Cancer survivor, 26, left the finger permanently after being discharged by doctors
A young cancer survivor has “permanently raised the finger” after recovering from a rare spinal tumor.
Lauren Wagner, 26, said doctors berated her for sitting incorrectly at her desk, blaming her poor posture for her sudden back pain.
“I would have loved to just believe my back pain was because my workplace wasn’t ergonomically friendly, but it was actually one of the worst-case scenarios for me,” the young Canadian revealed.
Her back pain started in March 2020, right when she started working from home. In June it was very serious.
“During that time I saw three doctors and was fired by all of them,” she said.
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Lauren Wagner has been left ‘raising the finger permanently’ after recovering from a rare spinal tumour
It wasn’t until she went to a chiropractor who revealed that her symptoms were “worse than those of people involved in serious car accidents” that she realized something far more sinister was going on.
She spoke to her doctor and requested an MRI, which was booked for August.
Within hours, her doctor called to let her know that the MRI picked up a large mass on her spine.
“My heart just sank at the time,” she said, admitting she left the news blank.
“The scariest thing is that I was only a few weeks away from permanent paralysis,” she said.
The next few years would be “the most traumatic” of her life.
“I’m glad they found it when they did, but I wish it had been found sooner,” she said.
Only one million cases of the tumor have been recorded.
“Because it was so rare, there were only two surgeons in Canada who would perform the surgery. I was told it would be a very intense operation, it took 23 hours, but they managed to remove the tumor. But I only noticed the complications afterwards.’
Lauren had back pain from March 2020 but was discharged by doctors saying it was caused by poor posture
She has had six spinal surgeries totaling more than 60 hours to remove the mass, and says she has permanent hand disability along with complications.
“No one knew the severity of the nerves involved in the tumor and I had a lot of nerve damage. I didn’t know I would lose the ability to speak, swallow and use my hands until later and I didn’t know if I would ever be able to do that again,” she said.
“It was so scary when I woke up and couldn’t speak. I was quite worried because my vocal cords had nerve damage and we didn’t know if it would ever recover. It was a few months before I spoke again because not only did it wake me up, it came back very slowly.
Lauren was comforted by her diagnosis, and although she was let down by the medical system early on, she thought removing the cancer would be “a breeze.”
She even told her mom not to stress about her first surgery.
“What I thought was going to be 3 weeks in the hospital turned out to be 8 months,” she said.
‘What I thought would be 1 complex operation turned out to be 6. I lost my ability to swallow, talk and use my arms and hands.
She has had six spinal surgeries totaling more than 60 hours to remove the mass, and says she has suffered permanent hand disability along with complications.
“Because of my surgeries, I have nerve damage and weakness in my hands, making some tasks impossible. I was originally told I would recover in a year, but that didn’t happen. At least I’ve learned that recovery isn’t linear and you can’t put a timeline on it,” she continued.
She was then transferred to a spinal rehabilitation unit and worked with therapists to regain some strength.
“The surgery affected my lungs, so they had to isolate one of my lungs to get to the tumor, which made it hard for me to breathe. When I realized I could talk again I was so surprised, there were a few times I tried to project my voice so when I did that it was really exciting.
“I couldn’t swallow though, which was the hardest part. I couldn’t eat or drink and I was so hungry and thirsty.
Lauren is grateful to have been given a second chance at life
“They weren’t sure if I could eat and drink again and the fact that I couldn’t talk or swallow went hand in hand because in order to swallow I would have to be able to talk so when I tried to swallow that it would go straight getting into my lungs and causing more problems, such as pneumonia.
“However, my hands are still damaged and they look like I’m constantly berating people.
“I’m just trying to see the humor in it and the positivity that I’ve been through hell and back and survived.
Lauren is grateful to have been given a second chance at life.
She wants to remind people that they are their best advocate and should push for answers when they know something is wrong.