I came across this site the other day while searching for information about my upcoming surgery.
In 1983, when I was 21, I was diagnosed with Stage IIA Hodgkin's lymphoma. I underwent a splenectomy and staging laparotomy, and then underwent radiation therapy to my jaw area, my neck, my chest and shoulders, and my lower spine. The disease went into remission, and thankfully I haven't had a recurrence.
Around 2000, I started having neck problems. My neck and shoulder muscles started to atrophy. Because I have always spent long hours in front of a computer, my spine began to thrust forward. It now curves significantly causing my head to sag forward. In 2003, while on vacation, I was in a powerboat that went airborne crossing a wake. When the boat hit the water, my head snapped forward and back. Later that year, I began to experience significant neck and shoulder pain while exercising. I had CT scans and MRIs that showed bulging disks and bone spurs. Later Studies showed some stenosis. I went to physical therapy (PT) to fix limited motion of my arms and traction to help my neck. I experienced some, but not much, improvement. The spine surgeon referred me to a neurologist who found that there was some interference with my nerve transmissions in my arms.
Over the next couple of years, my neck and shoulder pain worsened, my left middle finger went numb between the second and third joint and I started to experience sporadic numbness in my arms (mostly right). More neurological tests showed that my nerves were getting worse, and another MRI showed more stenosis. In 2006 I visited a chiropractor for the first time. He came up with a treatment plan that included exercises to strengthen my neck, help my arms and--most significantly--traction on my neck to straighten it out. He also insisted on doing "adjustments" during every session, five days a week. After the third week, I suddenly went blind in my right eye. Between the emergency room and a retinal specialist the event was diagnosed as a Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion, more informally known as an eye stroke. Later that night I had a real stroke, albeit very mild. My vision ultimately returned, mostly, leaving me blind in the lower left quadrant of my right eye. I had no symptoms from the stroke, but an MRI of my brain clearly showed the damage to a small part of my brain. Needless to say, I stopped seeing the chiropractor. A little bit of research yielded many anecdotal incidents of strokes after "adjustments," so I am deathly afraid of chiropractors.
After that event, my symptoms continued to deteriorate. I continued to see specialists and surgeons. A very respected surgeon at a very respected medical center in Los Angeles told me that if I didn't have surgery to straighten my neck, it would continue to curve until I was staring at my feet. I started to consider surgery. After getting a second opinion, I decided that the results didn't justify the risks. More years passed, I kept visiting the surgeons and neurologist, and the symptoms worsened. Finally, this past April, I decided to schedule the surgery. Because my wife and I were planning a move in June, I scheduled surgery for August 5.
I had done lots of research about the mechanics of the surgery, but it was only a week or so ago that I started looking for information from patients that had gone through the surgery. At the same time, I started looking for other cancer patients who went through radiation in the 1980s. I'm also looking for a radiation oncologist who is familiar with the problems experienced by long-term survivors, So far, I've found this site. I've spent the last few days lurking and reading the different forums.
I appreciate the honesty of members on this site. I've been through several surgeries in my life, but this one scares the hell out of me.
I look forward to participating in this forum, and to hearing from other patients--both those who haven't had surgery yet and veterans.
David Welcome to Spine-Health
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