Before my surgery, I did a lot of research and was so thankful to read about the experiences of others on the forum. Now that mine is done, I thought I would post my experience for the benefit of others as well.
F, 40yrs, active lifestyle, c4-c7 discectomy and fusion, non-smoker, don't drink, slightly overweight, overall ok health.
Symptoms before surgery = numbness, tingling, burning in arms and hands and lower left leg, and muscle weakness in left hand/arm. Because of my age and sports, the neurologist and neurosurgeon highly recommended surgery as quickly as possible as the degree of compression in my spinal cord put me at high risk if I should have any kind of accident. Was on significant activity restriction to minimize risk prior to procedure. Was difficult to wrap my head around needing this procedure, and found it a very stressful experience emotionally. Elected to proceed and had surgery within 2.5 weeks. My husband was my primary support and was there for me at every step, helped me with recovery and in keeping my spirits up. Good friends also made a huge difference. The procedure took about 2:45min, stayed one night in the hospital. Had bad reactions to pain meds but eventually they got pain under control. Could dress myself the next day and walk around no problem. When home and sitting, I spent most my time in a recliner as it was the most comfortable (slept in it too). Started going for walks right away and they felt good. Soft-collar was supportive and didn't bother me much - wore it for 4 weeks. No driving for the first 2 weeks. Surgical site pain went away quickly, but the sensation of a lump in my throat was annoying and kept me from sleeping. I still have it on and off now at 9 weeks, and is one of my biggest complaints. Muscle spasms in upper back between shoulder blades persisted for a few weeks, but were managed with a muscle relaxer and now I just use a theracane to massage them away. Used pain meds for first 2 weeks regularly, then really only needed them at night for awhile, and now only use them if I over-do it or something. Started PT at 7 weeks and am reactivating muscles, gaining strength already, have improved range of motion, etc. My job is a desk job and I started back to work part time by week 3 (about 4 hrs per day). Was back up to 8 hrs per day by week 5 (just gradually kept increasing them). The boredom for the first 2 weeks wasn't as bad as I expected - found ways to read and watch TV etc that kept my neck and posture in a good position. Was hard not to do chores or overdo it with activity, but its important to take care of yourself right, and right away. Ate soft foods after surgery for several days, but was able to eat regular food regularly within 2 weeks or so. THe swelling and swallowing difficulties weren't fun, but they eventually got better. Was given about 3 tapers of high dose steriods throughout this whole adventure (including before the surgery), which helped the swelling and symptoms but had plenty of side effects including weight gain and insomnia. Focused nutrition in increasing protein, calcium and my bone growth/fusion is already a month ahead of expectations (nutrition makes a difference!). Scar is about 3.5/4 inches long and looks much better now, though I have fair skin so it is definitely quite obvious. Symptoms at 9 weeks - occasional numbness and tingling in hands but better than before, strength is returning, some stiffness and still a bit challenging to find a good sleeping position, lump in throat. Bonus - soon will be able to get back to fun activities and my spinal cord is free! The prevention of future/further damage was a big motivator.
Hope this helps someone and wish you all the best in managing your health and well-being!