Saturday, October 20, 2012

The story of my GIANT brain lol

Hello sweets,

Since I am not doing any cooking today, it's Nathan's uncles birthday which means grillin', and that is Nathan's area of expertise.  I thought it would be a good time to blog more about me and my story :)

My whole life I have been active.  In elementary school I was on every sports team including wrestling (which I got 2 golds and a silver in my career woot woot).  In high school I played fewer sports, but only because I started doing more extra curricular activities that surrounded the arts, which included early mornings and lots of travel.  I also was involved in our daily televised announcements. I was the Friday anchor (the best one too lol jk), and I started working as soon as I was fifteen.  After school I attended college for business marketing, but alas, did not complete the full program as it was not what I wanted (should have gone for PR), but I worked and traveled a lot with family and friends, and played on the odd adult sports teams (ie; volleyball).  When I wasn't working a sedentary job, I worked in jobs that required some physical labor.  I did whatever it took to keep me afloat since I had been living on my own since I was 17.

In 2007 I started working at a retirement home, first at the front desk as a concierge, and then as a guest attendant.  Being a guest attendant was more physically demanding since we were required to do daily house keeping, medication dispensing, dining room service, and we were also the first responders in case of an emergency or accident (where we would sometimes have to pick up an adult and sometimes by yourself).  I worked there for 2 years and loved every minute I spent with the seniors, even when cleaning their rooms lol it gave us one on one time to chat with them and they enjoyed that.  I even started volunteering on my weekends off to play pool with them for a few hours :)

some of my co-workers and I 

In my second (and apparently would be my last) year working for the retirement home I slipped and fell on black ice in the parking lot late one night.  Now no serious damage was done, but I did have to take a couple days off and walked funny for a while.  Then a few months later I fell down our main stairs, so hard that the doctor I saw in the emergency room told me to go off work for a while and even made me get a bum cushion (I wouldn't have been able to sit without it lol).
Me and my cushion lol my gfs decorated it for me

This last fall forced me off work, and it was becoming very difficult to return to work on modified duties, so I started going to GoodLife Fitness with my roommate Mike.  During this same time I was seeing a specialist because I had fallen a third time, but this time it was down wood stairs and I was really in pain.  My doctor was encouraging me to workout out at a slow pace while running some tests, of course nothing showed up with the MRI of my lower spine.  He did raise a question, that now dealing with my current health problems makes a whole lot of sense, and that was if I had balance issues, because at 23y/o I shouldn't be falling down 3 times in one year.  I said "No not that I have ever noticed.", and continued with physiotherapy and working out at the gym.  I got to the point where some days I was there twice a day, because being at home sucked!  After a while, the manager of customer service asked me if I wanted a job, and I said yes.  With free membership, plus the fact I was there all the time anyway, it just made perfect sense.  I informed my doctor about the offer, and he said it was the perfect way to ease back into work since I was starting part-time.  I promptly informed the retirement home that I wouldn't be returning, and I think it was harder to leave the seniors than the job itself.  Eventually I was back to my old self, and had even started working full time at the gym.  Within eight months, I was offered a management job, then a year after that I moved to our head office where I still hold a position :)
Some of my GoodLife Family at CanFitPro 2010: Teri (regional), Me, and my beautiful boss and VP Mo

When I started at head office I was doing personal training with the best trainer EVER, Mr. Dave Leek (, and every session he would kick my butt, but it's what you pay for right? 
My amazing trainer!! (this was a goal dress!!)

Now around February 2010, my shoulders started hurting, popping, and making cracking noises, to which Dave would say "you pop like a barbie doll, lol".  Now I let it carry on for a while because I was accrediting the pain to my workouts.  That was until October, when the pain was so unbearable we couldn't do overhead exercises, and I had to give up massages. :(   It was then that I decided it was time to see a doctor, so I went to the sports clinic right in my gym.  The doctor there heard my story, and said it could be one of two things; a) tendinitis or b) torn ligaments, so I was sent off for x-rays.  Unfortunately they showed nothing and had stumped the doctor.  She told me I needed to go see an Orthopedic surgeon, where he did more x-rays, and ultrasounds as well.  Again nothing.  So he said "I'm going to send you for a MRI of both shoulders, spine, and brain just to be safe".  Well the next time I saw him, he told me they discovered that I had a rare brain malformation, called 'Aronld Chiari Malformation Type 1', which also caused a syrinx to form at my C7. O_O  This definitely caught me way off guard, since we were looking at shoulder problems.  Since it was so rare, he didn't know much about it and told me to look it up online while waiting to meet my neurosurgeon (I know what you're thinking, what doctor encourages patients to look online!).  But I needed to know what I was dealing with, because the lack of information was scary enough.

Essentially your cerebellum looks just like tonsils and they normally sit right above the opening of your spinal column.  With the chiari I have, it drops lower than it's supposed to, and causes pressure and can cause a syrinx (which mine did).  The symptoms can vary;

  • Headaches aggravated by Valsalva maneuvers, such as yawning, laughing, crying, coughing, sneezing or straining[20]
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Nystagmus (irregular eye movements)
  • Facial pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Impaired gag reflex
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)[21]
  • Impaired coordination
  • Increased intracranial pressure
  • pupillary dilatation
  • Dysautonomia: tachycardia (rapid heart), syncope (fainting), polydipsia (extreme thirst), chronic fatigue [22]
  • The blockage of Cerebro-Spinal Fluid (CSF) flow may also cause a syrinx to form, eventually leading to syringomyelia. Central cord symptoms such as hand weakness, dissociated sensory loss, and, in severe cases, paralysis may occur.[23] (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Unfortunately I have a lot of the symptoms, and they got very bad between April and August 2011, until I finally found a doctor who would help me (I had no family doctor at the time). I was pulled off of work because I wasn't sleeping, I was getting sick at work, and the pain was unbearable.  Now my cerebellum was only 5mm past normal, so I was considered in the "grey" area.  10mm and I would have been in surgery immediately.  I am fortunate enough to have type 1 which is not deadly, but it makes your quality of life pretty much non exsistant.

Well here we are, 2 years since this whole process started, and just this past Monday they gave me the go ahead for surgery. :)  Of course Nathan came to this appointment with me for moral support. Up until that appointment I was doing it all myself, and I'm so glad he did!  It was great news to finally see an end in sight and I cried like a little baby, but they were happy tears.  Within the next six months, I will be having brain decompression surgery.  My doctor reassured me it's the simplest out of the brain surgeries (but it's still brain surgery).  This time next year I should be fully recovered, and able to cook and bake like I used to!!  That is one of the things I miss the most.  Right now it's very painful to be standing, or  to use my arms for anything (I take LOTS of breaks while blogging :(), and I miss feeling like a normal 28y/o contributing to society.  But I am taking great comfort in knowing this won't be going on for much longer!!!

So I guess you're all wondering how does that make my brain giant?  Well in order for me to not be so scared about it and to help me laugh, was to say my giant brain cannot fit into my tiny skull ;)

Stay sweet,

Jennifer xoxoxo

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