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

Three Days.

I tried to write this post earlier, but a migraine came on and I had to give up and takIMG_7021.JPGe a nap. I could feel it pulsing in the vein that resides smack dab in the middle of my forehead. Naturally, I had to capture a photo to document the intensity my vein had trying to escape from my face. I mean wow, I’ve never seen it like that.

Anyways, I feel like a lot has happened since the last time I journaled:

I spent Thanksgiving morning with my boyfriend’s wonderful family and they provided a delicious home cooked meal with lots of vegetarian friendly options: sweet potatoes, mac n’ cheese, corn, rolls, potato salad, casseroles, and the amount of desserts! mmm. The only time my family has Thanksgiving is with my grandma who would cook all day and the day before making a variety of dishes, so I won’t lie, it was hard. I was happy to be around loved ones, but felt a since of great loss. I felt the sting of emptiness and pain as I remembered my grandma’s wonderful foods and her working so hard to make everyone else happy, just as Zach’s grandma did. It was bittersweet. As soon as we finished eating and searching for black Friday deals, we were off to Midland for my grandma’s visitation and funeral.

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I knew it was going to be hard. My entire dad’s family was in attendance for her funeral and she had a beautiful ceremony. I was in charge of getting the music together and I wouldn’t want anything to go wrong. I made sure that everything was perfect for the technician. I was surrounded by my aunts and uncles, cousins12295526_1518058948520350_3981899939229491289_n, parents, brother, niece, sister-in-law, and boyfriend as I confronted the heartbreaking loss of my grandma. I held my darling niece the entire time. She looked up at me with tears streaming down my face and her little confused look made me smile because she was so innocent and pure and knew nothing of pain. She couldn’t comprehend what was going on, only that her daddy and auntie and her loved ones were crying. She felt a teardrop on her hand and pointed at my eyes. She began to say something, but was quieted as it was during the service. I can only imagine she was going to say why are you sad, or why are you crying Aunt Cass? She definitely helped me with the loss because I felt so much love. I am not a mother, so I don’t know the entirety of the love a mom has for her child, but I do know how much I love my niece. I would easily die for her in heartbeat. Unconditional love felt instantly. I am lucky to have my family. My mother, father, aunts, uncles, my brother, who has completely changed from when we were children into a loving father and husband, my sister-in-law (who is eight months pregnant with my second niece!), my niece, Emelia, who is the best behaved toddler I have ever met and is genuinely kind and caring and full of life, and my boyfriend, who reassures me everything will be okay and puts up with my many moods of sadness, anger, and happiness, that interchangeably occur at various times of the day. I am lucky to have my grandma in my life, who made the biggest effort to see my brother and I as children, despite us being a military family, and I am lucky that I got to live in Texas for the past seven years to see my grandma more often and connect with her (and my extended family) for the remainder of her time on earth. After she was placed to rest we had to part ways and head back to Waco for my MRI. It’s hard to “snap” right back into normal life again. It doesn’t seem normal. Nothing seems normal.

They found two tumors on my spine: benign hemangioma(s) on my T7 and T9. My doctor called me on Wednesday to let me know that he wasn’t going to operate on them because he didn’t see that they would cause an issue. What bothers me is the increasing numbness and pain I have felt in my lower back and legs. My neurosurgeon seems to think that the Chiari is causing these issues, so I trust his judgement and am proceeding forward with the decompression surgery without the tumor removals. I will be evaluated a few months after surgery to see if any problems persist. I’m praying these tumors won’t cause me any problems and that all my issues are stemming from the Arnold-Chiari itself.

I decided to take an incomplete on chemistry and pick up where I left off next semester. My teacher said he is willing to work with me and help me anyway he can so that I do’t have to retake the class and can literally pick up right where I stopped. This is all assuming I feel well enough to attend school for the spring semester. I was luckily able to finish my other classes successfully (and I believe well): microbiology, ecology, anatomy and physiology (online) and personal fitness and wellness (online). I can’t explain enough how extremely hard this semester was for me. I am impressed that I prevailed and pushed myself through. With the support of my family, friends, and boyfriend, who provided me with love, encouragement, and transportation, I was able to make it. If I didn’t have them I would have dropped all my classes and swallowed myself in self-misery. I now only have one more final to take online and finish tomorrow.

I also got an undercut in preparation for the surgery this past Friday. My wonderful hair stylist, that I’ve been going to for over a year now, graciously donated her skills to provide me with a shave that wouldn’t turn out totally butchered (As I have sIMG_7022een with some decompression surgery photos). I understand this is an esthetic pleasure, but it meant a lot to me to keep my self confidence through this and my hair, for me, is a source of my femininity and creativeness (I like to style it [when I’m not totally exhausted {so hardly ever}]!)

I’m winding the days down now until my surgery. It’s this upcoming Wednesday.  Three days left. I am finally beginning to feel the jitters. I becoming nervous and scared. I have thoughts: maybe I should just forget about it and cancel my surgery, I would live, but be in misery. I picture a life full of pain and then say, no that would be ridiculous because I am in so much pain that it can only get better. I think about death. As much as I try to avoid it, the thought always comes back. I’m still dealing with the loss of my grandmother, which makes thinking of this even harder. I can’t imagine what would have happened if she passed away during my hospital stay. I wouldn’t have been able to go to her funeral or make peace (if you can call it “peace”). I still ache knowing I won’t see her on earth again. I know she wanted to go and be with God and didn’t want to suffer, but it still is hard.

Today was a decent day. Despite from suffering with nightmare and night sweats, I slept until about 10 am. I got my toenail and fingernails painted, purple and sparkly for Chiari, took a nap, and even got the strength to get up and go see Krampus with my mom, boyfriend, and boyfriend’s brother. This was the first movie I had seen since The Martian and was worried because I was in a lot of pain for that movie, but today I managed it quite well and only started getting pain jolts towards the last twenty minutes or so. I would say a good day.

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I ultimately want everyone to know how much I love them and how I much I  appreciate all the wonderful things that have been done for me. Never lose faith and keep pushing forward.

xoxo,

Cass.

Lost.

I finally have almost reached the end of my fall semester and I won’t lie, this was the hardest semester yet. To be suffering in nonstop pain and constantly worrying about my afflictions has made it most difficult to concentrate on my school work, but I have tried my best given the circumstances. I am in the last leg of the marathon and I’m dying to finish. I have to finish up three more lab reports, study for three chemistry tests (last chapter, make up test, and final), an ecology final, a microbiology final, write a five page paper on my identified microorganism from my unknown experiment, make some sort of demonstration to present said organism, take my anatomy and physiology final, and finish up my post fitness class exam: all this in the span of a ten days. I really am not sure quite how these next days will go, but I am asking for leniency and for support.

12292647_816254541824841_1235431058_nI made my way down to Houston, again, yesterday to be cleared by the cardiologist for surgery. Since I had atrial fibrillation last year, my neurosurgeon wants to definitely make sure my heart is ready for surgery. I had an echocardiogram and an EKG done while I was there and consulted with Dr. Stephen. Once he reviews the images from the echo he will clear me for surgery, but he made it evident that he would like me to follow up with the cardiologist in Waco and have more studies done. He told me that it was very unusual for a twenty-one year old to have had atrial fibrillation. When I was sixteen I went to the emergency room for tachycardia with no cause. I have had other episodes of tachycardia, especially when I am going through a MCAD (mast cell activation disorder) spell and at other random times. My EKG looked normal and I will get the results from my echo next week. The technician that was conducting my echocardiogram asked me “You don’t happen to have Arnold-Chiari Malformation Type I, do you?” I told her that I did and she began to tell me about her struggle with her low-lying cerebellar tonsils and all the pain she has endured over the past eight years. She had visited several doctors who have not been able to help, but just kept giving her the same nonsense of muscle spasms, psychological issues, etc. The story was identical to mine, but I couldn’t possible imagine dealing with this for eight years. She told me that her niece, also named Cassandra coincidentally, had just been diagnosed with the malformation and already had a surgery schedule with minimal symptoms. She said that it was meant to be that we met and that I gave her hope that she could get help. I told her how awesome Dr. Parrish had been in helping me and that I think he would be able to help her too. We went back and forth talking about our symptoms and how it has affected our lives. I, of course, felt like a total rookie only having had really suffering for six months. Thinking back to my childhood and growing up I am starting to think that some things are adding up. I have theories, but would love to consult with a geneticist about EDS and POTS. I feel like people who have these disorders have to be committed to finding help and not giving up because it would have been so easy to. My father and I took it upon ourselves to research surgeons, symptoms, and this disorder. I couldn’t have done it without everybody’s support. I am so grateful for my family, friends, and supporters.

ScanIn addition to all of the school and health stress, I got some horrible news on Monday night. My beautiful grandmother passed away on November 23th, 2015. Dolores Mae Furin Head (January 14, 1937 – November 23, 2014) was a wonderful mother to my Uncle David, Aunt Cindy, and my dad Dale. She was 78 years old and one of my biggest supporters. I remember my grandma as a sweet, thoughtful, lovable lady; She was most opinionated and not afraid to tell you what she thought. She worked so hard to give my dad, uncle, and aunt a good life, doubling up on jobs (waitress as Luigi’s and retail salesperson at Kmart) to make sure there was always enough. Although she divorced my grandpa, she still took care of him until he past away in 2008. She had remarried a few times and was a stepmother to two other children and was just as loving and sweet towards them as her own. Some of my favorite memories include visiting Hawaii together with my immediate family and visiting her house for Thanksgiving. My grandmother was such a great cook and so crafty. She loved to sew and collect Shirley Temple dolls, which she passed down to me. My grandma was lively person and her smile was contagious. I am beyond lucky to have had her in my life. She loved wine! I, personally, am not a big fan of drinking, too much, but my grandmother made sure my glass was always full even if I didn’t want it. It made me laugh because I would try to get my dad to drink it before she discovered I wasn’t drinking much. My grandma visited us in Waco and we played balderdash together with the family. My grandma kept sticking her little discarded answers in my mom’s hair, little did she know my dad was doing the same exact thing to her. Both my mother and she laughed so hard thinking that only the other one had paper in their hair! The rest of us all died laughing when they both realized their hair served as a trash bin and they, too, both cracked up. My grandma loved to entertain and host and she was an expert at it. She always put her family first and made the six hour plus trip to Waco to see me cross the stage as I graduated from high school. She loved antiques so much and had the cutest little setup of vintage items. She even managed her own store, The Cedar Chest, and worked at an antique mall. She fought against peritoneal cancer for over four years and continued to work and care for others the entire time until up to the last two months or so. She was more concerned about me, than herself, when I visited saying she was so sorry for the pain I had to endure, when I felt the same way towards her. Although I am sad that I didn’t get to spend as much time with her as my other cousins who live and grew up close by, I made sure that she knew that I loved her so very much and I know she loved me back. I grew closer with my family through this path. As hard as it is to know my grandma is no longer here, I know she is looking down from heaven and laughing and catching up with my cousin, Austin. I can see her looking in amazement at Austin’s tall stature and how handsome he looks. She would probably comment on how skinny he had gotten and start cooking right away! My sweet grandma, you have fought so hard and held on in order to say goodbye to everyone in the family, and now you are free; free from the constant pain and worry. You are finally at peace in heaven with God and your grandson and I know that you are relieved not to suffer any longer. I know that you will be with me every step of the way and watching me during my struggles ahead. I love you Granny Dee and I’m saddened you won’t be able to meet my children, but I will raise them in your image. You’re bright blue eyes, dimples, and smile are forever engraved in my head and your sweet spirit lives in my heart.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8