Think Twice Before Getting Surgery

By David J. Stewart | May 2012

In March of 2004 I used my head as leverage to turn in my sleep and felt a hot flash in my neck. The next morning I woke up with horrible toothache-like pain in my neck and chronic tightness (stiffness) in my neck.

I went to see a chiropractor. I had been rear-ended by a church bus 12-years earlier in 1992. My seat was broken off its hinges. I went to the hospital and after some x-rays they said I was fine. My neck was stiff and sore for a week and then I felt normal for 12-years. Little did I know that my neck was crooked because of the whiplash. The condition is known as Reverse cervical Curve and it's common in rear-end collision accidents where whiplash is sustained.

In 2005 I slipped and fell at work, which worsened my condition, causing radiating pain down my arms and legs (mostly the right side into the thumb and toe). I endured through the affliction until 2009 when I couldn't take it anymore and underwent Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion surgery (ACDF). Although the surgery removed two obviously herniated disks, my neck pain and stiffness stayed the same. Since 2007 I had taken 8 Percocet 10/325 pills PER DAY up until April of 2010, when I started taking 80 mg (and now 160) of Oxycontin per day instead of the Percocet.

A year later in 2010 I went back for another evaluation and a surgeon thought he could help me. After looking at a CT scan, he said I needed to have the first surgery redone because my bones at C5-C6-C7 weren't fusing. He said that the pain wouldn't go away if the bones didn't fuse. A composite material bone was used for my first surgery in 2009. This time a hip bone graft was done in 2010. I wish I had never let that surgeon touch me the second time. Since my first surgery hadn't left me worse off (but it didn't help me either), I didn't hesitate to get a second surgery. I'll pay for that decision for the rest of my life. The doctor never should have cut into me.

I now have peripheral neuropathy, which is intense burning, a puffed-up sensation in my arms, tingling and arthritis-like pain in my hands, and intermittent sharp pain in my arms and legs, every day of my life. It will never go away. There is no remedy. I not only have the horrible original symptoms of toothache-like neck pain and chronic neck stiffness (like my neck is ready to explode), but now I also have the burning, tingling and swollen feeling in my arms. I take 300 mg. of Lyrics per day, but it does little to help. On a good day I'm fortunate if my symptoms are reduced in half. Yet on a daily basis I have attacks of peripheral neuropathy where I feel like I'm burning alive inside my body.

It is depressing and overwhelming. I hear sermons about learning to choose to be happy in spite of one's adverse circumstances, but my health afflictions are overwhelming at times and I am a physical and emotional mess. I'm advising anyone who reads this NOT to get surgery unless you absolutely need it. The reason I got the second surgery was 3-fold. 1) because I still had the original problems of agonizing neck pain (where the bone is located in back) and ripping neck tension. 2). Because the surgeon thought he could help me. 3). Because I was suffering continually and miserable so I figured I had nothing to lose.

Oh, listen my friend, it can get MUCH worse. I didn't know this could happen to me. If you've never had to cope with a constant burning sensation throughout your body, you can't possibly know how horrible it is. I am not suicidal, but I have no desire to live another day. My purpose for living is Jesus Christ. I raise up and lie down to the call of my dear Savior. I look forward to my last day on earth. I am not as the heathen without hope, for my hope is great in all that God hath promised to them who believe. I intend to keep serving God each and every day, but I'll be totally miserable in my bodily afflictions until I'm free of this damaged earthly body.

I long for Christ's return at the Rapture, when every saint will receive a glorified incorruptible body free of pain and affliction (Philippians 3:20-21). I pray often for the Lord to take me home as soon as possible. I'm ready to go right now and I mean that! If somebody killed me they'd be doing me a favor and I mean that too. So if you're my sworn enemy and want to come get me, just please make it quick because I'm already in horrible pain. Don't you dare judge me if you've never been in my condition. I'm suffering in Hell on earth.

My feet and ankles were swelling up over the past couple weeks for some reason, so I stopped taking my Lyrica. I've been having horrible arthritis-like pain over the past 9-months in my fingers. An x-ray of my hands didn't reveal any problems. I'm getting a blood test tomorrow (May of 2012). I am suffering so much.

Boy, this picture to the right is exactly how I feel. That's EXACTLY where my pain is located. It's the bottom junction of the Cervical (neck) bone (C7), where the thorax (T1) meets the neck.

Whoever you are, DON'T ever allow a surgeon to cut into you if you can cope at all with your condition. Live with it or you may be very sorry like me. I am thankful to God in Heaven that I am still functional. I'm actually blessed, because the surgery could have left me paralyzed (as it does some people). Albeit, I will suffer in horrible affliction for the rest of my miserable life.

I underwent a second surgery, knowing that any hope for a normal pain-free life would require additional surgery. The dream and hope of being pain-free once again blinded me to the reality that surgery often makes you much worse. It doesn't help when doctors are rude, unkind and heartless, because you think they just don't care. It's hard to tell who cares and who doesn't. The surgeon who operated on me sincerely thought he could help me, but he made me much worse. No surgeon is God. Don't forget that.

I am not complaining, I am being your friend. Don't get surgery unless you can't take it anymore. For sharp and shooting type pain surgery tends to be effective; but if you have dull, constant and agonizing neck pain like I do, you'll likely have it for the rest of your life. I've met with eight neurosurgeons, two orthosurgeons and a neurologist. No one knows what i causing my pain. Their best guess is Cervical Osteo Arthritis.

Under the same circumstances, I would get the same surgeries again and make the same choices again. But if I could go back and know what I know now, I wouldn't. I remember telling myself before my surgeries that if the surgery made me worse that I would remind myself of the horrible neck pain and suffering that I was feeling at the time. I was hurting, and still am.

I thank God that I have good moments once in a while where my condition is not so bad. Peripheral neuropathy can seem like it's hardly there sometimes, and be totally overwhelming a few hours later. I never feel like it's not there. Most of the time, for me, it is overwhelming. I keep my air-conditioning on extra high because it helps sooth my burning nerves. When I am in heat and humidity my condition is much worse. My arms always feel puffed-up, like air bags.

I frequently have sharp pain radiating into my arms and legs, but the pain is bearable. It's the burning that's the worst for me, and the toothache-like neck pain that radiates into my facial area. The neck pain I already had. I had some tingling and pain, but no burning before my second surgery. I am thankful that I have limbs to hurt. I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I counsel myself daily. I have to because I can easily become depressed. God's Word is precious to me, and my best friend.

I have the joy of the Lord in my heart, but I'm not happy. Nothing in all this world could take my joy from me. My name is written in Heaven. I'm a child of God. I have a home in Heaven. I have a new body waiting for my at the Rapture.

When I went for my 1st surgery in July of 2009 they handed me a questionnaire at the hospital. Are you happy? I put, no. Are you lonely? I put, yes. Do you avoid socializing because of your poor health? I put, yes. Are you often depressed? I put, yes. Are you tired and fatigued all the time? I put, yes. Do you have anyone to help you? I put, no. I answered every question truthfully and negatively. But then there was one question at the end that made me laugh, because it was the only question that I could answer positively. Do you have peace? I said, yes.

The questions were a mere formability, because I never heard from anyone again on the matter. When I went for my 2nd surgery they didn't even hand me a questionnaire. I realized after answering that questionnaire that I have the blessed peace of God in my soul amidst all my sorrows and afflictions, because I know that my name is written in Heaven (Luke 10:20). That cheered me up.

No matter what storms and hardships may come upon you in life, you can still have the sweet peace of knowing that everything is ok in my Father's house in Heaven. Everything's ok at home. Amen! Colossians 3:1-3 says that Jesus is risen into Heaven and is seated on the right-hand of the Father. Christ literally intercedes for us (Romans 8:34) as our heavenly High Priest (Hebrews 4:15-16). Christ is our Mediator, between man and God (1st Timothy 2:5).

Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” God promises that He will never leave nor forsake His own in Hebrews 13:5. I love the double assurance there. God will not leave nor will He forsake. The Greek word for “leave” in Hebrews 13:5 is aniemi and means “to let up, that is, (literally) slacken.” The Greek word for “forsake” is egkataleipo and means “to leave behind in some place, desert.”

God not only promises that He will never abandon us, but also, He will not even slacken behind us as Peter followed Christ afar off. God will remain right by our side. There is no pain in this world like having one's spouse abandon them, leaving them behind in a place of life. It is a pain worse than death. But be comforted if that is also you my friend, for God will never leave nor forsake us. If you are saved , then you are married to Jesus Christ (Romans 7:4).

I'm not trying to be happy in life anymore. The word “happiness” comes from “happens,” that is, what happens to us in life. I've had so many unfortunate things happen to me that I sincerely cannot remember the last time that I was happy. But do you know what, I'm not trying to be happy. I'm not going to drive forward in life while looking out the rearview mirror. You can't live that way or you'll crash. You can't show me one Verse in the entire Bible which commands us to be happy, or to seek to be happy. Happiness is a by product of trusting upon the Lord. Unhappiness is the weighing of happiness. People who are unhappy are only so because they are trying to be happy. No one ever found happiness who was trying to be happy.

The proper attitude is to do our best to please God from day-to-day and trust Him to guide our paths. We were created to please God (Revelation 4:11). That's our sole purpose for existence. How tragic that most people only live to please themselves. Happiness, true Biblical happiness, comes from knowing that God is happy with us. I want to live to make God happy, by living for others. Living for others won't make you happy unless you

I am comforted when I read Job's statement in Job 10:1, “My soul is weary of my life...” Job knew physical suffering and loss, as do I. I have had numerous people thank me for sharing my horror experience with them, deciding that surgery is not for them. That's what I'm saying to you. Don't do it. I mean, if you need it, you need it. But if it's questionable situation, and your doctors only thinks he can help, don't get surgery.

I ask for your continued prayers, for God to help me cope with my bodily pain and afflictions. James 5:13, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray...”

I love you in the Lord whoever you may be!