From Despair to Disneyland: A Spine Patient J...

In her 20s, Candice Timmons was involved in a car accident that resulted in chronic back pain. Physical therapy helped for a few years until she developed sciatica during her first pregnancy. Her second pregnancy brought on even more pain. In November 2021, her pain grabbed hold and never let go. Her mobility diminished until she could no longer get out of bed or use the bathroom without assistance. Pain medication hardly provided any relief, and she was completely numb from her groin to her knee. She was only 57 years old, and she wondered if this was going to be the way she spent the rest of her life.

“I was really concerned that this was going to be permanent. My husband and I wanted to have an active retirement. I didn’t think that was possible. I was worried about not being able to do things with my daughters. My younger daughter, who is 18, became a part time caretaker for me. She’s at the age where I’m supposed to be taking care of her,” Candice said. “I thought, ‘Is this it?’”

Pain management specialist, Aaron Przybysz, M.D., referred Candice to Adam Kanter, M.D., associate executive medical director of the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute and chief of neurosurgery of the Hoag Specialty Clinic. Dr. Kanter, known for his innovative minimally invasive techniques, became a beacon of hope for Candice.

Despite her longstanding apprehensions about undergoing back surgery, this time was different. The unyielding nature of her pain and her burgeoning trust in Dr. Kanter steered her decision

“Dr. Kanter has the best bedside manner. He was calm, and I felt very reassured that this is something that can be fixed,” she said. “He wasn’t pie-in-the-sky, but he was confident that he would be able to relieve the pain.”

Dr. Kanter commented that “Modern minimally invasive surgical techniques like the XLIF have provided us with the means to help patients like Candice get their lives back, but surgery is only a part of the solution – rehabilitation and a commitment to healthy living is an integral part of the process. Candice has committed to doing the hard part, I am honored she chose me to do the easy part – the surgery.”

And he did.

Dr. Kanter performed a multi-level minimally invasive spinal fusion through a small incision in her waist. This procedure enables a shorter recovery time than standard surgery, and the relief Candice experienced from it was almost immediate. She even gained an inch back in height.

“The day after surgery, I was able to walk using a walker. Slowly, I was able to do a half-mile without a walker in 35 minutes. Now I’m walking through my neighborhood every day, doing a 20-minute mile,” she said. “My goal is to get to an 18-minute mile.”

The pain is gone, and the numbness is diminishing. Candice has adopted a healthier lifestyle, which includes more exercise and an improved diet. Her goals of an active retirement and a life spent celebrating her daughters’ milestones are now within reach.

“Dr. Kanter said, ‘I don’t want to see you back here in 10 years,’” she said. “I don’t either. I have increased my activity and I’m taking care of myself again.”

She’s also back to taking care of the people she loves: Candice and her younger daughter bought Disneyland annual passes just before she succumbed to her pain. Now, just shy of the passes’ expiration date, they are planning a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.

“I hope my husband and I can go on cruises and trips together. For a while, I was certain that wasn’t going to happen,” she said. “Dr. Kanter has given me a new lease on life.”