A young cancer survivor has been left ‘permanently giving the finger’ after recovering from a rare spinal tumour.
Lauren Wagner, 26, said doctors berated her for sitting at her desk wrong, blaming her poor posture for her sudden back pain.
‘I would have loved to just believe my backpain was because my workstation 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 about the time she started working from home. By June it was very serious.
‘In that time I saw three doctors and was dismissed by all of them,’ she said.
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Lauren Wagner has been left ‘permanently giving the finger’ after recovering from a rare spinal tumour
It wasn’t until she went to see a chiropractor who revealed her symptoms were ‘worse than people who had been involved in severe car accidents’ that she realised something much more sinister was going on.
She spoke to her doctor and requested an MRI, which was booked for the following August.
Within a few hours her doctor was calling to let her know the MRI had picked up a large mass on her spine.
‘My heart just sank at the time,’ she said admitting she went blank with the news.
‘The scariest part is I was just weeks away from becoming permanently paralysed,’ she said.
The next few years would be ‘the most traumatic’ of her life.
‘I am glad they found it when they did, but wish it had been found sooner,’ she said.
Only one million cases of the tumour have been recorded.
‘Because of how rare it was, there were only two surgeons in Canada that would do the surgery. I was told it would be a very intense surgery, it was 23 hours long but they managed to remove the tumour. However I wasn’t aware of the complications until afterwards.’
Lauren had back pain from March 2020 but was dismissed by doctors who said it was caused by bad posture
She has had six spinal surgeries totaling over 60 hours to remove the mass, and say that along with complications has left her with the permanent hand disability.
‘No one knew the severity of the nerves involved in the tumour and I had a lot of nerve damage. I didn’t know I was going to lose the ability to speak, swallow and use my hands until afterwards and I didn’t know if I would ever be able to again,’ she said.
‘It was so scary when I woke up and couldn’t speak I was quite worried as my vocal cords had nerve damage and we didn’t know if it would ever recover. It took a couple of months to speak again as I didn’t just wake up with it back, it came back really slowly.
Lauren was comforted by her diagnosis and despite being let down by the medical system early on thought removing the cancer would ‘be a breeze’.
She even told her mum not to stress before 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 was going to be 1 complex surgery, 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 over 60 hours to remove the mass, and say that along with complications has left her with the permanent hand disability
‘My surgeries have left me with nerve damage and weakness in my hands which makes some tasks impossible. I was originally told that by one year, I would be recovered, but that didn’t happen. If anything, I have learned that recovery is not linear and you can’t put a timeline on it,’ she continued.
She was then moved to a spinal rehabilitation ward and worked with therapists to get some strength back.
‘The surgery impacted my lungs, so they had to isolate one of my lungs to get to the tumour out so I had a hard time breathing. When I realised I could speak again I was so surprised, there were a few times I was trying to project my voice, so when I did, it was really exciting.
‘However I couldn’t swallow, which was the hardest part. I couldn’t eat or drink and I was so hungry and thirsty.
Lauren is thankful she has been given a second chance at life
‘They weren’t sure if I could eat and drink again and the fact I couldn’t speak or swallow went hand in hand, as in order to be able to swallow I would have to be able to speak, so whenever I tried to swallow it would go straight into my lungs and create more problems such as pneumonia.
‘My hands are still damaged though, and they look like I am constantly swearing at people.
‘I just try and see the humour in it and positivity that I went through hell and back and survived.
Lauren is thankful she has been given a second chance at life.
She wants to remind people they are their best advocate and need to push for answers when they know something is wrong.