Damn. I wish I'd seen this thread sooner. I'm a physical therapist so would like to humbly chime in with my advice.
Regarding the advice that has already been given, I can't comment on the dietary stuff, but regarding physical exercises - DON'T CRACK YOUR NECK!
The neck stretcher might be a good idea, but make sure you do it gently and don't worsen symptoms while doing so. A very good exercise is neck retraction. Here's a video of it:
If doing it when upright is too painful or worsens things, then try doing it lying on your back, with pillow supporting your head and neck (NOT under shoulders), with the head resting in a neutral position (ie. facing the ceiling, in line with trunk, not turned or tilted). You know it is working if the symptoms move away from your arm and back towards the neck. Sometimes the neck pain worsens when you do this, but centralisation (where the symptoms move away from the extremities) is seen to be indicative of lessening of neural irritation.
As for surgery, I'm afraid the doctor is wrong about surgery being very successful. Spinal surgery of any kind is very risky and has maybe a 50% success rate (I don't have a reference for that but it is roughly true). Anyway, a radiculopathy is a self-limiting problem provided the right management plan is followed.
This kind of problem is usually caused or triggered by poor posture and heavy labour. The head forward posture causes increased compression of the lower cervical vertebral discs, and over a long-term period can cause disc prolapse and/or irritation of the neural tissue. Working on stretching out your front (chest and shoulders back) and strengthening your back and core (yoga or pilates) would be helpful in remedying this. Losing some weight would also help, but I'm sure you'll be on top of that with all the advice you've been given already!
Anyway, hope that helps and I wish you a speedy recovery.