Bending but Not Breaking: Debbie Fox’s Triumph Over Scoliosis

Get Back to It with Debbie Fox (Episode Transcript)

Rita Roy: Hi, everyone. My name is Dr. Rita Roy, CEO at the National Spine Health Foundation, and I’m your host for the Get Back to It podcast, where we tell real stories of healing and recovery. What does it mean to get back to it? It means overcoming spine problems through treatments that work in order to return to the people and activities you love.

Whatever that looks like for you, it means getting back to your life. We’re here to share the success stories of those who did just that. And some of these stories you are not going to believe.

At the Get Back To It podcast, our goal is to tell stories of spinal champions who’ve been able to achieve a better quality of life through spinal health care. In today’s episode, I’m delighted to be speaking with Debbie Fox, a spinal champion whose journey began when she began having back and neck pain following the birth of her second child.

As the pain progressed, she tried over the counter ibuprofen, physical therapy, massage treatments, and more. Several primary care doctors told her it was nothing to worry about and that she was probably just depressed. As her pain worsened over the years, Debbie saw a neurosurgeon who diagnosed her with scoliosis, and she was referred to yet another specialist.

After many more years of more treatment, she saw yet another specialist, one who specialized in complex spine surgery. Since her surgery in November of 2021, she has had a challenging journey, but considers her surgery a success in spite of everything. Now that you know what to expect, let’s get back to it and dive right into Debbie’s story.

Debbie Fox: I remember first noticing the pain in my lower back when I would bend over the bathtub to give my children a bath. I kind of ignored the pain at first, treating with over the counter ibuprofen. 

Rita Roy: As Debbie’s pain continued to progress, she tried all kinds of things including physical therapy, massage, multiple pillows, new beds, acupuncture, yoga, muscle relaxers, and every quick fix gadget on the market.

Debbie Fox: I saw a few different primary care physicians over the years and they didn’t think it was anything to worry about. I was told I was depressed and was prescribed antidepressants and muscle relaxers. 

Rita Roy: By 2011, Debbie noticed a lump on her back and had lost some height, so she went to see a neurosurgeon who diagnosed her with scoliosis, which he did not treat.

Debbie Fox: He wanted to refer me to a specialist in Virginia. But I didn’t want to travel out of state, so I sought treatment in the Atlanta area. From 2011 to 2020, I tried facet injections, physical therapy, a peak scoliosis brace, and radiofrequency ablation. I had difficulty and increased pain with standing and walking, but I was able to sit for extended periods of time.

I was an accountant, so fortunately it didn’t interfere with my career too much at that time. 

Rita Roy: Debbie’s curvature worsened. From 2011 to 2021, and she subsequently lost four inches in height. To add insult to injury, she was also dealing with new GI symptoms. 

Debbie Fox: In early 2021, I could tell that things were changing.

My height was just under five feet. I had more difficulty standing, had horrible headaches that always started in my neck, and it was taking me a long time to do simple things like showering, doing my hair, etc. Something just didn’t seem right. 

Rita Roy: Debbie’s primary care doctor ordered an MRI that showed a progression from 55 degrees in 2016 to 63 degrees in 2021.

Debbie Fox: At this point, I was concerned as to what my future might look like and decided it was time to see a specialist again. 

Rita Roy: Together with her neurosurgeon and her family, Debbie made the difficult decision to proceed with surgery. 

Debbie Fox: The surgery was difficult and it wasn’t without complications, challenges, and setbacks.

My main goal was to stop the progression and restore some of my height. And I believe those goals were achieved. 

Rita Roy: The entire journey has taken its toll on Debbie, both physically and emotionally. 

Debbie Fox: At first, my recovery was progressing very well. I was even off my pain medication sooner than my medical team expected.

However, as I said, there were setbacks. I found myself unable to sit upright for long periods of time, which affected my ability to work. I also had increased pain in my upper back and neck. Thinking it would pass, I attempted to return to work and struggled greatly for nine months before making the emotional decision to retire after 36 years.

Rita Roy: Debbie did physical thera For several months, but walking and time proved to be the best therapy. She was fortunate to have a strong support system, including her family and her medical team. 

Debbie Fox: It has been two years since my surgery, and although I know I will continue to have struggles, pain, weakness, and mobility issues, I do consider my surgery a success.

And given the choice, I would do it again.

Rita Roy: Debbie, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I’m. I’m on this recording, and we’re looking at each other across a video screen here, and I am looking at a beautiful, vibrant, healthy, smiling, awesome person on the other side of the screen. And I have to say from where I’m sitting, I would have no idea what you’ve been through at all.

And um, It’s amazing. It’s amazing. Your story is so incredible. You, you had such a severe and complicated case. Um, and, and basically you could hardly do much of anything in terms of your daily living activities and not feeling pain. And I, I think that, you know, a lot of people would have given up the battle, but, but you persisted and, you know, Debbie, talk to us about what, what your motivation was that kept you just sort of thinking something’s not right.

I, I got to get an answer to this. Um, you know, tell us about that. 

Debbie Fox: Well, the first part of that answer is really easy. Um, I was motivated by my grandchildren. Grandchildren can be a big motivator. Um, at the time I had three and now I have five. Oh, congratulations. And I wanted a future where I, where I could enjoy them.

I wanted to be able to play with them. Um, but the more in depth answer, um, is probably fear. Um, I, I, I didn’t know what my life would become. The progression, if the progression continued, um, I was having more difficulty walking. Um, standing for periods of time, just every, I could feel myself getting weaker and weaker.

I had a couple of doctors tell me that the curvature in my spine would probably get to a certain level and then it would level off and it wouldn’t progress anymore. Um, and that I should just monitor it. But in 2021, I felt like something wasn’t right. I was getting weaker. Um, I had trouble just walking up my driveway.

It has a slight incline and my husband would be kind of pulling me up. up the driveway just to go to the mailbox, um, and I felt like I needed to get some answers. 

Rita Roy: Yeah. Debbie, when you, you know, found that bump in your back and you went to see the neurosurgeon and he told you you had scoliosis, was that completely new news to you?

Debbie Fox: Um, it wasn’t completely new news because by then I was having physical symptoms and I think I had had people casually mention it like maybe a chiropractor, massage therapist, but I hadn’t been diagnosed yet. Um, but, uh, you know, it was, I’d had my first MRIs because I started having pain in 1995 after the birth of my second child.

Up until then, I was fine. And, um, Yeah. So I started having that, you know, I started having that pain, um, but there were no visible signs of scoliosis. And I did have an MRI and I did, 

Rita Roy: I was going to say in that 1995 MRI, was it, was it normal at that time or were there findings? 

Debbie Fox: It was, it was fairly normal.

I mean, they had, I mean, there was things listed, but nothing that anybody was concerned about, um, and then I had it again in 2004 because I, you know, my symptoms were, you know, they were subtle at first, but they continued to progress, you know, I kept having symptoms of back pain, and so they redid the MRIs in 2004, and You know, the detail showed that there was some degeneration.

But again, nothing that got anybody’s attention. It never mentioned scoliosis. It just showed, you know, some, some degeneration. And I, I continued on. Then in 2011, it was really becoming, You know, I’m in my back. You can see that I was more of a hunchback. I was, I definitely had that lump on the side of my back on the right side and I had lost some height.

I was having some GI issues. You know, every time I ate, I was having stomach problems. So I did reach out to, um, a primary care doctor. That our company had and he referred me to a specialist in Atlanta and that’s about about 50 miles south of where I am So I went to Atlanta to see him and then based on MRIs x rays My symptoms and my visual appearance at that point.

He did diagnose scoliosis. Um, he didn’t treat adult scoliosis. Um, he, he said it was, uh, it was complex and he, uh, referred me to a, um, specialist, one of his colleagues, I guess, in, uh, Virginia. But at that time, I didn’t really want to travel out of state. I had been to many primary care doctors, not specialists, but, and they all kind of, they were kind of dismissive.

So, um, I didn’t really want to travel out of state, the cost, the time off from work, the travel only to be told, go to physical therapy, take a muscle relaxer, you know, I just didn’t. I decided to seek treatment locally, and I did see a specialist, um, and he tried facet injections, and I did like him. He wanted to monitor.

He actually did ask me in 2012 if I wanted to speak to a surgeon, but he was kind of discouraging about it, you know, like maybe it wasn’t time or it wasn’t really, so I said, well, I want to. I’ll hold off. 

Rita Roy: Yeah. And I think that’s, you know, I think that’s a, um, a common approach is to sort of do watchful waiting, you know, and, and to see the progression of the, of the disease.

Because as you encountered, you know, uh, deformity surgery or complex spine surgery is, um, it’s a big deal. Right. That’s not something you want to jump into until unless you really need it. And so, um, 

Debbie Fox: and I wasn’t convinced at that time. 

Rita Roy: Yeah. So what was that? What was the convincing? 

Debbie Fox: Well, he was seeing me annually and I went back to him and I really liked him a lot.

And I went back to him in 2000. So I saw him in 2011, saw him in 2012. I went back into, or I called in 2013 to make my appointment. He had rotated out of the position to another department. And at that point, I was referred to somebody else, and he was more dismissive. He, you know, I saw him a couple times, then he said, you know, he gave me a, a peak scoliosis brace, had that fitted for me, and basically told me there was really, Nothing they could do for me, and I didn’t even need to come annually because, you know, there was no point doing the scoliosis series, and at that point it was at 55 degrees, I believe, that was in 2016, um, and then I elected to not seek any treatment.

Um, because I was like, well, you know, this is how it’s going to be. So I didn’t see anybody for the next five years until 2021. 

Rita Roy: And at that point, you just were, uh, you know, activities of daily living, you couldn’t do the pain, the GI symptoms. And you’re like, I, I’ve got to do something for this, right? I can’t, I can’t go on like this.

That’s right. And so how did you, well how did you educate yourself on what to do? Did you, you know, turn to the internet? Did you have friends to talk to? Did you, how did you get information on what to do next? 

Debbie Fox: I wish I had known about your website. And your organization at that point because that would have been like really helpful to me And so i’m not even one to do these kind of things because i’m kind of shy But it’s like I wish I had had some place to turn or somebody to talk to or you know It was hard to find somebody it was really difficult to find information on something that complex Um, we’d had, um, a new state of the art hospital built, and I figured we had neurosurgeons moving in up here locally, and I wanted to see somebody closer to home, and that’s when my, uh, primary care at the time referred me to a neurosurgeon here.

Rita Roy: And are you in Atlanta, Debbie? Where 

Debbie Fox: are you? I am, yes, I’m about, um, I’m in Cherokee County. It’s, um, outside of Atlanta. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Alpharetta, but it’s just north of Alpharetta. Great. 

Rita Roy: Well, I just want to say thank you so much for being willing to come on and share your story. I mean, to your point, That’s why we’re here.

That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. It is hard to find information. It is hard to find somebody to talk to. And as, as you’ve seen on our website and, and getting to know our organization, you know, complex spine surgery is not rare. It’s you know, it’s it’s not a rarity. It’s something that it’s it’s adult deformity.

It’s a condition that is treatable You’ve got to find the right surgeon. You’ve got to put yourself in the right hands got to go through the process Um, but it’s not an uncommon thing and yet it is hard to find Good information and a support system and other people who’ve been through it, who you can talk to and learn from and listen to.

And that’s what we’re all about here is creating a resource like that, building a community and, um, people like you, Debbie, who are willing to come on and share your story and be a resource for others is, is the heart of what we do. So I, I know I say thank you a lot and I will. say thank you many, many times during this interview, but, but thank you.

And thank you for sharing that. And I appreciate that you’re a shy person and, and maybe our listeners should know that Debbie was super nervous to get on this podcast, but, um, hopefully 

Debbie Fox: you’re not as nervous 

Rita Roy: now as, as when we started, but. You know, it is, it does take, it does take some courage, um, to talk about your condition and to share that with the world.

So I thank you for that. But knowing that it could help somebody out there is, is what gives us inspiration to do this, right? And, and I’m the same way. I had spine surgery and was looking for someone to talk to and uh, You know, other moms who’d been through it and, and I just couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a resource out there like this.

So I, I’ve been in, I’ve been in your shoes too and I share that. But I, I, I think that the, the deformity surgery or the scoliosis as your life is limiting and you know, you, you, you could feel what’s happening. You see the physical changes that are happening. It gets really scary. Right. I mean, let’s talk about, you know, the fear and, and what that was like and share with us your support system around you and how your family maybe helped you through the decision making here.

Debbie Fox: Well, when we went to the neurosurgeon in 2021, my expectations were pretty low. Um, my husband was a lot more optimistic than I was, um, because he realized, you know, that spine surgery had come so far. But for me, because, you know, I had been dismissed before, my expectations were low. But like I said, I was having problems.

I was getting nervous. I was kind of fearful of what was going on. My, my primary care doctor at the time had ordered another MRI and it showed that, um, had progressed to 63 degrees. So, had progressed 28 degrees in 10 years from 2011, I was at 35 degrees. Now, I’m at 63 degrees and I’m clearly struggling.

So, I, I mean, I was thinking medication, okay? Maybe now it’s time for medication. Maybe he could do an, you know, I’d had the, um, radiofrequency ablation on my neck. Maybe he could do something on my back. So, we went and when he mentioned surgery, I was shocked. You know, I was, I was just, I was really shocked, and he did say that it could stop the progression, but it was a brutal surgery, and when he mentioned, you know, from T5 to my pelvis, I was like, wow, I mean, it just sounded unreal to me.

Then he showed me x rays of another patient that had something similar, um, and who was actually older than me, and I was amazed. I couldn’t believe, like, to me, how straight her spine was, and I was like, Wow, I mean, you can almost get a little excited because like that happened to me, you know, I mean, it was very difficult to buy clothes.

I always looked frumpy, but I was looking to stop the progression. But now all of a sudden, I’m like, Wow, maybe I could, you know, restore some of my height and look a little better and have clothes that actually fit. So, um, But the decision, you know, I talked to my family about it. They were definitely very supportive.

Um, I had many sleepless nights, you know, going back and forth between fear, excitement, wondering. Um, I did decide ultimately that if I was going to go through something like this, I was, this was the best time of my life for a positive outcome. I was I was fairly young still, um, I didn’t have any other medical issues other than the physical deformity.

Um, so my overall health was good. I was comfortable with my surgeon. You know, he did complex surgeries. He was confident. And I did. From the time I walked in there, I finally, like, of all the doctors I had seen, I was like, okay. You know, he listened to me, he let me tell my story, and he never said a word until I was done.

He wanted to hear it from me. You know, my story from my mouth, in my own words, and he never said anything. He was engaged and he listened, but he never said a word until, until I was done. It was almost like he didn’t want to distract me, he didn’t want to, like, interrupt me. I talked with him about it and realized that my options were, I could do nothing.

And I would probably continue to decline or I could have the surgery and then knowing that the risks were, you know, I could get worse. I could stay the same and I could get better, but I felt that the odds of success were in my favor at that point, um, and I went back and forth between the fear and the excitement and then ultimately decided to proceed with it.

Rita Roy: Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s amazing. You, you know, you got the education about the surgery, you, you know, you learned about it. Yeah. And you went to a well trained surgeon who does exactly this kind of procedure. So that’s important. And you felt comfortable with your surgeon. That’s another really important factor to getting that, those good outcomes.

Because we say this is a journey, it’s not a straight path, right? So it’s a little deviation here and a little deviation there. And so you’re going to be in a relationship with that surgeon and you need to, Really feel comfortable with the person who, who, who you are entrusting your care to, and it sounds like you hit the mark on all those fronts.

So that is awesome. But you know, Debbie, so much of your story, you’ve, you’ve indicated there were doctors who were dismissive. Of your complaints, a doctor who told you that you were maybe depressed and needed antidepressants and, and weren’t really believing, you know, in, in what you were saying, contrast that to your neurosurgeon who listened to you, who listened, who believed, who took in your story and came up with a plan for you, how did it feel when those Other doctors were dismissive of your symptoms.

What did that? What was that 

Debbie Fox: like? It was frustrating. You start questioning, you know, you see almost like, am I crazy? Am I hypochondriac? I mean, clearly now I’m having, I mean, you can see that I’ve lost height, you know, to me, I felt like I had symptoms, but to be fair. You know, the progression is very subtle at the beginning.

You know, I was having pain, but you couldn’t really see anything. That’s true. I mean, it was actually a seamstress that made me sign a paper when she was shortening pants because they’re like, okay, your pants are not, you know, it’s not the same length here. She said, I want you to sign this paper saying that you’re agreeing that, you know, your pants are not going to be the same length when I’m, when I’m done altering them.


Rita Roy: Hey, Debbie, that’s huge. That’s incredible. Are you 

Debbie Fox: serious? I’ve never even heard. That’s amazing. I had to sign like a little thing. Yeah. Cause it was a suit. And it was, yeah, it was an expensive suit. And she was like, okay, I’m going to do these alterations. Right. Two different lengths. Even my hairstylist told me she could not cut my hair based on my shoulders.

Cause my shoulders were uneven. So she had to like really watch the sides because usually they would use people’s shoulders when they were cutting your hair to make it even on both sides to balance. Yeah. She said my shoulders were not even so she had to like make sure that she didn’t use that as a guide.

Oh my goodness. But, um, no. When I went to my surgeon, I definitely felt validated. 

Rita Roy: Yep. Yep. And that’s just, you know, again, that’s the part of your perseverance. Like, you know something’s not right. And, um, and that’s the part where we say people have got to advocate for themselves. Because sometimes, you know, Doctor could miss something, right?

And so it’s on you to say Something’s not right with me. I’m not I can’t like this isn’t the right answer. I I don’t think I’m crazy My legs are different lengths. My hair is, you know, can’t get a straight haircut. I, I, there’s, I’m not making this up. I’m not crazy. I’m kind of depressed because I don’t feel good, you know, but it’s not depression that’s making me be bent over.

There’s something wrong here. And so pursuing that and persevering with that, Debbie, is just awesome that you did that for yourself. And that is so hard to do. It’s so easy to just give up on ourselves, right? And, and you didn’t do that. And. You know, thank goodness you had those beautiful grandchildren that you just, you know, wanted to get down on the floor and play with and find a way to do that.

So Debbie, you’ve talked about your surgery having, you know, being, being challenging with some complications. Can you share with us a little bit about that? 

Debbie Fox: Um, sure. So, I mean, the degeneration in my back, it goes all the way from my neck. You know, I have problems from my neck down and, you know, they had to like figure out what they were going to do for the surgery and I couldn’t.

Exactly fused me from my neck all the way to my pelvis. He said my chin would have been stuck to my chest, so I still do have issues with my upper back and my neck from, you know, after the surgery, but also there was a screw that put pressure on the L5 nerve root and they had to had to be removed. They had to back it back out.

So that resulted in a drop foot, which causes me weakness in my right foot. Um, it affects the way I walk. It affects my balance, my posture, my body mechanics. I mean, you just, it doesn’t seem that it’s huge, but you know, it throws you off and it does affect everything. 

Rita Roy: No, it is huge. I mean, you’re talking to, you know, I’m in the musculoskeletal world, so it’s all about balance and symmetry.

So yes, it’s, it is huge. That’s 

Debbie Fox: huge. So, and I’m not able to, I’m not able to walk fast, but, but you can walk. Exactly. That’s what I was going to say. And for that, I’m very grateful. Nice. Yeah. 

Rita Roy: Very grateful. Yeah. And I think, you know, that’s, that’s one of the things that oftentimes we hear our surgeon experts say, you know, we can’t, we can’t make you be 25 again, but we can make you the best version of 62 or actually don’t even know your age Debbie, but we can make you the best version of the age that you’re at.

Now, and, you know, and, and that is going to come with maybe some, you know, imperfections in terms of what you want to be able to do. But I think, you know, looking at where you were headed, maybe to be in a wheelchair and not able to be sitting up or walking, you know, or doing playing with your grandchildren, you can do those things, right?

So you can get back. To your life. Maybe it’s not perfect. Maybe it’s not what it was when you were 25, but you’re living the best version of where you can be right now. I think that’s what’s, you know, that, that’s, that’s the real core of the message there, right? Is that we’re all going to age, right? And, and one of our, um, Surgeon says, life is a degenerative process, right?

That’s just, that’s just the nature of being alive. So the trick is to optimize what we can do so that we can live our best lives while we’re here. And that’s the goal so much of the time of, of these surgeries and this treatment. So, so when you had that complication, Debbie, did that require? a second surgery to go in there and remove that screw at L4, L5?

Debbie Fox: No, they noticed it during surgery, so they backed it back out. Um, they said, I don’t need that screw there, so that screw is not there. And then I’ve learned over time, you know, you learn, I mean, right away coming out of surgery when they, when I got up and started walking, I didn’t know about it. I mean, they told me about it, but I didn’t really know what it was, and they, you know, I remember the physical therapist telling my surgeon that I was already compensating by lifting my foot higher.

Um, so over time, it has gotten better, it’s just not fully resolved. I don’t know that it ever will be now after two years, but I, I do walk better. Um, I can’t walk fast, but if I do need to walk a little faster, I walk on my tiptoe because that will help me go a little faster. So you learn to compensate, you know, it’s not resolved, but it’s, you know, I can deal with it.

Rita Roy: You can deal with it. And Debbie, are there other activities that you’re What are you better able to do now after your surgery, would you say? I mean, you, you talk about your surgery being a success, so obviously, you know, daily living activities. Are you cooking? Are you, are there things that you are noticing that you are doing better now at?

Debbie Fox: Um, well, you know, I can walk up my driveway without my husband pulling me. Um, I can pick up my grandchildren. That’s huge. Um. Yeah. I’m hungry. That’s huge. I can’t do things for long periods of time. You know, I do have to make adjustments and I do need time to rest and recuperate. Um, I can walk better and stand better, not for long periods of time, but better than I could before.

Um, one of the things is, it is hard for sitting up straight like I am right now, um, doing this. So, after, you know, 30 minutes or so, it really starts to push on my shoulders and my back. So, Where before I could sit for longer periods of time, but now I can, I can kind of do all of it for shorter periods of time.

For shorter 

Rita Roy: periods of time, yeah. And as, as you’re saying that, I’m, I’m at a standing desk. Oh. Because I, I get uncomfortable and I, you know, I, I can’t sit for long, long periods of time and I have to get up and stand and I think that’s, again, that’s just. That’s, that’s part of just the ongoing journey of taking care of ourselves over time.

And there’s a, there’s an expression people are using around here saying that, um, sitting is the new smoking. You know, that movement, movement is the best way to stay healthy and to build strength and to care for your spine. Um, and it doesn’t have to be fast movement, but it’s just, you know, not sitting in one Thanks.

Spot for too long. In fact, we say get up and move every 30 minutes. Um, so your body’s making you do that. Um, we, we advise people, you know, to do that, to take care of their spines, get up, get up and move. Don’t hold any one position for, you know, any, any long period of time, get up and move every 30 minutes, whether it’s get a drink of water or take a walk around the, you know, make a lap around the house or, or what have you.

So, you know, that’s, that’s actually good for you, uh, to get up and, and to move. Yeah. And, you know, two years is not a long time for having been through what you’ve been through, not just in the very big operation that you had, but in the prior 10 years of a lifetime of, you know, becoming more and more turned and, and.

disabled really. And so it just takes time to unwind that, right? It didn’t, that happened over a long period of time and, and here it is two years and you’re already making such great progress. So you got to just keep doing what you’re doing, right? Right. Debbie, are you still working with physical therapists or do you have a new exercise program that 

Debbie Fox: you employ?

No, I’m not working with physical. Therapy. Um, I did go for three to four months. I just, for me, it’s just, I never was a big exerciser. I’ll just come right out front and say that. But, um, yeah, just for me, it’s better just doing my daily living. Like, just the stuff. That you normally do has, has really helped me that you, the stuff that you don’t even think about.

So if you’re playing with a grandchild or you pick them up or stuff, just doing those kind of things because I could feel it after I walked out after doing that. So yeah, 

Rita Roy: just going, going to the grocery store can be a workout if you do it, you know, do it right. Exactly. Yeah, that’s great. Well, I guess my last question here, Debbie, just kind of along those lines, you know, you talked about in your story, making the decision to retire after 36 years.

And, um, you know, that that was a really difficult decision to have to make. But, but at the end of the day. You would say that you are happy to have had the surgery and, and despite the challenges, you would do it again, you would make this choice again. I guess, you know, let’s tell our listeners about that.

Um, you know, we’ve just been talking about how your life has improved after the surgery and maybe just to, to underscore. The difficulty in making that, that life transition and into the surgery and where you are now. 

Debbie Fox: So leaving my job was incredibly difficult. I had been with the same company for 36 years.

It was a great company. Wow. I had, you know, like, like most people, you know, I was defined by my career. I loved my job. I, it was like the dream job. I worked at home, so I was able to, you know, I didn’t have to like get up and, and. Get ready and get going in the morning, but it was difficult, and I started back to work.

I had surgery in November. I started back to work in April, and I thought, okay, it’ll be a little bit difficult at the beginning, but, you know, in my mind, I kept saying one year if I could just get to one year, I’ll be brand new. Well, my surgeon helped me realize that there is really no brand new after, you know, reconstructive spine correction.

Yeah, so. I struggled, and I struggled for nine months, and, you know, my husband and I had many discussions, and, you know, we reached the point where, you know, after everything I had been through, I owed it to myself to, you know, give myself the best possible quality of life, and for us, that was Yeah, that was the best decision for us, you know, and fortunately we were able to do that.

Um, it, it was a hard decision. I cried a lot, um, and it was very, very difficult. But, um, so I’m, I’m 58, so, you know, I, I, so, um, I left in 20, that’s young, so it’s been about 10 months now since I, I stopped working. Um, very, very difficult. But it was the right thing to do. After struggling for 30 years with this, you know, with the last 10 or 15 of it being really bad, I, I just, I feel like I need to take care of myself.

I need to enjoy myself here. I don’t want to like sit at a desk and let it get worse and worse until. You know. Right. Right. I didn’t want to undo everything I had 

Rita Roy: just done. Exactly. Exactly. You want to give your body the best chance to fully heal and to be strengthened and to enter a new chapter in life.

Debbie, I had one last question for you. Did you, um, have your bone health checked when you were going through this? Did they, you didn’t have any issues with your, with osteoporosis or bone osteopenia or bone mineralization 

Debbie Fox: problems? So. It never showed up when I was going through this with x rays. Um, I did have x rays, I think it was December of 2022, about a year ago, and it did show up that, um, that my bones were showing up as demineralized, which I wasn’t really sure, and they recommended a DEXA scan, so I did have that, um, and it did say that I had some, some low Bone depth, I guess it’s called.

Osteopenia. Density. So. Osteopenia. Yeah. So, I don’t know. I didn’t, I didn’t have that before, but maybe I just didn’t know about it. That’s, 

Rita Roy: well, it’s also a condition that emerges in, you know, postmenopausal women over time. So, it could be something that. Totally unrelated to your, you know, your, your spine issues.

It’s just something new that’s happening in your body. And, um, something that we are educating people a lot about in the foundation, particularly if you’ve had, um, instrumentation, you know, screws and things put into your spine, do you need to think about that bone density over time, because. You’ve got all those in place and you want them, you want the bone to hold, uh, hold strong.

So that’s something to, to think about as you, as you move forward on this journey, this, uh, marathon that the marathon that the never ending marathon of taking care of our bodies, um, you know, particularly as we, as we age, um, that’s an area that we’re doing a lot of work on in terms of educating people to think about their bone health.

Um, think about their diets to maintain good calcium levels in their body and vitamin D, which helps with calcium absorption. Um, so, you know, thank, thank you for sharing that and, and keep an eye on that 

Debbie Fox: osteopenia. Okay. Thank you. All right. 

Rita Roy: So there you are. So what are, what are some of your plans going forward?

What are some of the things that you’re maybe new things, um, that you’re looking forward to doing? 

Debbie Fox: I don’t know. Right now, like I said, my grandchildren, they’re a big part of my life. I really enjoy them. Um, we’d like to like maybe do a nice vacation one day where we could all go and they’ll have that memory as they get older, but I don’t know, I’m, I’m still, I’m still recovering.

I’m still taking it day by day. I’m just trying to enjoy, you know, life the way it is right now. The gifts that 

Rita Roy: you have. Yes. Then the gifts that that is wonderful. Well, like I said at the beginning, I’m, I’m, I’m staring, I’m looking at you on the screen and I just see, you know, young, happy, vibrant, healthy from where I can see your shoulders are even like I, you would just have no idea what you’ve been through in your life.

And that takes work and that takes courage and you’ve done all of those things. Yeah. So Debbie, it was just so wonderful, uh, to have you on our podcast and we cannot wait to share your incredible story with our community. I thank you so much for being with me today and for sharing, sharing so much of your journey with all of us.

Uh, truly an inspiration. Thank you. Thank you. 

Debbie Fox: for having me. 

Rita Roy: Debbie, is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you wanted to, to mention or to say before we wrap up? 

Debbie Fox: You know, I don’t think so. I’ll just say that I remember my, my surgeon because I was impatient and, you know, I was just, I do remember him, the advice he gave me was to remember that it was a marathon and not a sprint whenever I was having setbacks.

And I would advise anybody, you know, to remember that because there are ups and downs, you know, you, you, you make progress and then you go back. And I do, you know, I think that anybody that’s You know going through something like that. I think they need to remember that and and to be kind to themselves and give them Themselves a chance to heal because you only have one opportunity to heal so you need to give yourself that opportunity 

Rita Roy: Yes, that’s great.

Great wisdom Uh debbie, that’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. That’s amazing

At the National Spine Health Foundation, something we believe in most is providing hope for recovery through sharing stories of success and expertise. It isn’t always easy to find someone to relate to, even though 100 million adults suffer from neck or low back pain every year. To hear more stories of spinal champion recovery and access educational materials about spine health, visit us at spinehealth.

org. If you’re interested in supporting our show financially, You can contribute at the link provided. Thank you for listening.

Debbie Fox began her journey when she began having back and neck pain following the birth of her second child. As the pain progressed, she felt dismissed, thinking she was probably just depressed. As her pain worsened, Debbie saw a neurosurgeon who diagnosed her with scoliosis. She spent years in treatment and finally saw a complex spine surgeon when her daily life activities were becoming more painful and limiting. Since her surgery, she has had a challenging journey, but considers her surgery a success in spite of everything.