But what happens on February 3rd?

The Patient Path

It's always February 2nd - ThisIsAuthentic.com

If, like me, you are a fan of redemption movies—and of Bill Murray—then today you tuned into AMC and watched Groundhog Day…again…and again…and again….

My favorite part of this time-warp movie comes near the end, when Phil (also the groundhog’s name) Connors finally gets it. He starts living in the ever-present moment, the only way we can experience earthbound time. Even before he learns how to escape from the time loop he’s caught in, he starts to accept his fate and begins learning how to live a perfect day that only infinite re-dos make possible.

But what is a “perfect” day, anyway? The message of the film is that this Scrooge-like guy becomes his best self through learning compassion for others—all with a comic and romantic twist (not unlike Bill’s other redemption movie from 1988, Scrooged). And his reward for living a perfect February 2nd is? Ta-da: February 3rd.

However, on the…

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Happy Thanksgiving 2016


“Freedom from Want” – Norman Rockwell, 1942

Wishing everyone on “The Patient’s Path” a very happy and healthy holiday.

Courtesy of my husband, Farok Contractor, I share these interesting reflections on our national day of gratitude: Second Helping: Thanksgiving Day and Globalization, a refreshed version of his November 27, 2015 post.

The original post provides interesting historical perspectives and fun facts about Plimoth Colony and Plantation, an Amazing native American named Tisquantum (“Squanto”), and the Mexican origins of our favorite Thanksgiving entree: turkey.

All the best on this most grateful and gracious of American holidays.

Happy 3rd Anniversary, Patient Path!

The Patient Path began on November 9, 2013 . . .


. . . just 5 days after I was diagnosed with uterine (endometrial) cancer.

Three years later, I am grateful to be a cancer survivor. And I want to hear more women diagnosed with this disease say the same thing.

More than 60,000 American women will develop uterine (endometrial) cancer in 2016—and 10,000 of them will die of it. Most of this disease’s victims are over the age of 60, but it can strike women of any age.

Uterine cancer doesn’t get much media attention. And if women don’t learn to recognize the risk factors and symptoms,* and get timely, proper treatment, their lives may be compromised—and even shortened.

By raising awareness of this fourth most common cancer in United States women, and the most common gynecologic cancer, we can help stop this disease from killing the organ that gives us life.

The mission of our sister site, The Patient Path, is to provide informative and inspiring personal stories, supplemented with well-documented, highly reliable sources of information and support. Its goal is to educate, enlighten, encourage, and empower women to be full partners with their healthcare teams. .

Please visit often for exciting updates, including more stories of uterine cancer (read how mine began here), other stories of gynecologic and breast cancer (see Diane’s Story), new media content, webinars, and live events. Also see the stories on this site for additional healthcare stories and resources that help all patients navigate the healthcare system.


*My only symptom was postmenopausal vaginal bleeding. Like the presidential election result of early today, November 9, 2016, uterine cancer blindsided me: I never saw it coming.

A Few Statistical Resources

American Cancer Society 

National Cancer Institute 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Foundation for Women’s Cancer

Women’s Cancer Research

Reference: https://thepatientpath.net/2016/11/09/happy-3rd-anniversary-patient-path/

Chelsea’s Story: Spinal Surgeries for Scoliosis & Degenerative Disc Disease

Female Spine_Two-Thirds View_Blue

The following narrative comes from Chelsea Rubinstein, a young woman I met recently at a seminar. After hearing me mention that I had a website dedicated to telling personal healthcare stories complemented with resources and information to educate, empower, and encourage others on their own “patient path,” Chelsea shared her story with me. Then she offered to post it on this site in the hope that it would benefit others struggling with extensive spinal issues and back pain—and considering what to do about it. 

If you have spinal deformation or degenerative disc disease and are looking for information and support, you will find it here. In Chelsea’s words:

“After two years of physical deterioration, pain, and mental anguish, I finally had the surgery my doctor recommended—and it took away my pain. Afterward, he asked me to write this narrative, suggesting that if I could save even one person from the suffering I endured, it would make everything I went through worthwhile.”

Chelsea chose November 1, 2016 as the date to publish her story in part to commemorate the twenty-second anniversary of her first back surgery when she was eleven years old. And it was four years ago this month that she made a very difficult decision about a second procedure that would affect the rest of her life. Read on for the moving, inspiring story of perseverance, courage, and self-empowerment that led to freedom from agonizing back pain and disability.

INTERACTIVE POST: Highlighted/underscored text, images, and media contain links to reliable external resources. The stories, information, and resources on this site are intended to supplement—not replace—the advice of your clinical team.

Chelsea: Why I’m Sharing My Story

After my second spinal surgery four years ago, I met a lot of interesting and inspirational people at physical therapy. We swapped war stories—some of success, which could often be very encouraging, and some of disappointment, which could often be quite disheartening. We shared stories of woe, helped each other set goals, and sometimes just listened. We were part of a huge support system—even if we did not suffer from the same ailments, we all understood what it was like to live with pain.

One thing we often talked about was our relationships with our doctors. Most of us felt very close to the physicians and surgeons that took care of us. In talking to the people at physical therapy, I couldn’t help but compare the decisions they made in dealing with their medical conditions to my own choices. Did they do extensive research? Did they seek out reputable hospitals? How many doctors did they see for additional opinions? How did they go about choosing a surgeon?

For me, the research I did prior to surgery was both extensive and exhausting. The time and energy I put into educating myself and worrying about my situation was as tiring as living in pain every day. I will never forget the stress, dread, and mental anguish I experienced between the time I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and the time I—finally—had surgery. In the end, my efforts paid off—I chose a surgeon that cured me of my pain. Now, both my physical and mental stress are gone.

This narrative is dedicated to all the patients, family members, and friends of people who are suffering with severe pain. In sharing my experience, I hope I can help alleviate at least one other person’s stress. It is natural to be scared; and there is nothing wrong with doing research and asking as many questions as necessary until you are educated enough to make an informed decision—in fact, it’s the right thing to do.

I hope my story will inspire readers to get answers, seek multiple opinions, and take an active role in their healthcare decisions. Good luck, and don’t give up hope.

How My Life Was Affected—Two Years of Anguish Was Enough

It was November 2012—my friend’s birthday—and we were celebrating at the exclusive club inside Revel, then a brand-new casino in Atlantic City. We were with a large group of people, and rather than dancing and smiling and drinking, I was trying to hide from them so that no one would be concerned with me. I was tired of everyone being concerned with me—tired of the pain, tired of the shame, tired of the pity. I just wanted to be a normal twenty-nine-year-old out with her friends, partying.

“Hon, you can’t sit there,” the bouncer said as he tapped me on the shoulder. I was sitting in my fancy dress and heels in the dirty stairwell. People were staring at me, pointing and laughing as they walked by.

“I’m not drunk,” I pleaded to the bouncer. “In fact, I just got here five minutes ago. I have back problems, and I just need to rest for a minute.”

“OK, that’s fine—but you can’t sit here,” he said, feigning a look of concern. I knew he didn’t believe me and that he thought I was thoroughly intoxicated.

I struggled back to my feet and found my brother and my friend Brittany. “You OK?” they asked simultaneously. They were already used to my back problems. After all, it was almost two years since my diagnosis. At this point, the pain was almost constant, and the length of time for which I could walk or stand was steadily decreasing, even when I wore my most comfortable sneakers.

“I’m OK,” I replied, trying to hide my agony. “I just need to sit.” We searched around the enormous club, but there were no seats. Finally, we found a couch, but it was in the VIP area—$1,300 for bottle service. I could feel the eyes of the bouncers burning into me. I was already on their radar, and they just needed an excuse to kick me out.

My brother, Brittany, and I went outside to the smoking area on the roof, the only place where we could find a place to sit. On this late night in November, the wind sliced through our entire bodies. I had no place to go—inside there was no place to sit, and outside we were tortured by sub-zero temperatures. Standing was no longer an option.

“I’m going back to the room,” I told them, unable to look either of them in the eye. “You guys stay here. I’ll be fine.” No matter how much I begged, they would not let me go alone. There was no way they would let me take a taxi back to Harrah’s, where we were staying, and then walk back to the room by myself when I could barely walk at all. I offered to reimburse them for the $40 cover charge to enter the club, but they refused. And by the time they returned after getting me back to the room, the line would be too long and they would never get back in. The shame was unbearable. We left without even saying goodbye to the birthday boy.

This was the deciding moment. I could not do this anymore. I had put it off long enough. I had suffered long enough. I had allowed my friends and family to endure my pain and suffering long enough. The quality of my life had deteriorated enough. I could no longer go out with friends, go shopping, dance, or even walk or stand for more than 5–10 minutes. How much I didn’t want to have yet another surgery on my spine no longer mattered. It had become a matter of necessity.

How It All Began—Scoliosis in Childhood

In 1994, when I was eleven, I needed surgery to fix severe scoliosis. My spine was shaped like the letter “S,” with a double curvature of 48 and 52 degrees (measured using the Cobb angle). At the time, my childhood innocence and ignorance were working in my favor. I was entering middle school, and my choices were, in my mind, simple: (1) wear a back brace and wait a few years for a surgery that was inevitable anyway, or (2) have the surgery and move on with my life with no bracing. My family did extensive research, including visiting five pediatric orthopedic surgeons in New Jersey, New York, and even Boston.

In the end, we chose surgery. My pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Samuel Laufer, did the procedure at Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick, NJ. He fused my spine from levels T3 (thoracic vertebra 3) to L3 (lumbar vertebra 3), placing bars, hooks, and rods in my spine to straighten it out.  I was out of school for a painful two months, but after recovery I was fine for the next 14 years!

(Click to view a video animation of scoliosis at Spine-health.com.)

(Click to view a video animation of scoliosis causes, symptoms, and treatments at SpineUniverse.com.)

(Click to view a video animation of spine anatomy at Spine-health.com.)

(Click to read more about two approaches to scoliosis surgery at Spine-health.com.)

(Click to read more about scoliosis surgery approaches and procedures at SpineUniverse.com.)

How It Started All Over Again—Sciatica and Worse in Young Adulthood

In my mid-twenties, I began to experience sciatica (nerve pain that ran down my leg). It began to affect my everyday life, and I started to feel depressed. I visited several doctors and had an MRI. Unfortunately, the MRI was inconclusive because the apparatus in my spine blocked the view. My doctors suggested core strengthening exercises and a strict diet. Having struggled with my weight my whole life, I was accustomed to doctors telling me this type of thing. So I went on a diet, and after losing only nine pounds, the sciatica disappeared—life was back to normal. (Click to view a video animation of sciatica at Spine-health.com.)

Two years later, I was down 40 pounds! I was working out six to seven days a week at the gym, doing Zumba®, salsa, and hip-hop classes. I was even going to get my license to become a Zumba instructor! I was looking and feeling the best I had in my life.

In the summer of 2010, when I was 27, I was on vacation in Aruba, shopping with my friends. All of a sudden, I felt the familiar twinge of pain down my leg. For anyone who has ever experienced sciatic pain, it is unmistakable. “How can this be?” I thought. “I’m in the best shape of my life!” I tried to ignore it for a few weeks, but I finally had to see a doctor.

The first doctor I visited was Dr. Steven Reich, an orthopedic surgeon in North Brunswick, NJ. My family trusted him because he had done my brother’s surgery for a bulging disc (following an accident) several years earlier. My brother’s surgery was done laparoscopically, and he was in and out of the hospital in one day and back to work in two weeks—problem solved. When my mother and I arrived at Dr. Reich’s office, I was calm and collected. I thought he would send me to physical therapy, and if that didn’t work, perhaps I would have to endure a laparoscopic outpatient surgery, like my brother. I could handle that—no big deal, especially after what I went through when I was eleven.

Dr. Reich diagnosed me with degenerative spondylolisthesis and arthritis. He explained that the cartilage between my vertebrae had deteriorated so that my discs were resting bone on bone. My disc had also shifted forward and was resting on my sciatic nerve, causing the pain. We knew it was pretty severe because I had pain all the way down my leg and pins and needles in my toes. In addition, my big toe had lost a significant amount of strength.

Spondylolisthesis Brochure Images

Spondylolisthesis Images – Click to Go to the Spine-health.com Brochure

(Click to read more about spondylolisthesis at Spine-health.com.)

(Click to view a video animation of degenerative spondylolisthesis at Spine-health.com.) 

(Click to view a video animation of spondylolisthesis symptoms and causes at Spine-health.com.)

He recommended spinal fusion surgery. They would place a spacer between my vertebrae and add some screws to hold it all in place. Then they would scrape out the arthritic bone and decompress the nerve. In order to do so, they would have to remove a piece of the apparatus that was already in my spine to gain access to the area. I would be out of work for approximately three to four months. It would take six months to a year to fully recover.

Spinal Fusion Brochure Images_Spine-health

Spinal Fusion Images – Click to Go to the Spine-health.com Brochure

(Click to read more about lumbar spinal fusion surgery at Spine-health.com.) 

(Click to view a video animation of spinal fusion surgery for degenerative disc disease or spondylolisthesis at Spine-health.com.)

(Click to view a video animation of spinal fusion surgery at SpineUniverse.com.) 

A wave of emotions ran through me, including sadness, fear, self-loathing, self-pity, dread, and—most of all—anger. I was angry that I had to endure yet another surgery on my spine. Wasn’t one major surgery in a person’s life enough? I was most angry at Dr. Reich. I hated his diagnosis, and I felt his attitude was too nonchalant. He even cracked jokes and tried to make light of the subject. But to me, this was not in any way a laughing matter, and at the time I did not appreciate his bedside manner.

I felt like I was eleven years old again, back in the pediatric orthopedist’s office when my mom and I had first gotten the news that I needed surgery. Only this time, I was not armed with childhood innocence and naiveté. On the contrary, I had the painful memories and the experience of the first surgery working against me. There was no way I was having another procedure! Dr. Reich explained that waiting to have the surgery until I was ready was not physically damaging; however, the quality of my life would continue to deteriorate as the pain grew worse and worse over time. I was convinced that I could deal with it and left the office, determined not to have the procedure until I decided it was the right time.

How I Tried to Avoid the Inevitable . . . While Gathering Information

In the following months, I pursued several other opinions. I was looking for a quick fix. After all, before my brother’s laparoscopic surgery, several other doctors wanted to perform traditional surgery on him. It was Dr. Reich who offered him a less invasive option. If he could do this for my brother, surely he could do this for me! My faith in Dr. Reich’s recommended approach to my problem dwindled at this point, and I was determined to find another doctor who would offer other options.

I visited several other orthopedic surgeons in both New Jersey and New York City. The diagnoses were all the same, and all the doctors recommended spinal fusion surgery. However, they all had different methods and approaches. Dr. Reich had said he would go through the same incision in my back that was already there from the previous surgery. Dr. Darryl Antonacci, a nationally known spine specialist in Princeton, wanted to go in through my side. Dr. Russel Huang, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, wanted to fuse two of my vertebrae instead of just one, going in through both my back and my abdomen. (This option frightened me.) I even spoke to a doctor in San Francisco who wanted to remove all the hardware in my back before the new spinal fusion. (This option really frightened me.)

All these differing opinions and approaches just increased my anxiety and stress levels. My hopes of finding a quick fix rapidly dissipated, and now all I wanted to do was to find two doctors to agree on how to approach the surgery. I felt like I carried a huge weight with me all the time. Everyone around me was like, “Just get the surgery!” They didn’t understand the implications the way I did. And I was a just fourth-grade teacher, not a medical expert; I felt completely ill-equipped to make the decision about which approach was the best. So I continued to ignore the problem.

And I continued to live my life to the fullest. Shortly after my initial visit with Dr. Reich, I got my license to teach Zumba. I gradually gained more and more of a following until I was teaching six to seven classes a week, with my class sizes averaging between 30 and 80 people. I taught at some of the best gyms in the area, did several Zumbathons for charity, and become a well-known and sought-after instructor. Mentally, I was feeling amazing! I had never thought I would enjoy exercise, never mind become an exercise instructor. I was continuing to improve my physique while motivating and inspiring others with stories of my weight loss journey and fitness goals.


ZUMBA® is a registered trademark of Zumba Fitness, LLC.

But my body was suffering every day. At night, when I was teaching Zumba, the adrenaline carried me through the pain. But during the day, I was hardly able to perform my teaching duties. I tried my very best not to complain too much or allow my problems to affect others, and I continued to teach Zumba for a year. But I finally had to stop in May. Stopping Zumba was a last attempt to continue postponing the surgery. But for anyone who knew me, and understood how much Zumba meant to me, it was obvious that my pain levels were greater than I let on. If I was giving up Zumba, everyone knew it was a big deal.

After that, I still managed to lead a full social life, go on two international vacations, and have a relatively normal existence. But my back problems began to govern the things I would and wouldn’t do. Social situations in which I could not participate became more and more frequent as my pain continued to get worse. The last straw was the Atlantic City episode that I described at the beginning of this narrative, when I decided that it was, finally, time. But I still had not found two doctors to give me the same opinion as to which approach was best. I felt like I had been in limbo for the past two-and-a-half years, and I could not come up with the best means to a good end.

After stopping Zumba, I returned to physical therapy for core strengthening. Nick Maniscalco, my physical therapist at Twin Boro Physical Therapy in Edison, NJ, is, to this day, one of the most important and influential people in my life. He has been a tremendous source of knowledge, as well as emotional support. He had a history of back problems himself, and he had surgery at the age of 29 as well. He spoke very highly of his doctor, Dr. Michael Neuwirth, an orthopedic spine surgeon at New York Beth Israel, so I made an appointment to see him.

Dr. Neuwirth recommended fusing one of my vertebrae, but with both a posterior and anterior approach. He was a seasoned surgeon, and he knew most of the doctors I had already seen. This included Dr. Laufer, who had performed my scoliosis surgery, and Dr. Reich—who had been Dr. Neuwirth’s intern! Dr. Neuwirth raved about Dr. Reich’s abilities, giving him his highest recommendation and endorsement. I liked him a lot, and I left his office practically prepared to schedule surgery with him. But with a lot of coaxing, my mother eventually convinced me to visit Dr. Reich one more time to try to understand why he preferred just an anterior approach when Dr. Neuwirth recommended going in both posteriorly and anteriorly.

How I Finally Decided to Have Surgery—“Back” to the Future 

When I visited Dr. Reich again, I was in a very different frame of mind than when he first diagnosed me. I was mentally and physically prepared for surgery. However, I still had these unsettling feelings towards him. After all, he had been the bearer of bad news two years earlier. And I dreaded hearing his jokes and listening to his easy explanations of how he would literally dissect me. I cringed at the memories of him making light of the whole ordeal as if I were having a procedure as simple as getting a cavity filled. At least, that’s how I felt at the time, when I was under great stress.

When my mother and I arrived at Dr. Reich’s office, he greeted us both with warm, genuine hugs, as did various other familiar members of his staff. He explained his rationale to me and made me feel very comfortable with his recommendations. He was the same doctor I remembered, yet he seemed more patient and thorough in his explanations and answers to my countless questions. I was much more educated about the subject now, so the things that he said actually made sense to me.

All of a sudden, I realized that Dr. Reich’s nonchalance was not due to the fact that he didn’t understand the severity of the situation; rather, it was to keep me as calm as possible. And what I had perceived as an unusual bedside manner was really just his way of conveying confidence in his own abilities to fix my back, thereby making me feel confident in him. I knew that he was tailoring his surgical recommendations to me, Chelsea—the person, the teacher, the 29-year-old single girl who wanted a family and kids in the near future. I knew for sure that I was an individual to him, not just another name on a list. I scheduled surgery the next day.

Two weeks later, on December 4, 2012, at age 29, I had my second spinal procedure at Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick, where I’d had my scoliosis surgery in 1994. The vertebrae at L4 and L5 (lumbar area) were fused, and this would limit my mobility—including teaching Zumba. But it would remove my pain.

Lumbar Spine Segments_L1 to L5

Lumbar Spine Anatomy – Image at Spine-health.com © Veritas Health, LLC

“Lumbar” is derived from the Latin word “lumbus,” meaning “lion.” And the lumbar spine is built for both power and flexibility—lifting, twisting, and bending.

The lumbar spine has several distinguishing characteristics:

  • The lower the vertebra is in the spinal column, the more weight it must bear. The five vertebrae of the lumbar spine (L1-L5) are the biggest unfused vertebrae in the spinal (vertebral) column, enabling them to support the weight of the entire torso.
  • The lumbar spine’s lowest two spinal segments, L4-L5 and L5-S1, which include the vertebrae and discs, bear the most weight and are therefore the most prone to degradation and injury.
  • The lumbar spine meets the sacrum (sacral region) at the lumbosacral joint (L5-S1). This joint allows for considerable rotation, so that the pelvis and hips may swing when walking and running. (Note: Chelsea may need to have this area fused in the future; see end of post.)

(Click to (1) read more about lumbar spine anatomy and pain

and (2) view a  lumbar spine anatomy video at Spine-health.com.)

(Click to view a video animation of lumbar fusion surgery for low back pain at SpineUniverse.com.)

When I woke up from surgery, I was in a lot of pain. I felt scared and sad. But I walked for the first time only six hours later, and all my pain from before surgery was completely gone! Of course I had post-surgical pain, but that was nothing compared to how I felt upon entering the hospital. I had mentally prepared to stay in the hospital for six days, but I was sent home on the fourth day. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and my thoughts were no longer focused on continuing to cope with the pain, but rather with what I could do once I was recovered. My state of limbo was finally over.

How My Life Has Changed—Living into the Future

It has been four years since my surgery, and my nerve pain is 100% gone. My recovery was not half as bad as I anticipated. I did physical therapy three times a week for about four months, I walked around my neighborhood for extra exercise, and I slowly started going back to the gym. I returned to work in about three months with no restrictions.

One side effect that I did not expect was the sheer gratitude that I felt. I was, and am, grateful to my friends and family for all the support they gave me before, during, and after surgery. I am no longer angry that I had to have surgery again; instead, I feel thankful that my problems were fixable with surgery. I am also grateful to have a great job and medical benefits that carried me through that time. I am eternally thankful that Nick was my physical therapist, for without his physical and mental support I do know how much longer it would have taken me to make the decision that ultimately gave me back my life.

And most importantly, I am thankful for Dr. Reich. The admiration and respect that I have for him is indescribable. I feel like my whole two-and-a-half-year journey started with and led me back to him. It makes me feel like everything happens for a reason, and things happened the way they were supposed to. The personal attention he gave me in terms of my diagnosis, my hospital stay, and my recovery were completely above and beyond my expectations. He has completely changed my life by fixing my back and removing this incredible mental anguish that I was carrying. I can actually say that, despite his unconventional manner, I love him. In fact, he asked me to write this narrative, suggesting that if I could save even one person from the suffering I endured, it would make everything I went through worthwhile.

Colorful Blue Heart

There are certain things that I am not allowed to do—high-diving into water, skydiving, tumbling, and any high-impact exercise—which, unfortunately, includes Zumba. I still feel a little stiff sometimes, and doing new things makes my muscles very sore. My back also gets tired very easily, and I try to avoid heavy lifting and excessive bending and twisting. But all this is a small price to pay to have my life back.

It is likely that I will need another fusion surgery in the future, probably L5-S1. (See the Spine-health.com information on lumbar spine anatomy above.) This thought undeniably scares me, but having Dr. Reich, Nick, and my family and friends in my corner makes it a little easier. If and when that time comes, I will not feel the need to seek out multiple opinions from other doctors. In my own time and when I am ready, I can say without hesitation that Dr. Reich will be the surgeon who will operate on me. He and his team will give me the best care I could ask for, and I will be confident in him and his recommendations.

Until then, you will find me living my life, pain-free and forever changed.



It has been a pleasure working with Chelsea on her story of spinal surgery and restored health. A vibrant, outgoing, enthusiastic person, Chelsea is obviously making the most of her pain-free life. Her regrets about post-surgical limitations are few because life is offering her so many more pathways to explore.

I share Chelsea and her doctor’s hopes that this narrative will benefit others considering what to do about severe back pain caused by degenerative disc disease. Please note that Chelsea and I are not offering medical advice to readers—individual patients must make their own informed decisions about their particular situations in conjunction with their healthcare practitioners.

To send Chelsea a comment or question, please use the Contact Form. Please also feel free to comment publicly below.

– Pamela Bond Contractor, Editor


Links Are Current as of November 1, 2016

The stories and resources on this site are intended to provide education, enlightenment, empowerment, and encouragement to inform your conversations with your healthcare team. They supplement—and do not replace—the advice of your clinicians.

Family Practice Notebook: Scoliosis: V. Measurement, Cobb Angle

Johns Hopkins Medicine: Scoliosis (includes comprehensive information, images, and video)

MedLinePlus: Spinal Fusion

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: Scoliosis (includes comprehensive information and schematic images)

National Scoliosis Foundation – (List of) Helpful Links (patient-led nonprofit organization)

SCI-Recovery.com: Anatomy of the Spinal Cord (spinal cord injury recovery site; includes anatomy)



– Lumbar Spine Anatomy and Pain

– Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery

– Scoliosis Health Center

– Scoliosis: What You Need to Know

– Scoliosis Surgery

– Spondylolisthesis Health Center


– Spinal Fusion (Lumbar) Brochure

– Spondylolisthesis Brochure


– Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Video

– Lumbar Spine Anatomy Video

– Sciatica Animated Video

– Scoliosis Animated Video

– Spine Anatomy Interactive Video

– Spine Fusion Surgery Video

– Spondylolisthesis Symptoms and Causes Video



– Facts and FAQs About Sciatica, Low Back and Leg Pain

– Scoliosis Center

– Scoliosis Surgery: Approaches and Procedures

– Spondylolisthesis Center


– Lumbar Fusion Animation

– Scoliosis Animation—Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments of Scoliosis

– Spinal Fusion Animation


– Sciatica – Topic Overview

– Scoliosis Directory

– Spondylolisthesis – Topic Overview

Book: Zumba®: Ditch the Workout, Join the Party! The Zumba Weight Loss Program. By Beto Perez (creator of Zumba®) with Maggie Greenwood Robinson, Ph.D. New York: Wellness Central, Hachette Book Group, 2009.

Tinnitus Awareness Week 2016 – May 16-20

Make Some Noise to Silence Tinnitus

Join the American Tinnitus Association In Raising Awareness about Tinnitus and Hyperacusis!

Contact: Jennifer Born – jennifer@ata.org

Help Raise Awareness to Quiet Tinnitus During Tinnitus Awareness Week

 – ATA Challenge: Make the “Right Kind of Noise” About Tinnitus and Hyperacusis –

Portland, Ore. – The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) is challenging the tinnitus community to “Make Some Noise” about tinnitus and hyperacusis during National Tinnitus Awareness Week, May 16-20, 2016. Tinnitus, commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears” impacts up to 50 million people in the United States (U.S.) alone and has been the leading service-connected disability for veterans from all periods of service since 2009, accounting for 1.2 million veterans. Hyperacusis is a sensitivity to sound – sounds that are typically tolerated well by people who do not have hyperacusis – that can sometimes cause physical pain. Both conditions can be caused or exacerbated by exposure to environmental noise.

“Tinnitus and hyperacusis are real public health concerns that most people do not know about and unfortunately do not fully realize the devastating impacts these conditions can have until they develop them,” said Melanie West, Chair of ATA’s Board of Directors. “Tinnitus and hyperacusis can ruthlessly reduce an individual’s quality of life, leaving them socially isolated, anxious or depressed,” said West. “Because of the lack of general awareness about these conditions, this year during Tinnitus Awareness Week, we challenge all those with tinnitus and hyperacusis to ‘Make Some Noise’ and raise awareness of what it’s like to live with these conditions – tell your friends, co-workers and doctors,” West said.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), of the 50 million people in the United States with tinnitus 20 million are chronically affected, with disruptions in their sleep, concentration and mood, and in some cases impacting their ability to remain employed and even leave their homes for even short periods of time. These 20 million individuals are more likely to seek medical treatment for their condition.

ATA’s mission was recently updated to include hyperacusis because of the number of people with both of these conditions and the growing body of research demonstrating possible common mechanisms between the two. ATA also recently launched a new educational webinar series and during Tinnitus Awareness Week, ATA will broadcast a live webinar about Hyperacusis. Members of the public are invited to register for this webinar and learn more about Hyperacusis and how it relates to tinnitus. To learn more or register for this webinar, visit ATA.org.

While there is no quick solution to tinnitus, there are management strategies that can provide relief. The American Tinnitus Association has developed a Patient Roadmap on its newly redesigned website that can help patients navigate the sometimes confusing path of tinnitus treatment. In addition ATA can help people get connected with tinnitus health professionals who can help devise a customized management strategy.

During Tinnitus Awareness Week the American Tinnitus Association will be engaging the tinnitus community through Social Media on its Facebook and Twitter pages. Helpful information and articles about tinnitus treatments and research will be posted to these pages every day during Tinnitus Awareness Week. Visit Facebook.com/AmericanTinnitusAssociation to participate in this year’s national Tinnitus Awareness Week.

About the American Tinnitus Association

The American Tinnitus Association, headquartered in Portland, Ore., is the nation’s foremost organization committed to improving the lives of people with tinnitus and hyperacusis through education, advocacy and research toward a cure. For 45 years, ATA has helped patients understand and manage the “ringing in their ears” and raised resources to advance tinnitus research.  Since its founding in 1971, ATA has offered information, support, advice, and hope for people living with tinnitus, and has contributed over $6 million in “seed” funding to medical research projects focused on finding solutions for tinnitus and hyperacusis. For more information, please visit ATA.org.

But what happens on February 3rd?

A screengrab of a video by the tourism website of the state of Pennsylvania shows the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil being watched for signs of his shadow.

NPR reports on Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of an early spring.

What’s my favorite holiday? After Thanksgiving, it’s . . . Groundhog Day. And if, like me, you’re a fan of redemption movies—and of Bill Murray—then today you watched Groundhog Day . . . again . . . and again. . . . 

It's always February 2nd - ThisIsAuthentic.com

Click to relive Bill Murray’s day . . . over . . . and over . . . and over. . . .

My favorite part of this perennial movie is near the end, when Phil—Connors, that is—finally gets it. He starts living—and giving—in the ever-present moment. He hasn’t yet escaped the never-explained time warp he has somehow found himself in; but in time (whatever that means), he accepts his fate and eventually lives a perfect day that only close to infinite re-dos could have made possible as he learns life’s most important lesson. And yet . . .

What is a “perfect” day? The message of the film is that this Scrooge-like guy learns about becoming his best self through genuine interest in and compassion for others—all with a comic and romantic twist (not unlike Bill’s other redemption movie, Scrooged).* His reward for a lesson well learned and a life well lived on February 2nd?

February 3rd.

But on the other side of the screen, we don’t get infinite re-dos. We ordinary mortals need to learn as we go through linear time, not when we’re stuck in an endless loop of it. So how do we learn to live a “perfect” day on February 3rd after learning the lessons of our own February 2nd? 

My personal February 2nd, so to speak, was actually on Valentine’s Day 2014. I underwent my last vaginal radiation treatment (brachytherapy) that day following a total hysterectomy for uterine cancer on December 13, 2013. And I was still in the “glow” of having survived a brush with mortality and having learned my lesson that all moments of life are precious and, in their own way, eternal. Or are they? This is a topic for another day, but perhaps all moments of time exist somewhere, in some treasure vault that we can revisit . . . and revisit . . . and revisit—if we learn the combination or find the key. So if the cosmos is filled with all the energy that has ever existed, why not make our contribution positive?

But what if we become disillusioned because we can’t unlock all the secrets of the universe? Such reflections brought me to the realization that, at least in human terms, the most important secret of life is the one Phil learns in the movie. And this thought took me back to the lyrics of the 1967 song by the Youngbloods, Get Together,” which may hold the deepest human secret:

You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

In an awesome and happy coincidence, when I wrote an earlier version of this post last year, a quick search for those lyrics took me to the February 3, 2015 page on the Huffington Post blog, “The Third Metric,” where that very song happened to be featured that day: Daily Meditation: Get Together.” Such coincidences seem to point to a cosmic connection, one that I don’t pretend to understand. Yet these occurrences whisper to me that perhaps we do hold a key that unlocks the secrets to at least our private universe.

In the afterglow of that “Whew! Narrow escape!” feeling post-op and post-radiation, I am still figuring out how to incorporate the lessons of my own February 2nd into my February 3rd. Learning how to do this will require me to be awake, aware, and appreciative during all the coming days until I run out of them. And it’s extremely hard.

Maybe tomorrow, on February 3rd, it will be enough for me to realize that aftermaths and interims are just as important as great events. Or maybe they are the great events. Life is still happening in an amazing way, even when we can’t quite feel the miracle of it after an emergency or a major event has melted into the rest of our experience.

Life transitions often feel shallow, muddy, confusing, unfocused, unimportant. But without the respite from urgency that we experience during exciting or traumatic times, we wouldn’t have the chance to dive deeper into our own being. These times spent in semi-mist may actually be mystical. Change is creative. So transition isn’t really a dark place to be feared or avoided, but a space offering a chance to learn and become your own next great thing. As earth transits around the sun, transition is how we experience time . . . and all the times of our lives.

Alone in my personal space, I will celebrate February 3rd, knowing that the ice crystals on the trees will become leaf buds . . . in time. I hope you will never be stuck on February 2nd and will have quietly wonderful February 3rds to look forward to for many years to come.

*And speaking of redemption stories . . .

Ghost of Christmas Past

Ghost of Christmas Present

Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

A Christmas Carol_1843_30%

Happy New Year from “The Patient’s Path”

Blue Globe_Happy New Year 2016_Middle_Reduced

Dear Readers,

Thank all of you for following our sister site, The Patient Path, since its inception in November 2013, when I began my journey with Uterine (Endometrial) Cancer. That site is now dedicated to cancers, particularly those affecting women.

Please continue to visit this site, which covers a variety of health and healthcare topics, and our sister cancer site throughout 2016 for more information, insights, and inspiration for becoming the most important member of your healthcare team as you embark on your own journey with gynecologic cancer and with other challenges to your health and well-being.

As we say farewell to 2015, I wish all of you around the world the best of the rest of the holiday season and much HEALTH, happiness, and prosperity in the new year.

Pamela Bond Contractor

A Christmas Carol_1843_50% My favorite story, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, was published 172 years ago, on December 19, 1843. Click the book to view the only manuscript version of the novella, which is housed at the (J. Pierpont) Morgan Library & Museum in New York. Do take a look—it’s a treasure. And click these links to read my reflections of two years ago while undergoing treatment for Uterine (Endometrial) Cancer:
My Current Story, Update: Uterine (Endometrial) Cancer No More: Emotional Reflections in Blue Places –December 18, 2013
My Current Story, Update: Uterine-(Endometrial) Cancer No More: Lessons from the Ghost of Christmas Past –December 19, 2013
My Current Story, Update: Uterine (Endometrial) Cancer No More: Lessons from the Ghost of Christmas Present – December 24, 2013
My Current Story, Update: Uterine (Endometrial) & Skin Cancer No More: Lessons from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come – December 31, 2013