My Time with Nasal Poylps: Treatment, Surgery, Recovery (So Far)

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Let’s start with the basics: who am I, why am I writing this. Well I’m certainly no doctor, no medical professional, I’m not here to give you direction or advice, just to share my story and usually my stories are about traveling, hiking, the outdoors so don’t expect too much. But after several years with Nasal Polyps and now surgery to remove them, I figured why not. There were not enough stories for me to read when I started looking at this so maybe mine will help you.

All the meds for the nose :/

So that’s me, now let’s talk about how I got from zero to surgery.

Obviously, I did not walk right into the operating room, heck, I didn’t even slowly approach it. As far as I can recall, I’ve had Polyp symptoms for about two years starting back around the time of the big Oregon fires. My family however thinks I’ve been consistently stuffy for years longer than that, maybe they’re right. Either way, it’s been a long while.

What I do know is that I went from rarely having colds to having a lot of stuffy nose days. Stuffy noses that would turn into a couple sinus infections a year and plenty of spendy trips into urgent care clinics for a treatment that never lasted long enough. Stuffy noses that meant becoming a mouth breather, consistently blowing my nose, having almost no sense of smell (like really no smell.)

Of course I’ve tried plenty of treatments along the way too.

Before I got my Polyps diagnosis, doctors had me take a lot of logical steps to try and get better:

There was rest of course, I’m not great at that one but when you feel like crap, it’s easier to do. At times there were meds on top of that too. Cold meds have done little, congestion meds worthless. Sinuses rinses seemed useful but don’t actually work when you don’t have a working sinus system. But those sinus infections I went in for… Well they may have been treated right, maybe wrong, either way the pills certainly helped clear up the worst flare ups and keep me running a fairly normal life, for a time. 

Having an active life and a mountain life helped too. I’m not sure if it’s the altitude, some of the dryer climates (or wetter ones) I’ve made it to, the exertion or having something more compelling to push for but for a guy who has sounded like he’s been sick for the better part of two years, I’ve sure done a lot and that’s helped a lot. Forcing activity is something I firmly believe in — rest is nice but it takes strength to fight.

Finally, diagnosis and real treatment.

Last year I moved and yet the congestion, the infections, it came along for the ride. This was my a-ha moment, I couldn’t blame Portland winters, I was in a fairly warm, dry spot and things were just getting worse. My new primary doc tried sinus infection but I was back to bad in weeks. She sent me to the allergist who confirmed I can walk through a field of anything and not notice (lucky me) so off to ear, nose and throat. That visit was a very quick verdict.

Like any good doc, he laid out reality starting with meds and the hope they would do the trick. Steroids and Prednisone are nothing to take lightly but if I could get a few years between treatments, sold.

My first dose did work wonders. For a few months, I could breath through my nose, I re-discovered the smell of chocolate, it was good times but they did not last. Another dose just to be sure had even less effect and one last round was only enough to help me get through some big summer climbs, pills would not be my savoir.

Sadly treatments matched with the meds had not helped either. With clearer sinuses, I could rinse and I’ve used nasal sprays for years, but nada. So, a CAT scan later, surgery was on the books.

Surgery day arrives!

Reading around for Nasal Polyp stories, I’ve seen everything from weeks of misery to well, less than weeks of misery. I dunno, I just figured it would not be that bad and besides, a few days or even weeks of recovery beats years of congestion. 

Surgery is what it is and this one is no different. In the 3 procedures I’ve had, the mechanics all flow about the same: check in, gown up, get stabbed with a needle, go to bed, wake up, have no idea where you are exactly and have your first food and water in half a day.

The clock tells me I was under for a long while but I have no memory of anything past getting onto the OR bed. My doc tells me I had a rather extensive collection of Polyps to remove and a few other areas to adjust to help reduce the chance of future recurrences. Either way, I woke up a zombie and was not dancing in the hallways that afternoon.

I did manage to dress, enjoy a delicious orange popsicle and get into my sister’s car to go home. Beyond that, details are fuzzy.

Tip: Soft foods are your friend, chewing moves the sinuses!

When I got home, my family was kind enough to meet me and as I started to feel human, I had a real meal, even a real chat. I don’t recall much pain that first day, especially not with whatever was still in my blood from the OR, but I was bleeding to the tune of new gauze every 45 minutes or so. A few movies later at the family’s and it was not hard to go to bed.

Surgery +1:

Day one started much better than I expected. I’d woken up a few times through the night and changed gauze maybe every 3 or 4 hours but it wasn’t bad. Standing however realigns things and enjoyed spitting up some of the blood that had settled while my nose kicked back up. 

I snuck in about a 60 second shower after that and damn it felt amazing.  Pain was still on the low side though I took half of one of my prescription meds to stay ahead of it.

Doing my first sinus rinse however, did not feel wonderful nor help keep my wounds at bay but it wasn’t all that bad either (aside from the rinse, hate that feeling) and 20 minutes on the couch, head back had things controlled.

Tip: Getting changed and cleaned up before the rinses with a few tissues nearby means you can right into couch mode after them, no fuss. 

It was a lazy first day but as it progressed, so did I. The nifty gauze holding mask was on for that second night, post sinus rinse realities but it was far less necessary.

Surgery +2: 

Good morning world! I won’t say I woke up smelling the trees, still can’t do that very well (relax, it’s surgery +4 as I write this) but the bleeding was gone and I could feel myself starting to actually breath through my nose, like for real!

Sinus rinses still sucked, still involved a little tissue clean up and 20 minutes of taking it easy to not flare up further. The swelling stepped as well too and hit its height as I’m told is typical for how things time out but aside from a little pain, a little fatigue, it was a good day. A good day for movies that is. Not a day I would have wanted to go to the fair.

Surgery +3:

This was the second half of my peak swelling (thus far though I’m confident longer => better) though nothing from recovery thus far has felt anywhere near “bad” or “awful” — more like not great.

Just a few days in, and my nose had stopped bleeding, almost entirely after rinses too. I was just tired. Boring as 4 days at home are, it was not hard to pass the morning on the couch though chatting and even a little laptop work were all quite possible too.

I also headed home from my family’s, about an hour drive and while I was not in the driver’s seat, it was smooth sailing. Getting home in the afternoon and taking on a few smaller tasks to pick up some extra food, handle a couple light things around the apartment, it didn’t just go well, it felt nice.

Surgery +4:

Well we’ve arrived and real time now. I’ve been home for a night, slept great, pretty sure I’m mostly breathing through my nose for the first time in forever — it’s nice, really really nice. Everyone who has spoken with me says my voice sounds different, without some of the congestion squeak though I can’t tell. A few light smells have entered though that’s not back by any means but whatever.

Pain is down to a Tylenol for the morning as of this post but I can still definitely feel the swelling and some pressure. I’m ready for reality but know I’ll be working from home (lucky life for sure) to combat the fatigue and give myself a full shot at recovery too.

Surgery +10:

It’s been the better part of two weeks since surgery and this morning I went to the doc for my first follow up.

Beyond the “fun” of having him scrape and suction some stuff out my nose (wasn’t anything painful, just a really odd feeling), it wasn’t bad at all. I’ve still got a fair amount of swelling up there apparently and still stuck doing sinus rinses a few times a day. I also have a moderate headache here and there but feeling pretty solid and certainly back to most of life.

Speaking of regular life, the doc cleared me to get back to most activity today which is great. Not going to lie, 10 days out of the gym made for a rough return and I’m sure I will feel it tomorrow but being active again was great, endorphins! Here’s to more adventures and activity to come — with proper breathing.

Oh, since it’s been a few days, I should also mention that I can smell again. Forgot how amazing the beach was and what food really tastes like. It’s nice.

3 Weeks

Things continue to progress nicely. Headaches are gone, sinus rinses are productive here and there but much less so. The only pain is rubbing my nose for like an itch which reminds me it got all sorts of work done.

My day to day life has mostly returned to reality. Back to moving stuff around, back to the gym, back to hiking for entire days. Aside from recovering from a few weeks completely off, that’s all going great.

Smells are returning and amazing!

What comes next / will it last?

When I was diagnosed with Nasal Polyps, my doc made it clear nothing was a forever solve, at least not one he could guarantee. Some people get them again, some don’t. Whatever, they sucked, 4 days in and I’m already happy.

Maybe I got lucky with how the surgery hit me. Maybe my pain is different than yours. I know I’m lucky with my insurance coverage right now and with my ability to take the time off to recover from this all. Again, I’m not here to tell you how anything will be for you, that’s what your doctor is for, your decisions to make. 

Obviously, I’d have rather been cured by a pill, fixed by a sinus rinse but no such luck and perhaps those won’t stop a re-occurrence for me in the future. Still, if you told me, sorry dude, this again in 5 years, I could deal with that over 5 years of endless drippy noses and snoring. 10 sounds real nice, so I’ll cross my fingers for that. 

So I’ll do my best to come back and share how it goes as the time passes by. Hopefully if you’ve got Polyps this is helpful, one more story to add to your own list of options.