Oesophageal Patients Association

Losing my voice

It was in the small print about risks, but who reads small print? So to recover consciousness, after the esophagectomy, in the Intensive Care Unit with only a tiny whisper instead of my normal voice was a huge shock. I had expected a big fight to regain fitness and was ready for anything except this. And I had to chair meetings and speak in public; well that was out and my life was changed.

My speech nerve had been damaged during the delicate and complex operation; nobodies fault, the surgeon was excellent and very experienced and of course very concerned. He couldn't promise that my voice would ever come back, but had never known a patient that hadn't eventually recovered their voice in similar circumstances. Nevertheless it was a very bad time, really terrible, far worse than any other side effect, not knowing if it would ever return and not being able to make myself heard. During this time the Phone Help Line, to whom I whispered my despair, was a life saver. Thank you so much.

It took ages to get an appointment with Speech Therapy who eventually taught me all sorts of things I never knew about my larynx. I tried to be patient, did the voice exercises and the months went by. And then gradually, so gradually the nerve slowly grew back and the voice began to return. And then one day I could actually sing quite loudly in the bathroom; what joy - my wife was not quite so sure!

Today, exactly a year after the esophagectomy my voice is as strong as ever and I sing rather more than I used to, reaching high and low notes with ease. In fact I'm thinking about joining a choir. So to anyone with the same problem: Hang in there, be patient and have faith in nature's power to restore the damage. In nearly every case it just needs time.

4 Replies

I have this wonderful picture in my mind of you singing in the bathroom, and your wife being really pleased that you have eventually recovered your voice!


I too have now recovered my voice but do find it loses strength when I get very tired so don't worry if this happens to you.


I am so pleased to have found this website,there are so many fears and questions that go with this op,It is 9months since mine now,It is a relief to hear these comments.


I was happy to read your comments and experience for sure. I just had an esophagectomy about 3 1/2 weeks ago. The day before the operation when I was running through all the pre-op tests and signing everything, the fine print so to speak, the Intern doctor just mentioned that I may loose my big booming voice (his exact words) for a little while. I never thought anything more of it, because as we all know this is a major operation and I was geared up for all the other things. Number one for me was to get healthy and get home - which I did! I had the operation on a Tuesday and was released that Sunday. Only lost a couple pounds, no complications, hardly any issues with nausea etc.. I was ready to go back to work exactly 7 days later except.. I had/have no voice. I was ready for everything and prepared for everything except the voice issue. I still went back to work and even today I'm very, very horse but I can communicate. And it does get a tiny bit better each day. I can tell early in the morning especially before I talk to much and get the "cords" tired. I was shocked when I got a visit from the Speech Pathologist in the hospital because even a few days after the procedure I was still thinking that my voice would just come back "suddenly". It was not until that meeting that I realized the "voice" issue was going to be my main problem. Good to read there is success in patience - usually is. I'll keep singing in the shower..


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