Bachelor’s of Science 

This past May I walked across the stage at Texas Tech University and accepted my diploma after five years of intense work, tears, and way too much stress. My undergraduate started in Fall 2010 when I took a few dual-credit classes to prep me for the years ahead. I entered McLennan Community College (MCC) as a full time student in Fall of 2011 after earning my high school diploma (with honors). I continued to live at home and work part time as a waitress and a babysitter. I was inducted to Phi Theta Kappa after my first semester for my grade point average and hard work.

In Fall of 2012, I moved to Austin to attend The University of Texas at Austin. I was accepted into the school of nursing, but switched (due to the anxiety of the competiveness of the program) to a nutrition major. I worked part time as a nanny and completed a few classes, but I grew too depressed to continue on. This was one of the worst times dealing with my depression. I became suicidal and questioned my life therefore, I returned home after the semester and took the following spring semester off to deal with my mental health. I began seeing a psychologist every week and focused on my health and diet (as I put back all the weight I lost and more due to the extreme mental agony).

Summer 2013, I returned to classes online and went back full time to MCC. I lost the weight I had gained previously to get in the best shape of my life. I got my first long-time job as a Client Service Coordinator at Banfield Pet Hospital and my GPA went back up! In May 2014 I earned two associates with honors (AA & AS).
After attending full time in the summer to get all my prerequisites finished up, I transferred to Texas Tech University as a Biology major and a Chemistry minor. I enjoyed my first year full of exciting science classes and excelled academically, but I began having health issues. I had unexplained faintness, rapid heartbeat, and chronic gastrointestinal problems. In September 2014, my heart went into atrial fibrillation and it had to be cardioverted back into rhythm after IV drugs did not work. I also began having intese allergic reactions and anaphylaxis which lead to my diagnosis of Mast Cell Activation Disorder.

Despite suffering from these issues, I was on a great path until summer of 2015. I quit my job because I was discriminated against for having depression and anxiety that did NOT interfere with my job. I was targeted by the head veterinarian (who was pretentious) along with another girl I worked alongside (she was the only black employee and she also was having a tough time). We were both basically treated unfairly and made to quit. I was told if I didn’t quit, I would be placed on leave without pay. We were thinking about getting lawyers involved for discrimination, but as anxiety goes, we both dropped it. This is when I began getting increasingly ill and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I started having brain fog and trouble with words and times (which is maybe why they thought my depression interfered with the job, only it wasn’t my depression at all).


That summer I attended classes full time and worked part time as a veterinarian assistant, but this is when I started having extreme problems (hence the archives start here!). Some of the symptoms I began experiencing was muscle weakness, slurred speech, confusion and brain fog, daily headaches, migraines, loss of balance and coordination, and horrible neck and back pain. The pain was so intense I would lay on the floor crying. I started seeing multiple doctors (even at the emergency clinic). I was told that it must just be a muscle sprain over and over again. As my symptoms progressed, I was let go from my job for fear that I may get hurt. I got several images taken: X-ray, CT scan, and MRI. I was told everything was normal. Luckily I had my dad on my side and we would not give up until I had an answer. I got my hands on the actual MRI report which stated: patient has a herniation of the cerebellar tonsils; something my doctor did not think was important to mention to me. I made an appointment to talk to her and she said that shouldn’t affect me at all because “my flow was good.”

Arnold-Chiari Malformation: “structural defects in the cerebellum. That’s the part of the brain that controls balance.”

She insisted that I just needed a psych referral and basically disregarded my physical concerns, needless to say I fired her. I fought hard for a consult with a “Chiari Expert.” My dad actually found a doctor in Houston that specialized in neurology and did posterior fossa decompressions as part of treating Chiari symptoms. I made an appointment with him and had severe issues having my insurance cover it. My dad offered to pay out of pocket for one appointment; we arrived, cash in hand, only to be told that was incorrect and they didn’t take payment from the patient (only insurance companies). My dad begged for them to see me, seeing how badly my symptoms were progressing, but we were turned away. He didn’t stop until he talked to the insurance representatives and they agreed to cover an appointment.

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I finally met Dr. Parish in November and he immediately diagnosed me with Chiari Malformation. My hands and feet were numb due to the lack of proper flow of the spinal fluid cord and he assured me that he could successfully complete the operation with a good chance of aiding or resolving some symptoms. On December 9th, 2015, I under went brain surgery to correct my defect. I had a leg graft taken to be placed in the back of my skull to allow more room for the cerebellar spinal fluid (CSF) to flow. This was an extremely hard time for me as I finished my semester only days before having to be operated on. That semester was truly a grueling one; I had to battle ongoing symptoms of the defect while having to focus on school. The brain fog was immense and it was hard for me to concentrate and memorize. This was the start of working harder than everyone to maintain my grades. In addition to all of this, my grandmother passed away in November only a couple weeks before my operation, but I made it through.

I tried to use my winter break to recover. I signed up for Spring classes foolishly. I was so eager to stay on the path to graduation which was planned for December 2016. After making it all the way through April, it became too much for me to deal with. I wasn’t used to studying after the operation, which is thought to be a Traumatic Brain Injury because of the invasiveness and the aftermath. I couldn’t cope with my confusion. Although my numbness and slurred speech improved, I had much difficult thinking of the right words, staying on a schedule, and had a horrible memory. The pain, which I thought had been resolved (probably masked by the incision pain?), reappeared in March. I made the choice to medically withdraw. My anxiety was incredibly high because I had never had such problems with school as I did that semester.

That summer I had so many life changes. My previous relationship ended and I met Caleb. I questioned my ability to go through another year of school, but I pushed forward. I ran into financial issues as I had to find out the hard way that financial aid is hard. I returned to school in August 2016, determined that it would be my last fall semester. I changed my minor from chemistry to health professions because I would have had to stay an extra semester for one class and I had had enough! I somehow made it through a grueling semester in which I moved and made some serious changes.

January 2017 I started my last semester at Texas Tech, extremely terrified at the course load. I’ll admit that I’m terrible at chemistry and had to buckle down to pass. I somehow managed to make it through despite facing some discrimination along the way (short story: my chemistry teacher blew up on me for forgetting how to set up and apparatus). The months were the slowest of my life. They dragged on and on and I counted the days I had left. I finished my last final on May 12th; that feeling of waking up the day after and coming to the realization I don’t have to endure this repetitive cycle of driving 72 miles back and forth to school and constantly stressing over attendance (that’s what chronic illness does) and proficiency (grades!) is over… it’s liberating, the best feeling in the world! I can’t believe I did it. Over 5 years of hard work with so many challenges and setbacks. I’ve done it! I drove to Lubbock alongside my mom, Caleb, and Dianne to accept my Bachelor’s of Science on May 19th!

So what now? Where will my life take me? I’ve spent this past month applying for jobs left and right, in hope that the perfect one will arise and be interested in my education and experience. I’ve been looking at administration jobs because I know with my chronic pain and conditions, a standing job isn’t ideal. I’ve been working hard this month: exercising, eating healthy, and attending appointments (neurology, allergy, and my PCM to manage my care). I ended up in the ER late May after some terrifying symptoms (numb and blue limbs, confusion/brain fog [worse than usual], feeling faint, & low blood pressure) occurred. It was concluded that I had complex migraine (how can this turn your limbs blue with the blood pooling?) and I got a referral for neurology to see why I am having chronic migraines and neurological issues. The ER doctor said that he saw an old lesion on my cerebellum, which makes me wonder if it is a result of the decompression or something completely different. I fainted a couple weeks later and experienced rapid heart beat upon standing, so a referral to cardiology was put in as well. Praying that I can get these symptoms under control!

Managing my health and upcoming career is stressful to think about, not to mention my endless wedding planning for our upcoming October “I dos.” I often think about my future life and what it will turn out to be. I’ve always wanted to be a mother, but I never thought chronic illness would affect me so much. I just need a steady career and some more answers and/or treatments to manage my defect and diseases. Right now I’m battling my thyroid disease as my medication needs to be adjusted (my synthyroid dose is too low). I just found this out on Friday after my biopsy consult. My doctor that had ordered this test had my results and said nothing (why you have to investigate yourself!). No wonder I’ve been feeling so sluggish, run down, and hungry. Despite working out and eating healthy, I’m not losing any weight! So many times I haven’t been informed of my test results, which is why now I will request a copy!

Here’s to my crazy life ahead (post-undergraduate)! Let’s see where life leads me! Congratulations to the Class of 2017!

Xo,

Cass

Let’s Talk

Gemma Correll has inspired me to talk about something that is a heavy topic for most people: mental health (how amazing are these images she drew up for Mental Health America?). Just this morning I had a panic attack which includes an endless cycle of “I have so much to do” and “why even bother, nothing I do is good enough.” I often have these all-or-nothing thoughts and it’s extremely difficult to break this repeating cycle. In planning my upcoming wedding, I have been overwhelmed with self-loathing thoughts: “no one will want to come” and “no one cares enough about me to be by my side,” but the truth is I do have wonderful people on my side. It may not be one-hundred, fifty, or even twenty people there to support me, but the people who are there, are the ones I WANT there. Those who love me unconditionally and understand my struggle with physical and mental illness and YET (yes, yet) still WANT to be involved in my crazy life; Those who are in my court through not only my ups, but my overwhelming lows.

I have struggled with major depressive disorder, anxiety, social phobia, and PTSD for years now and so many times I have felt ashamed, that I must hide these mental illnesses from society. [I think that] They will judge me, thinking “that girl is crazy”, “I don’t want to be around her”, or “she may snap at any moment”. The fact is: loads of people suffer with these issues of feeling inadequate at what they do. We are told not to express these emotions because we will appear weak and vulnerable, but holding on to them is what makes us weak and vulnerable in the first place!

I will honestly say that my anxiety is becoming unmanageable. I have tried so many different medications in order to feel more relaxed, but the ones that work are too sedative and/or they don’t last long enough; because of this, it is time for me to go to the next measure: a service dog. It was suggested to me in 2015 that I should obtain a dog for support (whether it be a service dog or a ESA) by my psychologist; I have always responded well to animals and grew up with a full house of five main animals (and some of them had various litters!). My pets have always gotten me through the struggles through the years: I grew up in not so favorable situations. I was abused as a child and the victim of severe bullying (this went on for over six years). I often spent my days hiding inside when I wasn’t forced (I begged to be homeschooled) to go to a school (and take the bus which was just as horrible if not worse) where I was constantly harassed. My only safe place was in the comfort of my own bedroom with my furry friends and dolls; even then I was tormented by my older brother and cyber stalked (even after I moved away from the hell of Newport, North Carolina) by the same cruel people I went to school with. These cruel girls thought it would be so “cool” for them to go to my social media platforms and save my photos so that they could go back and forth on Photobucket saying how ugly I was and that I was just a fat poser. I never understood the cruelty I received. I was brought up in a Christian household and taught to treat people like you want to be treated. I truly believe I have upheld this moral and proceeded through life with honest and compassionate intentions. I never bullied anyone, not even those who bullied me. I put my faith that God would lead me to a successful life, rich in love, which I have now obtained.

I got Mavis in March of 2016. After years of wanting a pug and a dog of my own, I finally received the gift of a lifetime in the form of this spunky, curly-tailed girl. I began training her at 3 months as a service dog, but with the stress of finishing my last semester and my first hard break-up, I took a [much too long] hiatus from the weekly training. Now that I somehow managed to graduate from Texas Tech and my heart is mended and found love, I am ready to get back on track! I want to use Service Dog Express to train Mave and get her into tip-top shape for her aiding in my life and the public access test (the test Service Dogs must pass before being deemed certified). I know anxiety will continue to play a big role in my life (although I wish it wouldn’t) and I’m tired of being afraid to go into public alone. I truly believe that I may have a shot of living a healthier life with her by my side. If you would like to get involved with our campaign, YouCaring is donating $500 to a fundraiser: It’s completely free, quick, and easy to do:

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Here is an example done by the wonderful Caleb (aka my fiancé) and my darling girl, Mave. This took five minutes to draw and take, so it’s super easy and affective. #SignedwithLove & @youcaring is all you need to include on your post! The opportunity to help will pass soon as it ends on JUNE 14TH.

or if pictures aren’t your style…

You can purchase one of the many cute clothing options available featuring “Mave Saves” on our Bonfire. The sales remain until JUNE 29TH.

Don’t want a hoodie or tee?…

The last option is to make a donation! You can do this through our Youcaring with a no end date or through our Paypal!

Here is our links: YouCaring, Bonfire, Paypal, & Facebook Page.

• • • • •

Struggling getting through the day? Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you need someone to talk to. We’re here for you, 24/7. 💚📲

Never give up ladies and gentlemen.

You are so much more than your illnesses and we need to fight together to end the stigma!

xo,

Cass & Mave

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Dog Vlog

Hello lovely followers and new readers! As most of you know I have two lovely little pug princesses that are a big part of my crazy life. I’ve been trying to keep my youtube channel somewhat updated with their troublesome adventures, therefore below, I have included two videos from the past month!

The first one is a look into the first week I brought Eleven “home” to Grandma’s house to get acquainted with Mavis and myself. This time happened to fall while Caleb was off in California for training, so it was an all girls adventure in bringing this tiny soul into our lives. Mavis and Eleven have been best friends ever since meeting and they constantly play back and forth.

The second little clip is from Mae’s first time “home alone,” while Caleb and I took a couple of hours to do errands. What a sad little girl she was. While Eleven was confined to her crate, Mavis took her “freedom” aimlessly roaming around in a confused state of solidarity.

I hope you enjoy the videos above and if you would like to subscribe to our youtube channel, we would love that (unfortunately we can’t even name our channel until we have 100 followers! Okay youtube this is one of the most stupid official rules!)!

xo,

Cass, Mav, & Ele

WIMB?

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I was so excited to receive my box on Monday night full of wonderful spoon approved goods! As promised I made this cute little display to show off what’s in my Be Kind To One Another Box from Cass! This box of gifts made its way all the way from Australia and includes:

I have tried a few products already including the mineral blush, Brazilian Beauty body lotion, Argan Oil, lip balm, and Face Cream and all of it is so wonderful. I felt like I million bucks last night pampering in my goodies. I can’t wait to try out the rest and I am so grateful for being nominated and chosen for one of these amazing boxes.

I have a picture in the side bar that links right to Cass’s Youcaring page for donations if you are interested.

xo,

Cass

February.

In honor of my birth month and Valentine’s Day, I decided to participate in some self love and treat myself. First and foremost, Eleven will be coming home at the end of the month and I am so excited to have her in our lives! Mavis will have so much fun being a big sister and having a playmate. We got to visit our little pipsqueak last weekend and instantly fell head over! She is one of nine puppies and the runt of the litter. We’ve already gotten her crate, food, puppy pads, a collar, and some toys! She’ll be using some of Mavis’s hand-me-downs, but I don’t think she’ll mind!

In addition to my puglet, I finally caved in and got my septum pierced today! It wasn’t bad at all, but then again I had nine piercings before adding this one to the mix, so I might not be the best judgement of pain. The jewelry that the piercer used is huge, so I am looking forward to downsizing in the form of this gorgeous jewelry from Etsy! I had been wanting this one for a long time, but always “chickened out” because of what others would think. I really like it and I think that it adds a bit of feminine edge, when done right, to your look!

I wanted to get a few pieces to add to my wardrobe in addition to my septum scheptum. I got a pair of joggers in black because being comfy is key to life. If I can look decent while wearing pajama-like clothes, I’ll have a good day ahead. Urban Outfitters happened to have quite a few different lounge pants on sale, so I snagged some in my favorite color that says maybe I can still be fashionable while managing to balance my inner slob.

I also loved this roll bag that features vegan leather. I had taken a long purse hiatus, but girls need their stuff you know? I might just have to do a “what’s in my bag” post to celebrate my responsible purse-wearing self. We’ll have to see!

I got these cute no-show socks because wearing vans slip-ons with regular socks looks hilariously like a rendition on the old man with high socks and Birkenstocks look, which is not my thing.

 

Ultimately a great little haul. I’ve decide to splurge one more time, but this is more of a joint gift from my love and myself in the form of microbladed eyebrows!! I have been teased about my eyebrows since I was child. I have naturally very thin eyebrows which had lead people to think I over tweeze (never have I!). My brother used to call me browless growing up and I have been secretly obsessing over Little Linda‘s amazing brow work. I have a half sleeve (which I’m going to continue on, slowly-but-surely) and a few here-and-there tattoos, so I’m not really to scared about the process. I trust Linda and I am so excited to get my dream brows (especially in time for my wedding!)!

Remember to treat yourself every now and then! You deserve it after all!

xo

Cass & Mav

Pugs, Pugs, Pugs

Yesterday Mavis celebrated her first birthday! I can’t believe my baby is growing up so fast. She has been a true blessing in my life and a huge help to my mental health. Mavis is my emotional support animal, so her and I have a special connection and she is allowed to travel with me to help manage my anxiety and depression. To help celebrate her special day, Caleb and I gifted her a giant “Lambchop” stuffed lamb because when I first got her, I gifted her a mini one and it became her favorite toy to play with. We were so busy yesterday with cake tasting and meeting with our photographer that we didn’t even get to do much, plus I had a bad pain day which left me bed ridden for the rest of the evening, but today we are planning on bringing her to PetsMart and Hobby Lobby. That way she can get a pup-pie and a special treat, plus we have some wedding DIYs supplies to buy! She is my little best friend and I am so happy she’s in my life.

In addition to celebrating Mavis’s birthday in the form of her favorite plush, we also got her a little sister! Meet Eleven, our newest family member! She is two weeks and next weekend we get to visit her. We decided on the name Eleven Mauvé for our gorgeous black baby; Eleven is from one of our favorite series, Stranger Things, and the name Mauvé (pronounced Mauve-aye) was a name I made up when I was around the age of ten and always said that would be the name of my future pug!

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We are so excited to start this new chapter in our life and for Mavis to have a playmate. She’s been down in the dumps, as have I, since losing our beloved kitty, Oliver. Mavis used to play with him all the time [there’s a cute clip in the video I made showing this], so she’s been lonely. We wanted her to have a playmate that she could really get along with and pugs can’t really hurt each other because of their short muzzles. Pugs are my absolute favorite and I am so excited to get our baby home in a month or so. Proud pug addict and momma!

XO,

Cass & Mav

October 7th

These are the beautiful trees we will marry under (Mint Photography)

We have been so busy with wedding planning since the new year and are so incredibly excited and overjoyed to tie the knot in front of our friends and family. Our official date is on a wonderful fall Saturday; October 7th holds special meaning for us, so the date couldn’t be more perfect! After some decision crunching we decided to pick a beautiful Spanish-styled mansion in Belton, Texas as our venue. It’s thirty minutes from our home and a great central location for my side of the family. Caleb and I toured the property two weeks back and immediately knew we wanted it for one of our most important days of our lives. La Rio Mansion is so gorgeous and had all the amenities we were looking for! Absolutely breathtaking scenery is included with some ingenius sleeping plans for the wedding weekend!

(Rachel Whyte Photography)

Getting the date and venue secured are major relieves as those are two of the biggest choices picked by brides and grooms, but we did not stop there and kept moving on forward our path to Robinson. In addition to our gorgeous venue, we have a photographer, florist, and wedding cake baker! We are narrowing in so many details that it’s getting more and more real. Our theme is a bohemian / greenery theme that will included dreamcatchers by the most amazing Genga from Spokewoven! I’m so overly excited, I can’t even begin to explain what this date will mean to both of us.

Below I’ve included some of my favorite pins of our wedding ideas we have in mind! To view more of my pins, check out my wedding board!

(weddingsonline)
ElegantWeddingInvites
Tulle & Chantilly
guide.weddingchicks.com

That’s all for now! So excited (sarcasm) to start my last semester on Monday.

XO,

Cass & Mav