Success Stories: Henry - Tumor Removal and Cervical Spine Fusion 

In 1980 and 2001, I had surgery to remove tumors from my spine. In 2004, I was suddenly in severe, constant pain. Simply getting out of bed each day required a heavy dose of hydrocodone. Unable to perform any task that required sustained attention, I had to rest often and was never comfortable. I was even having difficulty urinating. My quality of life was terrible.

At least this time I had an explanation for my symptoms. I learned that a rare and aggressive cancer, hemangiopericytoma, was causing the recurring tumors that were pressing on my nerves.

Since I had a great deal of scar tissue from my previous surgeries, my then-doctor recommended a non-invasive radiation treatment rather than surgery. I was hesitant about this new technology and sought another opinion. I was referred to Joseph Cheng, MD, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Dr. Cheng ordered X-rays, examined me and said he would be able to remove the tumor surgically, even with the extensive scar tissue.

In a 15-hour surgery, the tumor was removed and, because of the previous surgeries, vertebrae in my neck had to be fused and reinforced with pins and plates. I was in a hard body brace for seven weeks. After the removal of the brace, I underwent six weeks of radiation at a hospital near my home.

Unbelievably, I was able to suspend the pain medication immediately after surgery. Each day I became a little stronger and able to do more. Today, I am able to do most activities, including walking three miles a day, volunteering at a local high school and building wooden boats, which is my passion.

Twice-yearly MRIs have shown that I am cancer-free. My wife and I are very thankful to Dr. Cheng for his tremendous skill in taking care of me more than five years ago!