After my spine surgery 1/30/09, my surgeon explained that my back was then very fragile and likely to remain for a long time weak and unstable. The chemo from my first encounter with breast cancer in 2004 caused osteoporosis in my spine. The surgery removed cancerous tumor from the thoracic area, corrected some benign displaced vertebrae in the lumbar spine and added a railroad track of titanium from my armpits to my tushie.
Between the cancer coming back and my having major back surgery, the cancer diagnosis got most of my attention. I sometimes, even now, forget that my back is a separate health issue and most often takes a back seat to the cancer. My spine surgeon has made me aware that my back is likely not to recover more because of the chemo I’m currently taking to fight the bone cancer. It weakens the bone further and increases my osteoporosis. The result is that the titanium rods with their fastening screws have scarce bone surface with which to fuse or to fasten. The danger of the rods pulling out of position and of the fasteners loosening up is high.
Thus, to restrict the movement in my spine, I wear this thoraco-lumbo-sacral orthosis or thoracic lumbar sacral orthotic brace. It’s also called a body jacket or a Boston brace. It is made of two plates: a front and a back. They are made of a hard plastic core wrapped in a black nylon sleeve with Velcro® straps that I pull to the front to fasten them tightly, back to front. My front plate, also, has a sternal T bar that absolutely prevents me from even thinking of slouching. The stem of the T attaches at the top of the front plate, in the middle of the chest, and the top of the T, which is padded at the pressure points on the ends, presses very firmly against the collarbone area.
The TLSO brace is often used in the treatment of scoliosis and in the weeks or months following spine surgery. Its primary job is to limit twisting or rotation, flexion of the spine (bending forward) and sideways bending. Some scoliosis treatments require the patient to wear the brace 24/7. Other treatments, like mine, allow the patient to sleep without the brace but to wear it as soon as you are out of bed. I am now able to put the brace on after I get out of bed; this is not only a great advantage, it is pure bliss. When I first got the brace and for the first month or two after rehab, I had to put it on and take it off while lying flat in bed. Encountering that kind of restriction was frustrating and difficult.
When I was in rehab, I was astounded at how little information I could find on dealing with personal daily rituals while wearing this contraption as well as how to get in and out of the brace while in bed. I will write about that in Part II for readers who would appreciate a few tips for either yourselves or your family members or friends.
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