Warning: gross post about tonsils and tonsil stones! But if you’re a person who loves going “ew!” like me, continue on!
This blog post is a bit different than my usual posts and it is definitely over-sharing, but I wanted to bring more attention to a health issue that completely changed my life but a mere three years ago I had no clue about.
I hate running. I hate it. I have to wake up before the sun to fit it into my schedule, it leaves my legs and back aching, and I have never gotten the seemingly mythical “runner’s high”. So why do I do it you may ask? Because, for about 18 years of my life, I couldn’t.
For the majority of that time, I also had no idea why. My legs worked fine and I believed I was in fairly good health. However, after anything over a minute or two of running, or most other cardio, all hell would break loose on my body. Heat would reach up from the back of my throat and strangle me, while thick cement blocked my airways. As the other girls pranced by me during the dreaded monthly mile run during P.E., I would wheeze and sputter. My lungs shriveled to the size of grapes and no amount of walking would allow me to recover for several hours. I always simply assumed that everyone felt this way. I was just a “bad runner”. What I really had was bad tonsils.
When I was sixteen, I discovered my first tonsil stone. While inspecting my mouth after brushing my teeth, I spotted a tiny white head sticking out along the side of my esophagus. I assumed it was an odd piece of food that had gotten lodged back there. Thinking that it would disappear, I brushed it off. About three weeks later, when I checked again, the opposite had happened. The white lump had grown and seemed to have multiplied. Now surrounding the large white bump, were a few mini-me’s encircling it. My love for picking at gross things on my body got the best of me (I’m an avid lover for those revolting Instagram videos of pimple popping) and, with finger at the ready, decided to investigate. With a few sharp prods and a gag later, the mysterious bump and its friends popped off and released a foul stench with them. Having reached my disgust max for the day, I washed the odd white pebbles down the sink. Thinking that would be the last I ever saw of them, I went to bed and tried to forget about it.
Over the next few months however, my tonsils made sure that I wouldn’t. It seemed like every time I opened my mouth, a new, tiny, white, bald man had taken up residence in the back of my mouth. I would sit at my bathroom sink for hours attempting to remove them all. When I asked my primary physician and dentist about it, they both said it was just old food and I should probably chew my lunch better. Unsatisfied, I turned to my old friend, the internet. After dismissing the first few diagnoses of foreign parasites or thyroid cancer that WebMD loving conjured up for me, I stumbled upon an article about tonsil stones. If you would like to learn more about these disgusting little mouth dwellers, here are some links for your enjoyment:
I finally went to go see a specialist and she confirmed that I had a bad case of tonsillolith or tonsil stones. Since I was able to remove them without much difficulty, she recommended that I continue my extracting routine and contact her if they got worse.
Guess what? They got worse! So, so much worse. They started to get bigger, more intrusive, and their stench forced me to pop breath mints every few hours. (If you’ve ever had tonsil stones, you know the unfortunate smell I’m referring to.) The night that I had blood pouring out of my mouth from another failed extraction was the final straw. The next day I made another appointment with the specialist and a mere three weeks later, I was having my tonsils removed, which would rid me of the problem permanently.
Following the surgery, the doctor remarking on what a pair of infected and "nasty" pair of tonsils I had, and an overly painful recovery for a something that seemed so common (I might do another gross blog post about that recovery process one day, but for now, I will keep this one focused on my good friends, tonsil stones.) the most surprising thing happened; my entire life was altered. I don’t say that lightly. Every aspect of my physicality seemed to transform almost overnight. For the first time my air passageways were clear, I didn’t have green phlegm accompanying every cough, my jawline no longer had a swollen look to it, my fevers are never upwards of 104 degrees anymore, focusing became easier, and the weirdest thing of all, I could run.
My head did not pound faster than my heartbeat and the wheezing I had come to know and love dissipated when I started on my first jog through my neighborhood. I wasn’t very fast and still could not run very far without getting exhausted, but for the first time ever, I didn’t need to stop.
Every time I lace up my sneakers I am still astounded that only a year ago, the idea of running terrified me. I had no idea these issues were all connected to my tonsils. Assuming that everyone had the same symptoms as me, I just though I could not “deal” with them like everyone else.
I am not advocating for everyone to go rip their tonsils out, but, for me at least, it was a game changer. I wrote this blog post to raise a little bit of awareness about tonsil stones and the havoc they can rave on your body. Getting rid of my tonsils allowed me to get into the best shape of my life.
I hate running. I hate it. I have to wake up before the sun to fit it into my schedule, it leaves my legs and back aching, and I have never gotten the seemingly mythical “runner’s high”. So why do I do it you may ask? Because I can.