'Today' 's Sheinelle Jones Announces Vocal Surgery That Will Leave Her Unable to Speak for 2 Weeks

On Thursday, Sheinelle Jones announced that she will undergo surgery to remove a polyp from her vocal chord

Sheinelle Jones
Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU

Sheinelle Jones is opening up about her recent health scare.

On Thursday, the 3rd Hour of Today show anchor, 41, announced she will be undergoing vocal surgery on Monday — an hour-long procedure that will require a six-week recovery process and will leave her voiceless for two weeks.

The mother of three — who has a polyp on her vocal chord — opens up to PEOPLE exclusively about the traumatic way it has affected her life, her decision to undergo surgery, and how she plans to get through two weeks without talking.

“It’s to the point where people at home have no idea what I do just to get ready for a show in the morning,” say Jones, who shares son, Kayin, 10, and twins Uche and Clara Josephine, 7, with husband Uche Ojeh. “When I get a call that I have to track a story early in the morning, I get up like 30 minutes early so I can do exercises on my throat just so that I don’t sound hoarse.”

“Within the last month or two, I get anxiety when I have to track a story because I don’t know if I’m going to get a sound,” she adds. “And there’s some days where it’s just better than others for whatever reason. It almost feels like I start the morning with a tank full of gas and by the end of the morning it’s like I’m out. It’s empty. I look at my scripts sometimes and I call them word mountains. And so what is a two minute story for most reporters, they come in, they read the story and then they move on. I look at it and sometimes I just stare at it and it literally looks like a mountain and I’m like doing exercises before I track and breathing exercises. It’s almost like I’m ready to sing on Broadway, except all it is, is a two minute story.”

“Most people wouldn’t have made it this long hiding a problem,” she said. “I had so many things with my breathing and with exercises just to keep a voice. It’s strongest in the morning, so I do most of my work in the morning. I don’t schedule things in the afternoon anymore. I’m really careful. My life has changed dramatically.”

Nathan Congleton/NBC

In 2016, Jones revealed on Today that she had a polyp on her vocal chord, but it seemingly disappeared with time.

“Four years ago when I was usually on Saturday, there would be times where right before I would go to read, I would try to clear my throat and I would do it all of the time,” she says. “The producer at the time got in my ear and said, ‘Hey, I feel like maybe you should go to an ENT because you clear your throat more than normal.’ ”

“I went to an ENT and they did a scope of my throat,” she continues. “And sure enough, there was this polyp on my vocal cord. She gave me a steroid and then I started going to a vocal therapist a couple of times a week I did all the vocal therapy, went back and it was gone. It had gone away or at least gone down. I thought I was kind of able to keep it at bay.”

However, Jones admits that within the past eight months she’s noticed a change in her voice and knew “in her gut” that it was back.

“I went back to the ENT and sure enough, it was in that same spot, which leads us to believe it never went away, it just kind of went down,” she explains. “For the last four or five months I’ve been going to vocal therapy, sometimes up to twice a week, literally working to try to take the hoarseness out of my voice to see if it’ll go away on its own. Surgery was kind of my last resort.”

Sheinelle Jones
Sheinelle Jones. NBC

With support from her friends and family, Jones says she realized it was time to take control and undergo surgery.

“It kind of hit me that we’re in such a go mode all the time, especially with kids and you have a busy career, that you very rarely stop to just take care of yourself,” Jones says. “And part of me feels like it’s a good Lord’s way of kind of making me sit still. Because I have to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t talk.”

“This is the first time ever in my life, in my career, and I’ve been in the business for more than 20 years, that I will stop and just take care of myself,” she adds. “So part of me it’s like, the good Lord’s way of just telling me to stop and do a little self care and practice what we preach on the show day in and day out. So I’m really trying to do that.”

While she admits she’s terrified of not being able to speak with her kids for two weeks, she wants to keep life as normal as possible for her three little ones.

“Less is more,” Jones says of trying to explain to her children why she won’t be able to talk. “I’m learning. I was trying to sit down, I showed my daughter a picture, it’s too much.”

“They’re very aware what I’m dealing with, but I don’t even think they understand,” Jones, who will be spending a week alone in a hotel after the procedure, adds. “Opposed to scaring, I think I’ll just, and honestly, who knows, maybe I’ll get to the hotel and go home and see them for a little bit and then leave. You’re catching me at a time where, which is real life, which is, I’m just not sure how I’m going to do it.”

Despite the lingering fear of the unknown, Jones says she’s more than ready to move forward.

“I am taking my life back,” she says. “I hope we can talk six weeks from now and I hope I sound amazing.”

Jones’ last day on 3rd Hour of Today will be Friday. 3rd Hour of Today airs weekdays at 9 a.m.

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