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Not My First Rodeo

Posted Jul 05 2011 9:20pm

This isn't my first rodeo with a serious medical condition. At the age of 10, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis , or a lateral curvature of the spine. Scoliosis runs in my family on my mother's side. My sister, mother, aunt and cousin have all been diagnosed. For my mother, sister and cousin, the condition either corrected itself or has not worsened to the point of needing surgery. My aunt had surgery in her 30's.

When I was 10, my mother, sister and I lived in a house on Pensacola Beach. We spent a lot of time running around in swimsuits. On one day in particular, I bent over to pick something up and my mother noticed one hip was considerably higher than the other. She called me over and ran her fingers down my spine. "I think you have Scoliosis," she said. She explained it was curvature of the spine and that she would set an appointment with a doctor to get it checked. I went on with my day, not realizing the impact the condition would have on my life.

The doctor set me up with a machine called the Scolitron. It is a device that you attach with electrodes to one side of your back at night and electrical impulses cause the muscle to contract over and over again. The idea is that strengthening the muscle will help push the spine into a straight line. It was painful and messy and no fun for a 10 year old!

Unfortunately my Scoliosis progressed, despite consistent use with the Scolitron. My spine looked like an S, with a top curvature of 60 degrees and bottom curvature of 30 degrees. My doctor recommended surgery.

Scoliosis Surgery - Harrington Rod Implantation With Fusion
Meanwhile, my parents were divorced and my mother, sister and I moved back to Upstate NY to live closer to family. We found Dr. Jackman, a Scoliosis doctor, in Rochester, NY. I began traveling an hour each way for appointments and, as the surgery date approached, I traveled up weekly to have blood drawn for transfusion during surgery. Never have I see such HUGE needles! I swear I could look through them from one end to another like a straw!

Finally, in October of 1987, I had major back surgery for my Scoliosis. I had Harrington Rod implantation with fusion. To this day, I have three large stainless steel rods in my back. I was hospitalized for two weeks and for the next year, I wore a plaster body cast and, at the end, a lighter weight plastic cast. No small feat for a 13 year old who was entering high school! The following year, I was elated to start school again sans cast. "Aren't you the girl with the body cast?" one boy asked in the first week of school. Wow, I'd really made an impression! ;)

Throughout the years, I've had minimal problems with the rods. Periodically I get piercing pain near the spine and since the surgery, I've only been able to bend at my neck and waist. I have had to avoid certain contact sports or activities like skiing where falling is almost expected, so that I can prevent breaking a rod (a very common occurrence I've found out.) Nevertheless, I played tennis, became a cheerleader and in most recent years, became a yoga instructor. I am unable to demonstrate back bends and certain poses that require an arching of the back, but it hasn't impeded me from teaching!

As my chiropractor said after my recent Lyme Disease diagnosis: "Wow, you've really been through the ringer!" HA! Yes, this is true, but I am well aware that many others suffer from much worse. I find it ironic, however, that metal toxicity is prevalent in Lyme patients. While many Lymies get metal toxicity from their environment, mine is literally built-in! I am taking Chlorella now and researching other options for handling this.

On a recent visit to my local Scoliosis doc, I broached the subject of the rods causing metal toxicity. "No, no. I've never heard of that," he said. Then he paused, thinking about it. "Well, I guess anytime you have metal in your body you are at risk of metal toxicity." You think? It AMAZES me that I would be the first person to bring this up to him or that it isn't a topic of discussion in medical school!

Beyond Scoliosis
In addition the Scoliosis, I have had many, many cysts removed. At least 5 removed surgically and 15-20 removed via needle biopsy or aspiration from my breasts. In 2008, I had a cyst removed from my neck. This one became infected with MRSA and the tissues surrounding it became necrotic. Now, I have another one on my arm. I recently spoke with my Lyme doc about it (my Dermatologist recommends removing it surgically) and he suggested it could be some form of toxicity. Hmmm...

In 2008, I had FIVE surgeries...two cysts removed (one from my breast, one on my neck), two pre-melanomas from my abdomen and an oral surgery for a rare cyst on my gums. My Dermatologist, Gynecologist AND Oral Surgeon all have no idea what causes the benign cysts, but they all remove them "just to be safe." These five surgeries were also a year and half after my first child was born, which also makes sense because Lyme Disease symptoms increase dramatically after each pregnancy. It was a rough year, but now I know that these and my other weird medical mysteries are most likely due to Lyme. I am convinced that these repeated surgeries and rounds of anesthesia only increased my symptoms, making me sicker and sicker after each surgery. People with Lyme often report an increase in symptoms after surgeries, certain medications and traumatic events.

Here's hoping I've met my quota for medical maladies. I've got enough on my plate to last a lifetime!

Photo CreditsCowboy Hat: Microsoft Clip Art
Scoliosis Diagram:  
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