Saturday, July 7, 2007
Back at the beginning...
Those of you that know me know that I never like to settle for being "average" or "normal". Since birth, I was coached and taught to be the best at everything that I did. The result? 4.0 GPA in high school, 3.0 in college (graduating in 4 years while working full time the entire time). I got engaged within months of graduating college, married the following year, we bought our first house within 6 months of marriage and our second home 2 years after that. I'd say that classifies me as an overachiever with a slight case of OCD.
Unfortunately, I also overachieve on the medical side of things. Before I was born, my mom and dad were told that I'd have water on the brain. I was so scrunched up into my mom's ribcage that I had a rib mark in my head when I was born via c-section. The doctors at Children's Hospital in LA checked me out and dubbed me "normal". I wish they'd have been right.
All was "normal" until the summer after I turned 10. I developed appendicitis but no one seemed to know what was wrong with me. By the time the doctors figured it out, it had ruptured and gangrene had begun to set in. In a nutshell, I almost died, and when I finally pulled through and was being released from the hospital, the surgeon actually said to me "you didn't say that it hurt as bad as it did". I was 10. I apparently have a high tolerance for pain. The surgeon is lucky I didn't punch him.
In junior high everyone gets screened for scoliosis in PE. I (of course) got one of the little letters to my mom recommending that I go to a physician for further screening and diagnosis. I had x-rays. My curvature was borderline...meaning I was just off the hook for requiring a brace or further treatment.
About that time, puberty hit and I began getting headaches/migraines, morning nausea and nosebleeds. My mom gets migraines so that much seemed to be explained. No one ever figured out the nausea. And the nosebleeds were infrequent enough that it was difficult to find any correlation. I spent a lot of time laying down and reading - it was just more comfortable. Occasionally when I would get up off of the couch, I'd experience dizziness or vertigo and sometimes a ringing in my ears. I was really skinny and ate like crazy. My menstrual cycle was irregular - ranging from 5-8 weeks in between periods or more. Severe cramping and heavy bleeding, often accompanied by headaches/migraines.
In high school, it was more of the same. I was more active (Colorguard and Dance) and would have difficulty finding my balance in pirouettes. I was never a great dancer, but I got by. My sophomore year, I was practicing for a parade and slipped coming out of a turn and partially tore my ACL. I had an MRI on my knee, but nothing further.
College - morning nausea subsided somewhat (that or I learned to manage it better). Headaches/migraines worsened when I began taking Ortho-Tricyclen. Nosebleeds continued periodically. Typically my nose would bleed, then I'd have a second nosebleed within 24-48 hours, then I wouldn't have another for 2-3 months. I developed a fear of heights working in retail and climbing ladders. In retrospect it may stem from the fear of falling as I've lost my balance on a ladder enough times to have been scared. I began gaining weight - I attribute the gain to working and going to school full time and pretty much living on fast food. I got promoted to a desk job and gained even more weight. Sitting for most of the day caused my back to hurt - which I attributed to scoliosis. I saw a doctor for neck and shoulder pain and he said that it was stress related. I suggested that perhaps it was related to my chest size (I was roughly 5'6" 140 lbs and a 36D). He said that it was most likely stress. Feeling like it was all in my head, I went on with my life.
To summarize the symptoms through college:
-headaches/migraines (those that make my head feel like it is going to explode - my entire head hurts but the primary pain spot is in my forehead behind my left eye. The only relief is to take 600mg+ of ibuprofen and sleep it off - usually by burying my head in a pillow).
-high tolerance of pain
-signs of neurological/spinal problems at birth
-dizziness/vertigo/ringing in ears
-irregular menstrual cycles when not on medication
This is just my story of my experience with Chiari. Until I was diagnosed, I'd never heard of it, and I just want more people to be aware of it. I'm not a doctor, so don't quote me on any of this stuff - k? If you are looking for information about Chiari Malformation, a lot of the more informative posts are the older ones.