Meet 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!

Success Stories

When you are suffering with debilitating back pain, it’s hard to believe that you will be active and pain-free again. But each day, members of the North American Spine Society help patients just like you find pain relief and get back to enjoying life again.

These are just a few of the inspiring stories of millions of patients whose lives have been positively affected by their spine specialists. If you would like to share your success story on this site, ask your spine specialist to contact Nicolle Heller.


Thoracic Disc Herniation


Disc Replacement




Tumor Removal and Cervical Spine Fusion