I won the lottery.

A time bomb was ticking. It was time to face the facts.


Neck problems have plagued me the past decade. Physical therapy, trigger point injections, herbal medicine, yoga….you name it, I’ve tried it. Back in 2006, my mom convinced me to have an MRI, and what do you know, they found something.

A benign tumor, not the worst thing in the world. But the placement was a bit odd, since the thing had grown inside a vertebrae of my neck. Was this the source of my constant, sometime debilitating neck tension and headaches?

I set out on a journey to find the answer.

Opinion 1:
Top surgeon in the city, a bit cocky, but hey, you gotta be confident if you are going to be operating on spines all day. He recommends injecting cement into my vertebrae, in order to essentially “push” the tumor out. The bad news is he has to cut straight through the front of my throat, possibly affecting speech and swallowing.

Not an option.

Opinion 2:
Another highly regarded surgeon, 25 years experience, and nice demeanor. I trusted this guy. He looked me in the eye and said “If you were my wife, I would be concerned. You have a time bomb ticking.”

He goes on to say that his main concern is that this tumor, yet benign, may have grown through the back of the bone. Worst case scenario? The bone cracks, emergency surgery required, possible paralysis from the waist down.


Paralyzed? That’s a word you can’t quite swallow as a 38 year old mom. My kids. All I saw was my kids, and my ability to still see them, touch them, watch them. Ok, waist down. I can deal with that. There’s a hell of a lot worse health conditions to deal with right?

I haggle around these thoughts, these options, and possibilities for a good 6 months. I am procrastinating, I know this. I tell my husband, my dad, to stay on my case, make sure I follow through and call Mayo.


Opinion 3:
Mayo neurology department. I arrive in the Gonda building on Wednesday December 18th. Its the crack of dawn, after trekking the family on a 4 1/2 hour drive the night before. My husband and kids are back at the hotel pool, while I make my way up to the 8th floor to face my fate.

First, the Neurosurgeon sees me, runs his tests, asks a multitude of questions. He leaves, and comes back in the room joined by a smiley faced Neurologist.

“Have your prior doctors explained your films?” he asks me.
“Ahh, kind of” I respond.

They proceed by explaining to me where my tumor is, and why it is not endangering my spinal cord. I think I am getting the message, but I am hesitant to believe it. What about the “time bomb” and bone cracking paralysis?

“You shouldn’t even be here. This condition is benign, not the source of your muscle tension and head pain. Your vertebrae is stable, and I fully expect it to remain that way. I never say never to my patients, so I will say this. If your situation was to lead to paralysis due to spinal cord impingement, this would be a case we would record in medical journals due to the rarity of the occurrence.”

And with that, Smiley Face hands me his card, tells me to call anytime with questions, and wishes me a Merry Christmas.

I sit. I stare. I am stunned.


I’ve won the lottery. It’s more than I could have ever imagined,


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19 Responses to I won the lottery.

  1. withlovebyli says:

    That’s lucky alright! Phew, feels like you dodged a bullet there. The scary part is that the two previous doctors were way off base. Who knows where you’d be if you had followed the advice of Doc #1. *shudders*

    If your situation was to lead to paralysis due to spinal cord impingement, this would be a case we would record in medical journals due to the rarity of the occurrence.”

    Knowing MY luck, I’d probably be the rare case!

  2. Nats says:

    Im so glad you are going to be ok!! I was worried!!

    Love you always


  3. Cinder says:

    glad everything’s okay!

  4. Limafan says:

    Thank goodness you’re still alive and kickin’ it! Oh my gosh though, scary scary scary!

  5. Josie says:

    I really hope opinion 3 is the right opinion!
    That is quite a scary situation. My mum was severely disabled in her last months and it was heartbreaking.
    I’m glad you’re gonna be okay.

  6. anne says:

    Merry Christmas. This is really good news for you. I often disagree with you on matters of ED’s as I am sure you are well aware, Heather. But, I really am glad for you. Its awful to live with the uncertainty of a medical problem. Is it serious? What are your options? How should you proceed? SHOULD you proceed at all? Will doing something make things worse than doing nothing at all? The tension can get to be just unbelievable. It affects everyone in a family, not just the one who has “the problem”. There is a parallel of sorts here with ED’s. Families go through many of these same issues when a family member is stricken. And, as your own experience has told you so very clearly here, the medical establishment whom we so easily give our faith and trust to, very often disagrees or gives us second and third opinions very much in striking contradiction about how we should handle matters. Ditto with ED’s. Ditto with ED’s.

    I am happy for you. Its good news. Everyone deserves the right to basic health because without it life is much harder.

  7. Amber/vanity900 says:

    oh god, how lucky i was so worried reading it! make sure you keep cheaking up he may have made a mistake!

  8. kay says:

    Hey mama..it’s kay ( yes the one who got caught by this site..prob. saved my life)..I am so happy to read the conclusion of this composition. I was worried all the way through it.

    I am quite sure that hands down, that made your holiday season, and any other gifts, would be complimentary to the knowledge that you won’t have to be paralyzed, can’t talk or swallow the food you can now guiltlessly enjoy…

    Surgeons are pricks ( my dad is a surgeon) but it is just one big front LOL..my dad used to be nervous as all get out over some surgeries, and he would have me lay on the dining room table, and literally “perform” the surgery he was going to do, and he would tell me to do certain things to prep for any scenario…so the arrogance comes at least in my dad, as a way to make the patient feel confident in him and his abilities.

    I love you mama v, and i hope your holidays are happy and you let loose and be a rock star…(as much as you can be in wisconsin)..LOL
    all my love

  9. Sara Greene says:

    Oh my god, that’s terrible! I can’t even imagine how it must feel! I’m so sorry, I wish I could help.

    My grampa just had throat cancer, and there was a very small chance that he would come out okay. But he’s doing great! Don’t give up hope!

  10. Kim says:

    miracles do happen!! i am glad you will be okay and i hope they also helped find a way to ease the pain you have been experiencing. i was at mayo for 7 days for neurology too it can be an overwhelming and scary experience, i am glad you had a good outcome. my thoughts and prayers will be with you!! im glad you won the lottery!! merry christmas xxxkim

  11. a_mother says:

    I am glad that your situation turned out well. I am sure that the first hug you got from your kids when you got back to your room was a very special one. I found in times that you might think something serious is wrong that you tend to think about alot of things and what you would do differently. I hope that having gone through something like this makes everyday more special to you and your family. I am very happy to know that everything is ok and that you will enjoy many more Christmas’s with your family. May this year be one of the best yet! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  12. Jane says:

    Hia MamaV, fantastic news…. I can’t imagine the relief you must have felt when they told you. Congratulations :oD

    Hugs and kisses

    Jane xxxx

  13. Jamie says:

    wow mamav! Thats awesome news!! I’m so happy for you!

  14. Man, I’m so glad you’re going to be fine. This is a valuable lesson in getting second, even third or forth opinions. One doctor doesn’t know everything, and before you make any major life decisions (or conclusions) it’s best that you arm yourself with all the information you can get your hands on.

    What a great gift to you and your family (and all of us 😉 this holiday!

  15. Bittibee says:

    I’m a primary care physician and one of the rules for consulting specialists is “Don’t consult a surgeon unless you want a surgery.” I’m glad you got both a surgeon’s and a nonsurgeon’s point of view! Sometimes more important than getting more than one opinion, is getting more than one kind of opinion. I’m very happy you got some good news!

  16. I’m glad you’re ok.
    Happy Holidays!

  17. Jen says:

    Happy for you, mamaV, I’m kind of late on this because of a series of unfortunate circumstances, but I’m glad that you’re ok. This just shows how many idiot doctors there are out there. I just got a psychological evaluation and the psychologist told me I was in the early stages of schizophrenia and that I shouldn’t go into counseling. I have never been told that before and in fact all doctors I have talked to about me wanting to become a therapist say I’d be great at it despite my mental disorders, so it just shows that there are some idiots out there who don’t know what they’re talking about, but it’s even worse when they’re in the kind of position that you really take what they’re saying seriously.

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