus I'm scheduled for a second surgery in about 4 months to remove the other half of the thyroid. My surgeon is an ENT, and he used NIMS (monitors the vocal cord) during the first surgery.. I am so scared.. has anyone had this happen and is there any positive results? I am obsessed and fixated on this.

Edited March 22, 2011 at 6:55 pm

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Im sorry to hear about your complication. I dont have any advice to give you, other than I can tell you you are not alone in the "fixated on it" aspect of your condition. I worry constantly that the complications are going to happen to me-my luck this year im sure it will. however I read a lot about it and says most are temperary changes .. my surgeon said it could take almost 9 months for the nerves to heal. I hope the other surgery goes well for you, keep us updated!
thoughts and prayers,
Nicole

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Hi Nicole. I'm sorry that you have to go through all this. My daughter was diagnosed and had her thyroid removed a year ago, at the age of 17. She had vocal cord problems because the nerve to the right vocal cord had to be removed in surgery (cancer on it). She has sporadic medullary, so it can spread more easily. Anyway, we had awesome surgeons at Johns Hopkins who were able to get her voice almost back to normal a few months later with vocal cord procedure. I'm still learning on this new cancer journey, but two things come to mind. One, make sure that your vocal cords are doing well which means getting them checked by an ENT or a vocal cord specialist (who will put a video camera in the back of your throat to actually make sure they are moving correctly). Second, please make sure you have a surgeon who is highly experienced in thyroid cancer. I've heard too many cases of people having a general surgeon do the work, and there have been problems as well as additional surgeries that most likely wouldn't have happened with an actual thyroid cancer surgeon. There is a difference.

I understand how you feel...my daughter sounded like she had laryngitis for 3 months before her vocal cord procedure. She wasn't all that comfortable with it, but she didn't care if people knew what was going on. She has been extremely strong and has helped people understand what thyroid cancer is all about. She even had us start a foundation for her: www.bitemecancer.org. Something that helped me alot is being reminded of the word "recalculating". I had read an editorial last year on how we should live our lives like a GPS device - when we are driving, and take a different turn, the GPS says "recalculating". There is no judgement to "right or wrong" or "good or bad." If we look at our lives this way, then we move into our "new normal" and keep recalculating. On this cancer journey, there are many, many twists and turns. Keeping positive is very important. Prayer is very important. Good luck to you.

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Hello there;

Yes, I am experiencing some of what you described. Surgery wa 30th Sept. 2010. There are times like today, that I lose my voice. I do not think that it is due to vocal cord damage, because my dr. also used the NIMS. I am told by many drs. that it takes time for all of this to go away. Sometimes, it takes over or close to a year. I find that when I am speaking and get excited, my voice will change or get hoarse. I stop speaking, relax my vocal cords, and it will go away. I am also still having pain at the incision site. I am told this too will disperse. My surgeon was also an ENT specialist. You said that you are nervous and fixated on this. This could be one of the reasons that is causing this. Try relaxing and see if that helps. Hopefully you will feel better as time passes.

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I can feel your frustration. I had my thyroid removed in May 2009 and had hoarseness for a good while then it went away only to return in Jan. 2010. I've been going to an endocrinologist at MD Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston, Tx. and they are wonderful! When the hoarseness returned and difficulty swallowing they ran several tests and finally determined, thru the camera down my throat, that my left vocal cord was damaged during my surgery. Some days are better than others and I've come to just blow it off but it's taken me a long time to get there. I decided it might not be so bad to sound like a horse! LOL I'm trying to keep a sense of humor about the whole deal.....only way I can deal with things. They said that working with a speech therapist could get my voice close to normal, maybe but I've chosen not to go that route. They informed me NOT to strain my voice, as you know after the surgery you lose some of the amount of volume you once had so you try to accommodate that by trying to speak louder, which only makes it worse. Just take it one day at a time and try not to let it get you down. I know it's hard but you can do it, esp. if I can. I'm a terrible worrier!!! Good luck and keep me posted! God Bless You!

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Hi there. I understand completely what you are going through. I had my left lobe removed on 2/22 (cancer) and I too have cord damage. My surgeon will not perform the next surgery due to the damage to my left vocal cord. I have seen 3 different endo's all of which, have a different opinion of what I should do. 2 of the 3 feel that the surgery needs to be performed as soon as possible. The 3rd agrees with the wait and see attitude. Because of the confusion, I saw my primary dr. today to get her opinion. She wants me to see someone at John's Hopkins...just what I need another opinion....How can there be so many different opinions for the same situation? How do you know who to trust?

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Caterpillar, I too have had a TT, and have right vocal cord paralysis, which has left me very hoarse, and with need to force out sound. My ENT feels that it should recover within 6 weeks. It has been a month, and I am a little frustrated. I sing in the church choir, and also sing in local community theater. So not being about to sing, and having no volume to my voice, could really affect my activities. I will start the home isolation for RAI tomorrow, and so I am hoping that when this part is over my voice will be starting to recover. If not, my ENT has assured me that there is treatment. ( some sort of procedure, and speech therapy) I know it is hard.... I told my husband that I will get a job on 976-hot-babe!!!! Gotta have a sense of humor...and think positive...

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I had a partial thyroidectomy in October and a completion in November last year. By the time of my second surgery, my weak voice had mostly improved. Unfortunately, after the second surgery, my voice has yet to return to normal. I am told it can take a year (or longer) to heal. About a month ago, I started with voice therapy. Finally, this past week, I have noticed some improvement! I suggest that you rest your voice as much as able, as the strain is irritating. I gave the process 4 months until I sought out the voice therapy. I would recommend it if you continue to struggle. It won't heal your voice, but it will help you to use your voice in a different (better) way. I go to a speech therapist who specializes in voice therapy. Good luck and God bless!

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I have vocal paralysis, i had a neck dissection in June 2010 and it is still the same now, the surgeon will not contemplate doing anything with it until i am 12 months post op. I think what has made mine worse is the external beam radiotherapy i had in October 2010.

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If you can see Dr. Akst at Hopkins, go for it. He's the vocal cord surgeon who we had who "fixed" my daughter's vocal cord paralysis. Her nerve to the right cord had to be removed in surgery, and he still improved her voice tremendously. Everyone make sure you are seeing a specialist about this situation. It may not be that you have to accept reduced voice. Dr. Akst did Nicole's surgery (outpatient, no cutting, it was an injection into the vocal cord) 3 months after her surgery. Good luck to you.

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Dear Catapiller,

I had thyroid cancer surgery 3 years ago. for a bout 1 year my voice was weak. I could no longer sing as before. It took about 1 year for my voice to get back to 95%. Do not give up hope. Give it time.

best regards;

Turtleman

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I had a raspy voice after my recent TT 10 Feb11. It got worse as the thyroid dropped further but now I'm on thyroid replacement and the surgeries healed up and voice is just about back to normal Be Positive.

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I experience voice weakness, particularly in the afternoon and evening. My surgeon said that the recurrent laryngeal (spelling?) nerve can be stretched and bruised during surgery and can take 6 months to heal. He didn't think what I was describing was damaged vocal cords. I had my TT on 1 Feb this year, and still need reminding every now and then that it is still early days for me! Good luck, hope your voice comes back soon.

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Caterpillar - I am also sorry that you are going through this. It takes time for things to get back to normal, or close to how it was before surgery. I had a thyrodectomy on February 12th, 2011. My voice was almost normal on the day of my surgery, and it remained that way for several weeks ( my doctor was surprised), but just this week I noticed my voice got very week, especially at night, but it's now back to almost normal again. I guess I'm just trying to say that everyone heals differently and in our own pace. Don't worry or panic, just focus on resting and letting your body heal.

I agree with Safusa about an experienced surgeon. This is very important. Do your research and don't be embarrassed to ask your surgeon how many surgeries he/she has performed. My surgeon specializes in Head & Neck surgery. Stay positive and pray that the Lord gives you His peace, strength and wisdom. Liz.

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So today I went to get a second opinion as I only have half my thyroid removed. It has been 1month since my partial thyroid surgery in Canada. I have been told today that my right side vocal chord is paralyzed and they will not operate as if they do and damage the left side this could result in a tracheotomy tube for breathing. This is the most scary thing. I am now waiting up to 1 year, to see if my right side vocal chord will move again. This will increase my odds.

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I am so sorry to hear about this! You must be so scared. My voice is finally getting stronger after 5 months. Still a long way to go but the voice therapy is helping, I think. My vocal cord is not paralyzed so I can't give you any feedback. I hope it all turns out well for you. God Bless. Cheri

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Stay positive. I had my left lobe removed on 2/22 and had cord damage. Last Monday I saw an e.n.t. who looked with a scope and confirmed my left cord was paralyzed one week later literally over night my voice was almost back to normal. I saw the dr and once again he looked with the scope and my cord is working. My surgeon would not schedule the completion surgery because of the possibility of breathing problems but now that my cord suddenly started working my next surgery has been scheduled for 5/6. I too was worried when I was told my cord was paralyzed and I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up with a voice.

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After my TT I had voice weakness for about 2-3 months then it was back to normal. I could not raise my voice or sing during that time. For the first 6 weeks or so my voice would fade out by mid afternoon. Gradually everything returned to normal so hang in there, I hope you will have the same good result!

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Catepillar-
Believe me, I feel your pain!
On December 7th, I went under the knife for a supposed easy thyroidectomy. I had a cancerous mass about 3.7 cm on my left side diagnosed as Papillary at that time. My surgeon at the time, I am sure, did the best he could but once he removed what he could and saw the mess inside. decided to close me up quickly.
I woke after surgery with a paralyzed right vocal cord and the understanding thst rougher waters lie ahead.
I knew Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center would have a better graps on how to handle what my previous hospital considered an exremely rare case.
Turns out that I have an agressive form of Papillary Tall Cell Varient cancer that spread and escaped it's encapsulation.
A group of over 60 specialists met on my case and reviewed all the scans and tests Sloan carefully scheduled for me.
They took into considerayion that I am a very active 42 year old mom of twin girls but have a cancerous mass left in my neck surrounding my healthy left vocal cord. Only 3 out of the 60 or some experts thought it worth the risk to see if my right cord could come back and wait 4 months to see.
The majority thought the mass might quickly spread due to it's aggressive nature and surgery be done immediately.
Therefore, a tracheostomy would be a possibility should my surgeon have to sacrifice my left cord. It would not be done accidentally. If my cord is lost, it's because it had to be.
Needless to say, my 2nd surgery occured on February 18th and I awoke with not only a trach, but a feeding tube and a numb left side of my neck and face.
The feeding tube was removed in 2 days and I spent 8 days in the hospital. It's been a nightmare and the trach is awful but I am alive and still Mommy as my girls say. I am praying so hard my right cord comes back. My last scope showed some vibration on the right cord, but I have a long road ahead. The vibration of the cord though, gives me hope! Sometimes that's all we need.
My next scope is on May 4th and I have visions of pulling this trach out! My husband doesn't swim in the ocean, it's all up to me! Lol

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My TT was 3/24/11 and my voice has been a problem every since. Somewhere on this site using a humidifier at night was recommended. It has helped a lot. The voice is far from great, but at least I start the day a bit above the day before. Still have RAI to go, though. Hope it doesn't set me back.

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