EDS Awareness Month

ūü¶ď I am joining the EDS Awareness Month Challenge – May 2020.


Day 01: Meet Me! – I am Cass! I‚Äôm 27 years young, a mama to an 1.5 year old son, Griffin, and a wife (& best friend) to @calebrobnson. I live in Austin, Texas and work in a laboratory as a clinical research assistant and have spent the past month working with microbes to test the efficacy of preservatives in cosmetic products. I graduated in 2017 from Texas Tech with a degree in biology. (Wreck‚Äô Em). My favorite past time is Netflix and Paint. I love doing custom work to create artwork for nurseries. I am a pug and sphynx mama and my fur (& furless) children bring me so much joy. My husband and I go hard at Modern Warfare (gamer tag: motherpuggy) – we play on the weekends and evening when I have energy. My favorite things besides my babies, are Diet Coke, pad thai, sour candy, burritos, tiny houses, modern interior design, tattoos, Harry Potter (and all other geeky series) and scary movies. I have Ehler‚Äôs Danlos Syndrome along with comorbidities of Chiari Malformation (brain surgery in 2015), Mast Cell Activation Disorder, and Undiagnosed GI & autonomic issues. I live with chronic debilitating pain in my neck, back, and knees and suffer from frequent dislocations. Despite my conditions and prognosis, I still have a fighting spirit and aim at being the best mom I can be. ūüíĄ


Some fun facts about me: I’ve lost about one-hundred pounds since 2013, my husband and I met and got married within two months of knowing each other, & I grew up as a military brat and lived in several different places including Cuba!

Diagnosis Pt. II

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Conquer Chiari Walk Across America

If you haven‚Äôt seen Netflix‚Äôs Diagnosis by now, you‚Äôre definitely missing out! My husband and I started watching it a few months back and we instantly were hooked. For years I have been classified as a medical mystery. So many different doctors told me: “it is in your head” or “it’s just a muscle sprain” and the occasionally “I honestly don’t know what we’re looking at.” I had shingles at seven (rare at that age) which confused a lot of medical personnel, but this was nothing that was to come.

Throughout my childhood I was seemingly healthy. I had chronic nosebleeds most summers, my ankles rolled so many times I lost feeling in them, and my knee caps started dislocating around the age of 12, but other than those issues I was pretty healthy. I had my tonsils and adenoids removed around the age of eight for chronic inflammation and I had ear tubes put in as a baby because of ear infections. Other than being overweight I looked and acted like a normal child.

Dislocations

It started with my ankles. From the time I could first remember I often rolled and twisted my ankles. I had such instability in my ankles that my ankle became numb from how many time I rolled them. Then fast forward to 2003. I did gymnastics and was always super flexible. I was at a K-Mart reaching up for an Easter Basket when I experienced my first knee dislocation. I’ve never experience such pain in my life. Unfortunately many more dislocations in both my knees and hips would follow.

Raynaud’s

Around sixteen my hands and feet started turning blue especially in cold environments or stressful situations. I went to the ER once for ‚Äúdiabetic‚ÄĚ like symptoms in my feet (they were blue and numb) and was discharged with a migraine. My primary care physician (PCP) diagnosed me with Raynaud’s Syndrome and I was told to try to limit my extremities to cold temperatures. I bought some special gloves for when the temperature dropped, but we went forward not knowing this was a clue to the puzzle.

Idiopathic Anaphylaxis 

Around the age of twenty-two, I started having major issues. It began with an allergy problem. I would have anaphylactic reactions out of now where and to foods I have had multiple times with no problems. I lived in fear as I was terrified that whatever I ate could cause my throat to close. I had one emergency room visit where they administered epinephrine and one allergy clinic emergency where they administered it as well.

I had extensive allergy testing done and thought I had something called mass cell activation disorder. Based upon a blood study the allergy specialist said that I have higher amount of basal cells or the cells that cause a reaction to allergen. I kept Benadryl and my epi-pen on me at all times. Despite testing several allergens, no food could be pin pointed as a trigger and I was thought to be allergic to some unknown spices. 

Fast forward a few more years I had a skin and bone marrow biopsy done after I went to see a dermatologist for urticaria and allergic reactions. My skin basically overreacts to stimuli. I was diagnosed with idiopathic anaphylaxis. My bone marrow biopsy came back normal, so they ruled mastocytosis out, yet I am still having allergic reactions. I was told by one doctor that I have irritable bowel syndrome and maybe that was causing these reactions, but since becoming pregnant in January 2018, I have gone into a bit of remission.

Gastrointestinal 

I started having gastro problems in 2014 (around 22 years of age). I had chronic diarrhea and a lot of nausea with vomiting. I lost a lot of weight unintentionally because I was so sick that summer. I had a colonoscopy done and all that was reported was inflammation. I am picky about what I eat because I am afraid of the outcome. I started cutting out heavy sugars, fats, and spicy foods. I later went on to have such bad abdominal cramping that it caused me to almost faint. I had my gallbladder taken out at seventeen from rapid weight loss and from cutting out fats from my diet that caused gallstones, so I knew it wasn’t a gallbladder issue. My PCP prescribed dicyclomine for stomach cramping and diagnosed me with what he though was irritable bowel syndrome. Another doctor I saw said he thought I had diverticulitis because of the extreme pain I was in. I remember driving to the hospital and then changing my mind and pulling over to ride the pain.

Atrial Fibrillation 

While I was ongoing my allergy and gastrointestinal issues in fall of 2014, I stood up and immediately felt faint. I went to the bathroom and I looked white as a sheet. I felt clammy and my heart felt like it was palpitating out of control.

I had previous ‚Äúattacks‚ÄĚ where my heart would beat so fast for no reason. I went to the hospital once when I was sixteen for it and they ruled it as an anxiety attack, although I disagreed at the time. I know anxiety and I was watching a movie in a hotel room complete relaxed at the time.

I felt beyond sick. I collapsed to the ground and told my boyfriend at the time I needed to go the emergency room. I felt like I might die. I began feeling nauseated and I knew it was serious. Upon arriving I told them I was having chest problems. I thought maybe it was a heart attack. I was already crying because I could feel my heart. It pounded. It felt like it would explode. They did an EKG right away and called the cardiologist on call. They said it was atrial fibrillation. The doctor had never seen someone my age with it. They tried administering drugs to get my heart back in rhythm but to no avail. I consulted with my dad (a nurse) and we agreed I had to be cardioverted back. Basically my heart need to be shocked. They put me to sleep with an anesthetic and I woke up not long after with a pain in my chest but a normal heartbeat.

I had a couple more episodes after this one but no where as severe. I was tested for POTS because of the problems I had feeling faint upon standing and I had almost passed out several time while using the toilet.  Despite matching on a lot of the symptoms the test came back negative.

Muscle Pain & Weakness

This has been the most persistent symptom of them all. I have pain every day in my back and neck. I thought when I had my operation (posterior fossa decompression) that I would be better, but it’s much worse. It started in the summer of 2015. My neck and back would put me in tears it hurt so bad. My PCP at the time told me it was a muscle sprain. I tried muscle relaxers to no improvement. Doctor after doctor told me the same thing. Must be a sprain. I finally received a MRI and my doctor failed to mention that the results stated I had a cerebellar tonsil herniation. She told me that it shouldn’t affect me and basically it’s all in my head, so I fired her immediately and went to a neurosurgeon that specialized in Chiari Malformation (after doing extensive research about what cerebellar tonsil herniation meant). Combined with the other symptoms I will further talk about in this post, with the herniated tonsils was too much to “be in my head.” I continue to have major cervical instability pain that makes everyday a challenge for me, but I have great days and I have bad days and keep progressing to hopefully a manageable pain future.

Memory Loss

In that summer of 2015 I began having severe short term memory loss. I used to have such an amazing memory and was quick to recall facts, names, etc., but now I was constantly arguing with my boyfriend at the time about things I didn’t remember. Where did I put my keys? Did I take my medicine? I couldn’t remember doing the most basic of tasks. It was terrifying. How would you feel if you couldn’t remember a good portion of your actions? I started having panic attacks because of what was happening.

Slurred Speech & Aphasia 

In addition to the memory issues, my speech began to slur. I wasn’t even aware of the issue until I called my dad and he asked if I was intoxicated. I began to have difficulty speaking my thoughts. A sort of aphasia, I guess you could call it. I often confused words or had a difficult struggle in getting out my thoughts. Going from a scholar to this was extremely defeating. I was in what was supposed to be my senior year of college when this hit. It took a toll on my grades and my self-esteem. I was terrified. As we were formulating ideas (before the Chiari results of the MRI), we were thinking possible brain tumor. Was this the beginning of the end for me? I began to mourn the person I once was. I went from running 5Ks for fun to being a lifeless shell of my former self.

Migraines

The migraine were extreme. I’m talking full on nausea, ocular issues, light sensitivity. I basically lied in a dark room praying for it to end. I couldn’t open my eyes. The pain shot throughout my head and felt as if it were going to explode. I began to see a neurologist. I tried several anti-migraine medications: zomig, amitriptyline, rizatriptan, and others. The migraine were almost daily. I would have to miss class and basically laid there in agony. Too sick to eat, in too much pain to move. I currently am going through a remission of this symptom ever since getting pregnant with my son. It’s been a miracle from suffering so frequently to having them so rarely and I hope it’s something that will continue this trend.

Balance

My balance was beginning to become terrifying. I would suddenly feel as if I would fall over when walking normally. I was on high alert as I was afraid I may fall at any moment. It got to be so bad I’d use a walker to make sure I didn’t fall right before my surgery. I felt like this was an all time low in my health. Here I was. I was supposed to be a healthy, happy twenty-three-year-old and I was using a walker to get to my college classes. I was humiliated, but more so terrified for what was to come.

Nystagmus

Another symptom that appeared mysteriously was found at my eye exam. I ended up having vertical nystagmus that had previously not been seen. I later found out that it was a symptom of Chiari Malformation that had not been caught before. It was very slight, but sure enough my eyes made uncontrolled repetitive movements up and down. Nystagmus can indicate central nervous disease, so I was on high alert after I was told I had it.

With all of these symptoms coming in different waves, I knew it was time. I¬†needed answers. I am tired; tired of the doctors juggling different diagnoses and medicines back and forth. It’s physically and mentally exhausting having to explain myself over and over and people not understanding half of what I go through; Not understanding why I can’t make it to their event and why it’s hard for me to confirm plans and how hard it is for me to put on a mask, pretending everything is okay. I’m tired of answering “I’m fine” or “I’m okay” because explaining that my chronic illness is eating away at me everyday is too long and difficult to mention. I’m tired guys.

I decided to email the doctor from Diagnosis and she led me to the online Facebook support group that aims at trying to diagnose you. And… I got my answer. All this time of not knowing and I‚Äôm fairly certain it‚Äôs correct and I mean that I am 90% certain. Ehler‚Äôs Danlos Syndrome (EDS) with Mast Cell Activation Disorder and Chiari Malformation, both side conditions of EDS. In the past I thought I might have this, but I was told there was no test for it and that is incorrect. I have all of the matching identifiers of this connective tissue disorder.

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I couldn’t believe it. I had heard about EDS being in the spoonie community, but I had never really pinpointed it as the cause of my many issues. I took the Beighton Scale Test and I am a 8/9! ¬†I am making an appointment soon with a geneticist to have a blood test done and to determine what the odds would be of carrying on my Hypermobile EDS on to my son and future children. I can’t help, but feel comforted that I have a label now. Maybe the doctors will finally take my pain seriously with this diagnosis.

My future is uncertain, but I strive to be one thing: happy.

Here’s to 2020; the year of knowing.

Happy New Year.

xoxo, Cass

pain.

I have a hard time explaining to people that I will not get better. This is only going to get progressively worse, if anything, and I am in pain everyday. Most of the students I go to school with only worry about making it to Friday, so they can party on the weekend. They¬†complain about having to study, while here I am not sure if I am going to make it through class because the pain is too bad. I write this from my couch, heat pad on high on my back, neck brace on with my¬†Real Time Pain¬†Relief¬†MAXX¬†ointment lathered on my neck and back praying that this pain will pass quickly. I am on methocarbamol, a muscle relaxer, and am trying my best to only take one tramadol a day. I have lidocaine patches that I wear 12 hours on (although they don’t ever stay on that long!), 12 hours off on my lower back. I take tylenol and advil daily in addition to these other medications to try to alleviate anything. The pain is the worse thing having to deal with, but I also have weekly allergic reactions. Last Wednesday I had a horrible reaction that left me wheezing, covered in red splotches, and horrible gastrointestinal¬†discomfort. I try my best to push forward and to see the best, which I have so much to be thankful for, but sometimes it’s hard to stay focused. I also suffer with depression and anxiety. The brain’s way of processing pain is similar to depression, so it definitely can have an impact on my mental health. I have had to take a year off in total from college to deal with this and it’s something I’ll have to fight everyday for the rest of my life. I am so incredibly blessed to have a partner willing to stick it out with me and be not only my best friend and husband, but my caretaker too for days that I can’t get by or nights that I come home with tears.

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I want to create a safe place for people suffering, not only with chronic illnesses, but with mental health as well. We are in this together. Please feel free to comment if you need help or want to discuss your challenges.

Xo,

Cass

Chiari Malformation Month (September)

Hey guys!

So this is delayed because I had a difficult time working iMovie, youtube, and all the ins and outs of the technological platform, but I finally finished my Chiari Malformation Awareness video for September (Chiari Malformation Awareness Month)! In this video I discuss how I came about my diagnosis and the challenges I continue to face living with this invisible illness. If you have any questions, please do NOT hesitate to ask!

XO,

Cass

Vida

¬†Rollercoaster. That’s what my life has become. So many ups and downs. I had an amazing trip to Galveston. I stayed with my best friend, Dianne for a glorious week by the beach! The water was amazing and the weather, so pleasant! I took Mavis along with me and she got to enjoy her very first beach list and could not get enough. She officially loves sand: eating it, tossing it, and covering her bitty body with it! She also is a professional seashell collector and bird chaser. Galveston is such a dog friendly area and I was imagining my future along the coast with my curly-tailed babe. I collected so many sea shells and enjoyed hours at a time on the shore.

Along with the much needed and wonderful getaway, I started talking to a certain someone. At first it was friendly hellos and cute little questionnaires. What started as an interesting chat became so much more. I have found my soulmate. I know this seems sudden and completely out of the blue, but I think when you know, you know and well, I know, at least I’m fairly certain. This man treats me so incredibly and accepts me for all that I am. I’m not an easy package and I know this. How do I say, “Hey, I have a chronic illness and bunch of issues, and I’m sorry, but this is who I am”, and expect another to¬†say “okay, I want¬†you regardless.” Not an easy task to take on¬†and it makes opening up hard, but I did and to my surprise, I was accepted. Chivalry is not dead, I know this to be true now. Caleb treats me with the upmost respect and I feel at peace around him. I think we just connected right away and we have so much in common. I think all my praying and hoping has finally paid off. I’m passionate about our relationship.¬†I think it’s easy to say that this is the one for me. C is already my best friend and I’m not one that easily trusts others, but yet, it’s so natural for me to trust him.

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With joy comes pain. My pain has been unbearable lately. The past three days I have basically been bed ridden with severe¬†back pain, debating whether or not to make he emergency room trip. I constantly worry that this is what my life will become: Days at a time suffering. Tomorrow I have a pain clinic appointment to hopefully get this under control. I also got news that I cannot be genetically tested through my health network because they don’t do that type of testing. I basically have to research on my own to get my diagnoses, but I just don’t have the energy or time right now and it’s just a label, isn’t it? If this pain doesn’t subside, I don’t know what I’ll do. I need tomorrow to come so I can see if this pain relief will come.

In other bad news, my finances are quickly diminishing. My parents are divorcing and so their finances are suffering too. I don’t have enough money for classes or even enough to live on hardly. I’m so stressed. I don’t know if I will be able to graduate this May after all, if I don’t have enough money for it. I wish I could change so many things, so many stupid decisions. I have blown through my money. I’m the typical dumb young person. I thought I was ahead by having a savings account, but¬†that can only go so far. I finally was able to make a payment while awaiting my loan to go through, thanks to my dad

One last thing! I’m hosting a fundraiser to help support my living and medical bills. Bravelets¬†are wonderful little bracelets in all different styles that say ‘brave’ to support a cause. They come in a number of different colors, but the featured are some of my favorites: glacier blue, pink, and silver. I hope you love them as much as I do!

Xo,

Cass & Mav

Originality

Some of my past readers may have noticed that I “revamped” my blog and change a few thing around, but that doesn’t change the fact that this my personal blog and I use it to talk about my struggles with severe depression and anxiety, my Chiari Malformation diagnosis. I think most people are terrified that they are alone and so if this can give my readers a sense of unification or understanding, then my job is done.

So many things have occurred since I last chimed in. First of all, I have a “new” position at the same job as a dog bather. I basically wash and deshed (which is a number of hair removing techniques), ¬†brush teeth, clean ears, brush out, remove mats, and give pawdicures to lovely (mostly, although some are plain assholes) little and HUGE doggies. I like this position better because I don’t have to put as much stress on my neck and back as I did as a playroom attendant. I also feel like my job does have purpose. I got to make an adoptee Dalmatian mix all pretty in hopes of getting adopted and a freshly adopted Chow mix a deshed and brush after being severely neglected. My shift hours are also amazing for my chronic pain. I work 10 am – 3:30/4pm, which gives me enough time to sleep in and prepare myself for the shift and also allows me to have time to relax and unwind when I get home. I usually come home and lay on my heat pad for a couple hours. I work Monday-Friday, which is great, as well, because I get the weekend off to spend with my mom, but also having a schedule is good for my depression and anxiety.

I have slacked off a bit in Mav’s training, but we have come LEAPS and BOUNDS since my last post. I had a severe major depression episode and was completely upset after having some really hard personal news hit. I was shaking and wishing that I was not here. I finally let Mavis out and she immediately came over and laid on my upper arm by my face and just stayed still. I didn’t teach this to her at all, but she knew that her mom needed her help. She did so amazing and I felt like all my training had been justified. I also took her with me to a psychologist appointment and she did wonderful! She remembered her blanket commands and sat on her blanket and ignored the door opening! She had little slip ups in the hour long appointment: barking at a plant, falling asleep, and being a little restless. She tooted and snored in the room and my therapist couldn’t help but laugh.

I’ve been trying to cope recently with my chronic pain and anxiety. Today was very difficult in terms of pain. The back of my head had a weird pressure feeling right where my cerebral tonsils are (where my surgical incision is). I also had bad neck and back pain and weird muscle cramping. I thought about asking to go home early, but stuck it out. I got home and used my heat pad for about two hours straight. Tomorrow I am heading to Lubbock for my cousin’s wedding and will be taking my best little pug with me. She won’t be going to the actual wedding because she isn’t that ready to be in public. I get very anxious around event like these. A lot of people make me extremely anxious and then also being judged around family is a worrisome of mine. Hopefully all goes well.

Thanks for staying with us!

xo,

Cass & Mav

EDS

This past week has been an especially difficult one. I worked Monday thru Friday, which as a part time employee is a rarity. Getting through the week is an achievement for me with the much needed reward of a weekend of rest (for the most part, minus chores). I talked to my NS and it has been concluded that I need to have genetic testing done to determine if I have any underlying conditions. One suspect in mind is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a group of disorders that affect the connective tissues that support the skin, bones, blood vessels, and many other organs and tissues. Defects in connective tissues cause the signs and symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which vary from mildly loose joints to life-threatening complications.

U.S. National Library of Medicine

After talking at length with several members of my Chiari support group, it was suggested that I may be suffering from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and that my Chiari might actually be a secondary condition caused by the EDS. I have suffered from frequent dislocations and sprains since the age of ten without much of answer as why. I have hypermobility of my joints and my skin has always been very smooth, but I generally develop keloids when healing from surgical incisions.

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One condition that EDS can cause is Craniocervical Instability (CCI), or the instability of the craniocervical junction due to the lack of connective tissue support. The condition mainly occurs from repetitive stretch injuries of the neck (which can cause Chiari Malformation, nerve dysfunction, thickened odontoid capsule, retroflexed odontoid, and cranial settling [source]). Unfortunately EDS can only be managed and there are no definite treatments. CCI, however, may be helped drastically with a craniocervical fusion where the skull would be pulled upward into the correct position.

I’m not sure what the future holds for me. I have an appointment with the rheumatologist for additional testing on July 18th and I will be tested for EDS along with other rheumatic diseases to see why I am having this chronic pain. For now, I am back to wearing a soft cervical collar when I am not at work. It’s not the most fashionable of things, but it does provide a bit of relief. If you have to wear a cervical collar, too, you might want to try a collar to snazz your look up.

xo,

Cass

Mavi’s Must-Haves

Mavi's Must-Haves

 

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When first deciding to get a puppy, it can be quite difficult to determine what he or she needs and what will make life easier for the both of you. I made a list of items that I ended up purchasing for Mavis and will reveal what has and hasn’t worked.
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Crates and Beds
Puppies are so full of energy and deciding where they are going to sleep and be during most of the day needs a lot of analyzing.¬†For Mav, I bought a small pink crate for the purposes of a comfy sleeping place and for¬†potty crate training. Most people discipline¬†their puppy with crated time outs, but it’s important that the puppy associates the crate with more than just a form of punishment. We want puppy to recognize that the crate is a safe place that they can go to relax. That’s why I put it in a comfortable space next to my bed (being in a familiar area, not secluded is key). Mav doesn’t get nearly as upset when she can see her momma and knows I’m close by.¬†When choosing the size of the crate, of course, you want to accomodate the puppy’s growing size, but you also need to consider if the crate¬†is going to be where you leave the puppy when you are not home. If it is, then the crate should be placed in a gated off tile-floored area, especially if you are gone for several hours. This way, your little one can potty, get water/food, and play while you are out of the house. Upon brining Mavis home, I used the round faux-shearling cup bed to transport her and she loved it! ¬†She still uses her bed to relax in, although I keep an eye on her when she is using this one because Mav loves to dig and chew on her bed.
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Toys and Activities
On to the TOYS. Mavi’s favorite subject. I bought her a variety of different toys, although I already had a few from our other dog, Eli and cat, Oliver. Mavis loves her small Kong stuffies! Elmer the Elephant and Ali the Alligator are often her go to durable babies. Her all time favorite toys are her pink Nylabone that I keep in her carseat and her mini Ewok toy (they seem to be out of the Ewok cat toy edition, but here is the Chewbacca version)! I purchase the cat toys because they are more suited for her size, but avoid cat nip and feathers! The Kong rope toy and Nylabone teething ring do not seem to keep her interest for long, so I wouldn’t have purchased these had I known that beforehand, but every dog is different and your baby might love them. The teething ring is also really hard! I thought it would have been somewhat soft and rubbery, but it’s just hard plastic, another reason why I don’t think she is fond of it. ¬†I love hiding Ziggies¬†(although after the second bag, I moved to cheaper alternatives) and other treats into her Kong and she loves trying to get them out! This will keep your pup busy for a while, which is always appreciated and it challenges your pup with the promise of a tasty reward. Mav also loves playing with a little stuffed pug my boyfriend got for me when we first started dating and tennis balls! My mom recently gifted a cat tunnel that splits into three ways and both Mavis and Oliver are big fans!
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Potty Training
For housebreaking I wanted to get a pad holder basically so it would be easier for her to identify where she should go potty, but furthermore so she refrains from shredding or flipping her pads over. Sometimes this works and sometimes she loves to chew at the snap hands until it unsnaps and she get to the pad (to shred). She is a master at shredding pads. Make sure to make notice what size the pad holder is, so you can correspond with the right size potty pads. I fold the edges of my potty pads up to tuck the ends in.¬†I always keep some Nature’s Miracle Urine Destroyer for carpet mistakes. I learned the hard way the using pee pads isn’t a great idea for puppy to potty train because towel, rugs, and carpets feel too similar and Mav got confused. I do not punish her for going in the wrong spot, but now just immediately pick her up if she is going or about to go and walk her outside. Your puppy shouldn’t associate going to the bathroom with you yelling at them, otherwise they may hide from you and then go (making sneaky hidden messes). Also, rubbing their noses in their accidents is also discouraged because puppies have such a short memory span and are so young that they do not associate why you are punishing them and will become fearful. ¬†I bought a pooper scooper with the fear that she, like most puppies, would want to eat her and Eli’s poop, but luckily I was blessed with just a sniffer (the sniff to see if this is mine and run). I¬†think it is something good to have on hand if you like to have backyard get-togethers in order to clean the area beforehand. Poop should be immediately picked up if the little one is indulging in this mysterious and nasty habit. It is really important to discourage puppy from this behavior as it¬†can spread parasites and illnesses. I eventually want to try to use the tinkle bells to help teach Mav¬†to ring the bell when she needs¬†to go outside, but we have yet to cross that bridge with all that is going on.
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Health
Keeping Mavis healthy is one of my main priorities and having worked at a vet clinic for over two years, I know quite a lot about different products. First off, deciding on a food for puppy can be challenging when there are so many options and all the brands claim they are the best. The¬†veterinarians I have worked for have only backed the brands Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, and IAMS for puppies as their formulas¬†are overall the¬†best on the market and provide the perfect nutritional balance. For Mavi, I went with Hill’s Science Diet Small & Toy Breed Puppy food. It is so important to get puppy food for a puppy (versus Adult food, etc.) to meet their special nutritional needs. Feed BY the bag and not by what you think is enough to prevent over or under feeding. Avoid self feeders, as many dogs gorge themselves, leading to obesity. This also doesn’t provide a well set schedule for puppy.
I also recommend getting puppy grooming supplies. Puppies and dogs have different pH levels than humans, so buying them shampoo specified by their species is important. I decided to go with Burt’s Bees Puppy Shampoo because their cruelty free and I, myself, use Burt’s Bees for some of my grooming needs. I also purchased a dremel to keep Mav’s nails smooth. Puppies have super sharp nails usually, so the dremel can really help if you know how to use it. If you don’t know how, I recommend either youtube or asking your groomer/veterinarian if they could show you. Having a basic ear cleaner on hand is also recommended¬†to keep¬†puppy’s ears clean and free of debris. I clean Mavi’s ears twice a month to prevent the dreaded stinky ear infections and buildup. I recommend only using cotton balls, as Q-tips can potentially be shoved deep in the ear canal and can hurt the puppy’s ears.
Dental care is one of the most common¬†issues that pet owners forget about, but it is so important if you want a long life for your best friend. If dental care is neglected, eventually your pal can and will get periodontal disease which can spread through the bloodstream and cause a number of serious health issues! I wanted to get Mav prepared early, although puppy’s teeth are usually in great condition and don’t need much help until they are 1.5-2 years old. I bough a toothbrush to help aid in getting Mav used to the teeth brushing habit. Ideally brushing your pet’s teeth three times a week is preferred (seems like too much, but it can save a lot of money in the end and it is good for your pup!) Dental chews are also highly recommended. I buy some veterinary recommended chews with enzymes added to help breakdown plaque.
Pugs and other flat faced breeds have short snouts and their noses can become very dry (as they are “smushed” in), therefore nose butter is a good idea to use weekly. The Blissful Dog has nose butter specially made for pugs in various sizes to cure the chapped blues. I also clean Mav’s face wrinkles with unscented baby wipes to avoid any hidden debris or dirt from building up and causing infections.
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Training Necessities
Since Mav is training to be a service dog, I have a vest for her that reads¬†Service Dog In Training and has her name embroidered on it, a leash cover that is used to warn off strangers from distracting Mav from her duties, and an awesome patch to educate the ignorant. To aid in training I use a Rapid Rewards training pouch to have quick and easy access to¬†rewards for a job well done. Along with the pouch, tasty treats are also recommended (sparingly) alongside their regular kibble. I found these treats that are moist and one of my little one’s favorites. I also purchased these, but they were too large to use as rapid rewards, so I had to cut them in half beforehand. They also are rather hard and difficult for Mav to chew. Because Mavis goes with me to so many different places via car ride, I wanted to maximize her safety. In some countries it is illegal to have an animal that is unsecured in the car! I bought her, her very own booster¬†car seat that allows me¬†to clip her¬†in by the harness (sold separately) into a little seat/basket which attaches to the car’s seat. It also come with little pockets in the front that I keep toys in that keep her occupied (so that she won’t chew on the safety belt). I feel safer knowing that Mav won’t go flying through the windshield should there ever be an accident. You might think this is a little excessive, but I saw a case last year that made me more aware of pet safety:¬†a pet mom and her furry friend were in a serious car accident. The pup broke his neck and had to be euthanized after suffering for over twenty-four hours (the neighbor had taken him to the emergency vet on the night of the car accident, who didn’t notice the broken neck. The next day the neighbor brought him into the clinic I was working in with complaints that something was not right with him and he was not walking, eating, or drinking). I also bought and extra seatbelt for when I am traveling in someone else’s car. This allows her to be safely buckled in without a special seat for her to sit in.
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Identification
Last but not least, the basic necessities: collars, leashes, and tags. I originally purchase this collar as it was cheap and durable, but Mav was so tiny, that I had to get a temporary kitten collar for her to use until last week. I already had an extra leash from Petsmart, so there was no need to get a new one. Finally because I have such high anxiety about social situations, I ordered my tags online along with a super cute strawberry bell. All my items I purchased online through Amazon (choose smile.amazon.com to donate a percentage to your chosen charity. I chose People Hope), with the exception of a few items I bought at Walmart and Petco.
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I hope that this will help make puppy decisions easier. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to ask!
xo,
Cass & Mavis
Dividers made by Laura Hunt

Treat Yourself

 

 

Ladies, there is nothing wrong with spoiling yourselves every now and then. I had gone a long time without treating myself to anything other than an occasional frappuccino here and there and lately I’ve been feeling down in the dumps as my pain has becoming more frequent (today I actually had my kneecap dislocated at work!) and my hopes have become increasingly dim. I decided I needed a little pick me up, so I was on the search for a few wardrobe refreshers and a new look.

Asos is one of my favorite clothing brands, especially since they have a petite line! It’s difficult finding dresses and jeans that are the right length and fit when you are 5’2″ and have short little legs. I have learned the difficult way that I¬†need to buy only petite pants and jeans if I want a proper fit.

After my mini shopping spree, I have two tops, two pairs of jeans (which I haven’t bought since 2014), two pairs of socks, a few¬†hair accessories, a new cute and stylish hair cut and color, a little daypack, a pair of glasses (transitions to avoid harming my eyes!), nose rings, a pair of comfy pajamas, and a cute little solar pug! This has probably been my biggest treat to myself to date and I think it was well spent.

Tops:

I was looking for comfortable and minimalist tops that would go great with most casual outfits.

Jeans:

My last pair of black denim I owned was back in my freshman year of high school, so I definitely wanted to go ahead and purchase a pair to complete an all black modern look. After seeing Bethany’s perfect jeans, I made the decision to add to cart. I also wanted a cute pair of ripped jeans as they have been ever increasingly popular, but not a pair that was overly trashy looking with multiple huge weirdly placed rips.

Pajamas:

I love dogs. This is a well known fact to anybody who knows me, so these Balloon Dog printed pajamas were an absolute must!

Socks:

I have about five pair of pug socks from Asos now. They always have really cute pugs dressed in different themes! Yes please.

Hair Accessories:

As my hair is growing back in I wanted to first get a few hair accessories to try some cute quick up do’s and braids that pinterest makes look so easy. I also went to my favorite hairdresser in Waco, Rebecca at Strandz Salon to even out my awkward undercut growth and get a fresh dark color inspired by the photo above.

Accessories:

I really wanted a K√•nken for awhile and I thought, why not? I use my daypack instead of carrying purse. Since I have a hard time remembering to bring things, I love taking this to ensure I have what I need. I also needed some new nose rings. My previous nose rings were ¬†an extremely thing gauge and ended up always twisting and bending in odd locations without and hope of getting the kinks out! These two I bought from¬†Midnight’s Mojo and they are extremely well made. I also am¬†so stoked¬† on my new glasses. I had been wearing a pair of Derek Cardigan’s for the past few years and they had ended up loosening and getting scratched with wear and tear. I knew I wanted go ahead and try transitions because I have very sensitive blue eyes and wearing sunglasses was only possible with contact or the awkward shove on top of my glasses look, which is never a good thing. This pair is so stylish, well made, and the transitions actually look great with the frame. So happy I got an upgrade! Finally, I got a little Solar Pug for my pug collection because it was just something I had to get ūüôā

Don’t be afraid to indulge every now and then!

Xo,

Cass and Mavis

Chronic Pain Confessions

If you haven’t visited Amanda’s blog: Everything Hurts, you definitely should. Her latest post has to do with her confessions dealing with chronic pain. I decided to follow suit using her amazing crafted and perfect icons to lead the way.

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I have struggled most of my life with emotional pain, but I didn’t have to deal with¬†constant physical pain until I began showing symptoms of Chiari. I try my absolute best to pretend I’m completely healthy and put together, but I am fighting every day. Today I had severe back pain. I was at work doing my best¬†to make sure it wasn’t noticible that I was in pain. I kept counting down the hours until I got off. Every time I bent down (when working with dogs, that is very often) I felt a jolt down my back. When standing, I felt a¬†constant almost “buzzing” pain that feels like when you sit on your foot too long and it falls asleep, but you continue trying to walk on it mixed with a Charlie horse cramp. I finally closed the playroom down and put all the dogs in their crates for nap time. I looked at the clock, so eager to head out, but I had an hour left. I was assigned to take the grooming dogs out to potty. Every time I made it¬†outside, I leaned against the wall crouched down with deep breathing (like a pregnant lady in labor), while the pups did their¬†business.

I hide my pain. I don’t like telling my parents because I’m afraid they’ll discredit it. They have supported me through everything, but they also think that this surgery is an instant cure all solution and I am afraid to disappoint them.

I’m tired of saying I don’t feel well or my neck is killing me and then having to hear the “maybe it’s the insert some common bug/virus” or “muscle strains suck.”

I’m tired of feeling depressed. I try my best to do the right thing for my mental health, but I get anxious about how others perceive me.¬†Do they think I look fat? Do they think I’m dressed sloppily? Do I look happy?¬† I have a chemical imbalance and no medication I have taken has¬†made things¬†bearable for a continued period. Getting more exercise, eating gluten free, or trying said homeopathic solution isn’t going to work for me (that’s not to say it won’t work for others).

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I have a very physical job. I am constantly moving. I feel like it is enough for me, but I want to do more. I want to be that fit BBG girl that looks super cute and they¬†love¬†to work out (or make it look like that) and that it’s super easy. Or that cool yoga chick that has trendy workout gear they actually work out and not just to lounge in.

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I’ve had five surgeries since birth, but all my scars are hidden and people can’t see the pain I have had to endure. Every single day is different. Some days I miraculously don’t have any physical pain. Then there are days which I call “spoon days,” like today, where I wake up in pain. My back jolts, my neck aches, my muscles hurt, and no I didn’t exercise the day before. Most days are in between these two. I’m excited to have Mavis trained as a service dog, but am nervous about how people will perceive me. Will they think I am a sham trying to pass off a cute pooch as a service dog just so I can take her into places? (Hello anxiety, dear old demon).

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I always have used food as a coping mechanism, which is why I was so overweight (obese, actually) as a child and in my teens. It will most likely always be a love/hate relationship because now I have¬†IBS (although not confirmed and I don’t think it is, I think it’s just MCAD) and MCAD to deal with, which makes foods scary for me. Foods that I have¬†never¬†had a reaction too, suddenly make my mast cells react for no reason. I can eat that same food and have nothing wrong the next time. I have “plumbing” issues and often get sick from eating different foods. Yet, I have my junk food weaknesses, like most people do. (SourPunch Straws and Sonic are my guilty pleasures) Why do I feel Diet Coke is a necessity (I cannot have high sugar amounts because I get deathly ill, no I don’t know why, but 30g of sugar is my limit, so Diet is the only soda I can have, yes I know the “real” soda might as well be¬†better, but soda is bad regardless, and here I go again, thinking too much of what other people think about my habits)?

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This post wasn’t an easy one to write, but I’m glad I did. Working towards self love and a happy or manageable lifestyle.

If anybody who reads this has¬†good tips on managing anxiety, let me know. I’m willing to try anything: like blogging for example, getting my thoughts out via the world wide web. Only a handful of people will most likely read this and I’m good with that.

xo,

Cass

(image and icons from Amanda Vinci, everythinghurts.me)