Delores' story

Without a perfectly designed spine surgery, Delores Lewis faced a future of being dependent on others. Her neurosurgery team developed a plan to fit her, precisely. Now, Delores is able to resume doing her favorite activities and sees her scar as a symbol of strength.


Many people were involved in Delores’ care and impacted by her situation. In these videos and photo galleries, we can see and hear what they have to say about going through this experience at UF Health. Delores has recovered well following spine surgery and is once again enjoying good health and independence.

Delores' NieceDelores' Journey


“I see myself as a survivor.”

Spine and skull base surgery corrects Delores Lewis’ balance issues

Delores LewisIt was nearly impossible for Delores Lewis to walk in a straight line. Within seconds, she would veer to the left or right and sometimes wobble in both directions. She knew her equilibrium was off, but didn’t know what was causing the imbalance and dizziness.

Medical imaging revealed that Delores, 67, had a tumor at the base of her skull and degenerative disc disease in her neck. UF Health Jacksonville neurosurgeon Sassan Keshavarzi, M.D., said both conditions were likely contributing to Delores’ balance problem and that a dual surgery was required to correct it.

“It was pushing on her spinal cord pretty profoundly,” Keshavarzi said of the tumor, which was in front of Delores’ brain stem and spinal cord — at the junction where the base of the skull meets the neck.

Meanwhile, the deterioration of the discs in her neck was crushing the spinal cord. Putting off surgery could have ultimately led to more balance issues, bowel and bladder problems, paralysis and respiratory dysfunction.

Keshavarzi entered through the back of Delores’ neck to remove the bone, immediately taking pressure off the spinal cord, and fused that portion of the spine with titanium screws and rods. He then removed the benign tumor with the assistance of fellow UF Health Jacksonville neurosurgeon Daryoush Tavanaiepour, M.D., who specializes in skull base surgery. The procedure was risky because of the many blood vessels and nerves in the area. However, there were no complications and the operation was a success.

Delores remained in the hospital for seven days following surgery. She was then transferred to a rehab center for physical and occupational therapy. In just five weeks, Delores was able to walk a straight line without any assistance.

“I realize the surgery has made a difference,” she said.

A retired Jacksonville educator, Delores continues to regain mobility and flexibility and is now able to resume her favorite activities — gardening, cooking and baking, walking and traveling. She has visited Japan, South Korea, Italy, Spain and France.

She’s eager to add more stamps to her passport.

“I like to cruise,” she said. “I definitely plan to do some more traveling. I just like to get away.”

Delores said she gladly accepts the surgical scar on the back of her neck in favor of a lifestyle marked by immobility and heavy dependence on others. She appreciates Keshavarzi’s care and expertise, is thankful for her overall treatment at UF Health and views her scar as a symbol of strength.

“Sometimes you don’t know how strong you are until you endure certain obstacles,” she said. “I see myself as a survivor.”

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