Suze Orman wants her decision to put off going to the doctor to serve as a cautionary tale to others after her symptoms ultimately led doctors to discover she needed spinal surgery to alleviate a serious condition.
The best-selling author and personal finance expert spoke on TODAY Thursday about the surgery she underwent in July to have a tumor removed from her spinal cord and how she's been reminded that your health comes before your wealth.
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"Things that really seem like they're not a big deal at first can be a seriously big deal," she said. "The only reason that I would've ended up as a probably quadriplegic was because I didn't take action, and I wouldn't have had anybody to blame but myself.
"So take action everybody. Don't just sit by and go, 'It's all right, I need to go to work, I need to get this done, I need to go on a book tour.' No, you need to take care of your health, go and see a doctor."
Orman's first symptoms came when she was unable to walk up stairs and lost feeling in her right hand. Doctors ordered three MRIs, including one of her brain, but she kept putting them off for nearly two months during the pandemic, which she called "the most vitally stupid mistake I could ever make in my life."
When she eventually had the tests, they found that 80% of her spinal cord was being cut off by a non-cancerous tumor.
"I was one fender bender away from being paralyzed and a quadriplegic," Orman said.
Orman, 69, had a 12-hour surgery at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital that was led by Dr. Michael Groff.
"The tumor was taken out completely, so it really should never bother again, and I think while she will continue to improve for a full year, I think she'll get back to 99.9% (of what she was before)," Groff said on TODAY.
She continues to feel the effects of the surgery three months later.
"My left arm still isn't what it should be," she said. "The nerves are responding now, so the left arm fires. It's like it's on fire the entire time. It's really still difficult for me to use my neck. I still can't go too much forward or too much back because they took out two vertebrae and put in a titanium stint or whatever they did there.
"But it's coming and I'm good. Out of everything I'm just so happy that in a year from now I'll be back to whatever I'm supposed to be."
Orman said when she first started experiencing symptoms, she saw a doctor for her leg, who told her she needed a brace and to strengthen her quadriceps muscles. She also saw a doctor for her hand and was told it might be carpal tunnel syndrome.
"I didn't want anything to be wrong," she said. "I wanted to believe them because I didn't want to think anything was wrong even though I knew it wasn't anything they were saying, which is why it's so important.
"Nothing is more than important than your health. It's almost as if saying don't go to a doctor that tells you what you want to hear, almost go to a doctor that tells you what you don't want to hear."
Orman stressed that all the financial advice in the world won't matter if you don't take care of your health first.
"The only way to conquer fear is through action," she said. "I've been the one that says stand in your truth, don't deny something when it comes to money. Money means nothing if you don't have your health, and the truth of the matter is too many Americans today put off going to the doctor. They don't want to take action, they don't want to know what's going on with them."