My Tonsil MileSTONE

by Steph

It was in 6th grade, if I remember correctly, when I was in the nurse's office and pleaded to go home. When I was asked what my symptoms were (because in middle school you were only sent home if there was a physical case of injury or sickness, since many kids lied to get out of, well...middle school classes and teachers who treated us like kids who we thought we were a lot older than but actually were not) I told her my throat hurt. Of course it did not hurt, however last time i checked there had been white lumps on my tonsils which I assured myself would look like a bad case of strep, and who would know better than a clever 6th grader... a middle school nurse? Well, that day I was sent home because of "a sore throat infection." When I arrived home, I quickly ran to the bathroom to investigate what was goin' on back there. I stuck my finger in and poked around a little and sure enough, one of those suckers popped out and sure enough, I know now, it was a stinky little tonsil stone. Little did I know they would soon become my worst enemy.

I think it was around 8th grade that I discovered one of my biggest insecurities - Bad breath... Halitosis, and a bad case of it. I would pop out a tonsil stone here and there by accident, but one day, I decided to smell it, and boy, it was the best decision of my life (sounds weird, I know). But it introduced me to the primary source of my bad breath. I would do ANYTHING to get rid of bad breath. It was detracting me from everyday routines. I couldn't talk to people, I couldn't yawn near people. I even felt uncomfortable breathing through my nose near people, and I knew I had to do something about it.

Soon, I found myself sitting on my bedroom floor in front of a mirror, clutching a flashlight in one hand and a q-tip in the other, trying to pry out all the stones I could see. What a lot of people don't know (because who pays attention to tonsils, right?) is that some people are born with crypts in their tonsils. Within those crypts, a mixture of mucous, calcium, and other mysterious things you would never think would live inside your tonsil, literally live. Bacteria feeds on these tonsil stones which is what causes the foul odor/bad taste, etc.

Anyway, what became an obsession seemed only an obligation to me. I couldn't stand the bad taste they would leave in my mouth and i even became uncomfortable talking in the vicinity of my own family members. I would get so frustrated, I would even cry to myself. I would spend hours searching YouTube and Internet for natural remedies, but nothing seemed to work.

I went through a full year, which may not seem like a lot, but it sure is when you go day after day being self conscious about your breath, and not being able to speak up close with people who go to your school. I constantly worried about whether I had a pack or two of gum with me at ALL times. When I didn't, I felt completely doomed. I refused to work with partners in class if I didn't have gum. And gum couldn't even eliminate the problem on a temporary basis. If someone came too close, I would find myself turning my head away. If someone talked to me and I didn't smell anything, I'd become so jealous. But every time I'd spend a couple hours in the evening digging out those little devils, I would feel so much better. But the next day, as you probably guessed, I'd have that same bad taste in my mouth. I'd give up. The situation was hopeless.

I realized that I'd allowed my tonsil stones to become too big of a part of, and a source of worry and stress in my life. I mean, I was entering high school, and I had gone through more stress than anyone my age should. I couldn't tell anyone because of embarrassment. I found a new interest and started rowing on the crew team. However, I was getting sick all the time. I'd get really bad sore throats, and every time I visited the doctor, about four times a year, the strep test always came back negative. I would get antibiotics to treat it, and it would go away in about a week.

I started to beg my mom to take me to the ENT because, month after month, I found myself struggling to keep my head above water due to stress from school work, crew, and these damn tonsil stones. We finally went to the ENT, and I pleaded for a tonsillectomy, but she said tonsil stones were not a primary reason to get my tonsils out. And giving her the choices of the school year not summer (i refused) she did some claiming that recovery is too long for me during the school year which i knew was an excuse. She kindly told me to re-visit in the summer if my tonsil stones and sore throats continued. Summer past and up came another season of crew and another season of sore throats and you guessed it, the tonsil stones never said its goodbyes. I still spent my Sunday nights before the school week scraping and pushing them out until i felt my breath was tolerable accompanied with teeth brushing, mouth wash, breath mints, and gum..ALL day. After my daily 20 questions with my mom which, funny, only consisted of one question which was "did you make an appointment yet?" i finally got the answer i was searching for since last year! "yes." I've been waiting for this forever and this time i am not leaving the EMT doctor without a confirmation on a tonsillectomy. And you guessed it! Although my doctor didn't seem too thrilled with the fact, my surgery was scheduled 3 weeks prior to that day. February 19th 2014 and i couldn't be happier, which is weird coming from a 15 year old (yes i am 15) who knows how painful the recovery is and how long it is considering the fact i go out almost every other day with my friends (which i no longer had to be embarrassed with!!) However i did know how miserable i would be considering the fact my brother got his tonsils out 4 years ago and had to return after 2 weeks (which is when you should be recovered enough to be considered 'well') for a 2 night stay in the hospital after severely bleeding in his sleep.

Well i was super hyped, I had it during February vacation which i thought was going to suck but basically everyone from my school flew to some distant place with a foreign name where it is sunny and warmer than 75 degrees. We also had 2 days off due to snow prior to vaca. so i had some extra days on my hands to visit friends before surgery which i was also super nervous about. It was my first surgery..EVER, and i didn't know what to expect. Was i going to remember any of it? Will i be loopy when i wake up? AM I GOING TO WAKE UP DURING SURGERY AND FREAK OUT AND NOT BE ABLE TO GET MY TONSILS OUT!? no of course not!

The hospital staff was so friendly and my mom was there by my side before and after surgery when i woke up in recovery. I don't even remember being put to sleep which is confusing me a lot but i woke up in minor pain. Just felt like a sore throat. It only took me 10 minutes to wake up and before you know it i was wheeled down to post-op and sipped on ice with a mixture of apple juice. I kept the humidifier mask on my face because it helped keep my throat nice and moist- which you need to make sure you do! My surgery that morning started around 9:30 and i was out of the hospital around 2. I went home and wasn't too tired and watched a little netflix which always makes me feel a little bit better. That day i made sure to drink a ton of water i had the bladder of my pet hamster and was up to go to the bathroom every hour.

I never woke up during the middle of the night (knock on wood) in pain or anything and i have woken up at reasonable times, nothing before 8:30. Sometimes I've slept as late until 5pm!! i know..crazy. For anyone who is scared to undergo this surgery i will admit it is painful. But the medication i am on is every 4 hours and makes me very sleepy anyway. Sleep is key. Sleep not only relieves you from the pain for a little while, but it also promotes your healing process as well. Lack of sleep can also cause minor infection!

The pain has never reached pass a 6 or 7 but only when swallowing. When your mouth is 'idol' there is some discomfort but not a ton.

The first 2 days i was extremely swollen so it was hard to swallow. However, there hasn't been a day in which i was in so much pain i couldn't eat. Days 1-5 i was eating potatoes, pudding, soup, frozen frappes from mcdonalds, frozen yogurt, and mac and cheese. yesterday was day 6 and today is day 7 and i was able to add salad to my diet and even a couple of french fries along with it. (yum right?) I'm glad to be coming to the climax days of pain because i know it only gets better from here. I'm not in as much pain as i thought..maybe the first few days but my scabs are already coming off. I wouldn't say im suited to go back to school but I've missed 2 days and plan on missing 3 more, living through the weekend and then attending school again next Monday.

The pain is different for everyone but i have been following the rules and have been trooping along just fine. I wouldn't say it doesn't hurt because it sure as hell does, it just helps thinking of how much better I'll be off once im 100% healed which could take some time but the banishing of tonsil stones is totally worth it. No more stinky breath! No more conversations need to be cut short, or not made at all due to my embarrassment. I'm telling you the pain is totally worth it.

So what it took me a mere 2 hours in writing this story. I want people to know that there are people out there who have the same embarrassing problem and i know other sites don't help. Been there, done that! Visiting your local ear, nose, throat doctor is your first step in removing your stones either by tonsillectomy or other remedies. Tonsil stones have been an arising case in the ENT facilities, so don't be worried! I will update on my journey and how my mileSTONE to getting rid of my bad breath no longer requires tonsil STONES!!:)

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