Before any of you think I’m talking about myself, my kids or even Mrs H – I’m not! (although the title could apply to any and all of us at different points in time)
Going back over 10 years, I started to experience weakness in my arms and pain in my neck/back – in fact the pain in my arms could build to such a level that I blacked out because of it. Over the years I’ve had to stand my ground and fight my corner to get various Doctors and elements of the NHS to believe me and to act upon it.
6 years ago I went into the horrendous MRI machine (even if you don’t suffer claustrophobia, you’ll be surprised at the panic these things can induce) and the results indicated problems on the C5/C6 vertebrae, with one doctor notably saying that I had the spine of an 80 year-old. That comment was later denounced by several other doctors and also the Neurosurgeon I ended up having to visit at Addenbrookes.
Because the issues are on my Cervical Spine area, and therefore a potentially dangerous location, I was indeed referred to visit a Neurosurgeon – who declined to comment on my mental state thankfully but did describe that I was developing bone spurs on my vertebra called osteophytes. These in themselves are fairly normal and most of us develop them from our early 30s onwards, the issue was that mine were starting to pinch on the nerves and would, in his words, require surgery “within 10 to 20 years”.
Surgery, he explained, was the last option that they would resort to as spinal surgery carries risks and any damage in the neck area could, in a worse case scenario, lead to quadraplegia (loss of all limbs – those of you who’ve seen “The Bone Collector” or read any of the Lincoln Rhyme novels will be very familiar with what this means.) Until surgery became the only option left I would have to embark upon pain management therapy, small amounts of physiotherapy and lots-and-lots of drugs.
This year the pain started to build right up again, despite the pain-killers, and so I started the familiar battle with the NHS – this time succeeding in my attempts to get a follow-up MRI scan (4 years later than I had been promised!) The MRI was even scarier this time as I’ve put on a lot of weight in the past 6 years so the fit was even tighter.
The first we knew of the results was receiving a copy of a letter from the neurosurgeon saying that he was recommending surgery as a course of action now. BOMBSHELL. After mentally preparing for surgery in my 40s/50s I was suddenly faced with the prospect of imminent surgery.
When I finally managed to get to see my results at my local GP surgery, the reasoning became abundantly clear. Not only was there growths on C5/C6 but C6/C7 were also showing growths and more worryingly the spaces which allow the nerves to come out from the spinal cord were closing up in a big way – then there was the big shock: the central column around my spinal cord is also narrowing quite dramatically.
Understanding blossomed immediately, after all if the spinal column gets nicked or compressed then I am totally screwed – permanently!
So, lots of googling commenced to try and gain an understanding of what might be expected and a clearer indication sought as to what the benefits and risks are.
The benefits are actually huge – not only could I see complete loss of the pain I’ve lived with all these years but I would potentially regain a lot of lost strength and feeling. There’s also the benefits of being much younger, therefore reducing risks and also reducing recovery time. Huge benefits.
There are risks, and there is also the usual fear surrounding making a life-changing decision. Whilst the percentages of complications and incidents during surgery are small, they still exist. There is also the nagging doubt and questions including “what if it doesn’t make any difference” and, as Mrs H asked, “Will the growths grow back again”
We’ve never had it explained as to why these growths have started, spread or have affected this particular area – normally ostephytes hit fingers and lumbar spinal areas etc but it’s not as common to have the cervical spine affected.
I know this is all a bit of a ramble – to be honest it’s as much an exercise in me trying to clear my thinking as it is in sharing with you all – but if I’m to be completely open with you all, I’m scared stiff.
It’s frightening stuff and the impact of my decision to accept the surgery or not could be massive. I really think there is no choice, surgery is definitely needed and the risks in turning it down are too great. That doesn’t mean though that the decision doesn’t scare the crap out of me.
For those of you who believe in the power of prayer, and in Gods love and healing power, could you please be praying for us – for peace, for wisdom and for a real sense of Gods presence over the next few months/years however long until the surgery takes place.
For those of you who don’t believe – your prayers and thoughts would still be very much appreciated. It’s surprising how many people who don’t believe in God, still pray in times of trouble and stress. Please pray for us as we face trouble and stress.
Thanks for reading folks, and thanks in advance for your prayers