When I was diagnosed with a rare brain disorder at the age of thirty-five, I was shocked. What was more shocking was that I was a mother of two small boys and I had just been told that I would need brain surgery.
The symptoms came on so sudden that I wasn't even sure there was anything physically wrong with me. I thought that I was stressed out, I was overly tired, and I needed a good rest. When the symptoms did not get better; but instead, got worse over time, I knew I had to see a doctor. I was having aching at the back of my head, and I would wake several times in the night to find my head completely numb as it laid on the pillow. I would physically have to lift my head off the pillow to allow the feeling to rush back in. I also began getting confused and disoriented. When I walked in my local grocery store I'd shopped in many times and couldn't find the dairy section, I knew I was much more than just tired.
After visiting a neurologist, he decided an MRI was in order. The MRI revealed a very large posterior fossa arachnoid cyst. This is a cyst, or a fluid-filled sac that sits on the back of the brain. Mine was compressing my brain stem and cerebellum; both of which are vital to life.
I was referred to a neurosurgeon who decided that with my symptoms, the best form of treatment would be do a fenestration of the cyst. This is a procedure that requires the doctor to use a wand and go inside the cyst to disengage the walls that had built up inside the cyst. These walls had grown over the years; allowing fluid to get inside the cyst, but not back out.
The surgery worked, but only for three months. I had quite a bit of relief from the pressure until gradually it built back up. With my condition, the only other option was to put a shunt in. A shunt helps keep the fluid draining. It siphons the fluid out, keeping it from building up inside.
I have had the shunt for almost four years now. One concern with shunts is that it can over drain. This brings on a set of problems of its own; such as brain sagging, and a Chiari Malformation - a condition that causes the brain to herniate into the spine. I now have both problems. My shunt over drained for several months leaving me with a space between my skull and the dura matter. My brain stem also sunk into the spinal column giving me a whole new array of symptoms.
I live day-to-day with brain trauma and many symptoms that go along with it. There is a surgery to help correct the Chiari, but getting up the nerve to go through yet another brain surgery is where I am today.
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