Meet Jenni: Discovering a spinal tumor after years of advocating

In 2021, Jenni had been experiencing some strange symptoms: she had ice-cold feet, constant tingling, and numbness that kept getting worse. She saw several neurologists, hoping for someone to acknowledge her pain and help solve it. After two years with no luck, Jenni saw one last doctor, who finally suggested that she have an MRI – as her symptoms indicated that she could have Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. 

After a few days, Jenni’s MRI results came back, bearing complicated news. While the imaging had ruled out MS, her scans weren’t all clear: Jenni had a tumor on her spinal cord. Jenni’s neurologist immediately referred her to Carolina NeuroSurgery & Spine Associates (CNSA), where she set up an appointment to meet with neurosurgeon Dr. Patrick K. Jowdy. While the news of her diagnosis was overwhelming at first, Jenni was grateful to finally have some answers.

“I was relieved to not only know where my symptoms were coming from but also to have a team of providers listening to me.”

Finding Comfort in Compassionate Care

When Jenni met with Dr. Jowdy, she knew she was in the right place. During their 90-minute conversation, he thoroughly reviewed Jenni’s MRI and spoke to her clearly about her treatment plan. Even though she needed surgery, Jenni trusted that Dr. Jowdy was the best doctor to help her heal.

“I knew I was putting my care into his hands, and after our conversation, I was very confident in that decision.”

On March 17, Jenni arrived for her spinal fusion surgery. During her intake process, Jenni once again felt reassured by the incredible nurses at CNSA. Dr. Jowdy also paid her a visit before surgery to address any lingering concerns, which solidified her trust in him and his team.

Surgery for Spinal Cord Tumors

Spinal cord tumors are growths that appear on or around the spinal cord. They can be malignant or benign. Tumors that cause neurological symptoms like Jenni’s often require surgery. During the procedure, surgeons resect (remove) as much of the tumor as possible without damaging the spinal cord and other major nerves. In many cases, advanced technology allows surgeons to use a small incision in the back or neck and monitor nerve function while operating.

Sometimes, spinal stabilization is necessary after removing a spinal cord tumor. The best method will vary by patient, tumor type, extent of bone destruction, and anticipated cancer treatments. In Jenni’s case, Dr. Jowdy performed a spinal fusion, which uses bone grafts to fuse together two or more bones in the spine.

A Symptom-Free and Supportive Recovery

When Jenni woke up from surgery, all of the cold, numbness, and tingling were gone. 

“It was like a night and day difference. I was so happy to finally have some relief.”

She spent five days in the hospital to start her recovery, which had many challenges and required somewhat of a learning curve. But Jenni knew that she would get better, and she had the support of her family, her physical therapists Josh and Tanner in the CNSA Rock Hill Office, and the amazing staff at CNSA to provide encouragement along the way. 

“There were good days and bad days, and the hardest part was accepting that my life won’t look the same, but Dr. Jowdy was always honest about that, which meant a lot,” Jenni said. “Right now, I’m focused on giving myself grace as I recover, and I’m grateful to CNSA for giving me such a supportive experience.”

Looking back, Jenni remembers how low her quality of life was before surgery and wonders how she lived and worked in pain for so long. She hopes that her story will encourage others to acknowledge their health concerns – no matter how small they may be – and to keep searching until they find someone who will listen.

Take Control of Your Spinal Health

Carolina NeuroSurgery & Spine Associates provides comprehensive spine care for adult and pediatric patients, offering advanced surgical and non-surgical treatment options. Schedule your appointment online today to take control of your spinal health journey.

Explore our Locations

CNSA has office locations in Ballantyne, Charlotte, Concord, Gastonia, Greensboro, High Point, Huntersville/Lake Norman, Kernersville, Matthews, and Rock Hill. Each has a top team of neurosurgeons, physiatrists, and neurologists. To learn more about the physicians and services at each site, visit our locations page.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New and current patients can call our offices to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

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