Daisy went in for a routine calcium scan on her arteries and was shocked to find out from the radiologist that there was a large tumor that had wrapped itself around her spinal cord, inside one of the vertebrae. She had an appointment with Dr. Tien who couldn’t believe that I didn’t feel any tingling, pain, or numbness, given the size and location of the tumor. He said I needed to have surgery right away since the spinal cord was so compressed. The tumor must have grown so slowly that Daisy didn’t have any symptoms, but it could have paralyzed her if it hadn’t been caught.
It was a big surgery since the tumor was inside the dura and on the backside of her spine. When she told Dr. Tien that she wanted to get a second opinion, he gave her some recommendations on the west coast. She had an appointment at a highly regarded facility in San Francisco. The doctor agreed that it needed to come out immediately, but he recommended fusing her spine and putting in screws and a rod. It would have been at least a 6-9 month recovery. At first, she didn’t really understand, because Dr. Tien had told her the recovery would be about three months. When she got back to Bend, she called her primary care doctor. He said that was their standard protocol, but he would ask Dr. Tien to call me to help figure it out. Dr. Tien called Daisy right away and said that he saw her as an active, young person with no back problems, so there was no reason to install hardware. After six months, if it didn’t work, she could always add it later.
It was her first real experience with a major medical problem, but she felt confident with Dr. Tien, so she decided to proceed with the surgery. “I liked that he saw me as a whole person and was willing to try the procedure with the minimally invasive amount that needed to be done. The procedure was 4.5 hours and the three month recovery was tough, but I completed all my rehab and recovered really fast. I would have still been in a back brace if I had gone ahead with the fusion, but now I am back to skiing, yoga, and all the other things I love to do.”