By Anita Crankshaw
I am a 40-year-old female, and as a child I had problems. I always had headaches, difficult in all subjects at school—particularly reading, comprehending and obtaining information. I was slow, and still am to a point. It affects my work, but I push on. Even my speed is slow. I have had back problems for many years only to find out I have nerve damage due to my second child’s birth which left me with two bulging disks. My symptoms have always been there since birth—I just didn’t know how to piece it all together.
In early winter of 2015 I was staying in West Virginia. I was on medicaid at this point. Then, one day, I went to the doctor and said something has to give. She was not about to give in and do serious tests on my head until I told her that my grandmother on my mom’s side had an aneurysm that caused a stroke that killed her. I told her, “my head hurts that bad.”
I could only imagine what an actual aneurysm felt like, but at last my doctor agreed to do an MRI with contrast. The results came back two days later. There was no sign of an impending aneurysm—but there were three other findings: A 1.5mm pineal gland cyst, A sinus infection, and Arnold Chiari Malformation Type 1 with descending of 3-4mm.
I had a neurosurgeon and a neurologist who I visited enough to know that the cyst is usually noncancerous and can be removed, but the Chiari there is no cure for. It can only be managed by brain surgery if the symptoms reach that level of severity.
Of course surgery is a least preferred option because if the symptoms are bad enough then the brain tissue must be getting to close to the vertebras and the pressure can cause problems like hydrocephalus, syrinx, or even causing a patient to become a quadriplegic.
Now that I’m in a different state I have no medical help, no work and must fight for assistance and disability. My hometown where I am now is Statesville, North Carolina. The only advice I can provide for others is to research your disease as best as possible so you can best weigh your options. Never go to the doctor’s office knowing nothing. Always have a second opinion. If you have to have a surgery find the one who specializes in your condition. Do not give up. It can be a pain—but with my two daughters I want to get as much out of life as I can.