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.
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.
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.
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,