(Update for 2017 at the bottom of the post!)
Although this is a positive space here on the blog, I attempt to write and work from a place of authenticity. If something is really pressing on me, I try to be honest that I too struggle and am a continual work in progress. No one is perfect, no job is perfect, no marriage is perfect, no eating plan is perfect, and so on.
Personally, I grow the most by connecting with others I can relate too. If someone else knows what I am going through, can offer advice, prayer, or support, we are both blessed by helping each other. It’s scary to come clean to someone. What do I really think? What I am truly struggling with…but often when we do and we think we can trust someone with our true self, we can feel immensely better, supported, and loved! Not only do we feel better, but the people we trusted can feel good too by offering help, love, and support to someone who they genuinely care about.
If you have known me for a while, or have read my introduction on this blog, you may know that I struggle with chronic headaches and pain. I have had a headache every day for over 6 years (this was written in 2013). I have been to many doctors, had many tests, and have had therapies of MANY kinds. I have exercised and not exercised. I have been prayed over and tried medicine. I have developed female and GI issues. I am not the girl I once was or desire to be due to this battle. However I try to be the best version of myself today, and I try hard. I am grateful for the new Cassie and all I have gained through this.
I feel like I have exhausted many avenues here, and am just… weary. We felt the need to take a bigger step in our hope to find healing. Being tired and fatigued, the thought of running around Chicagoland to attempt both recommended western and eastern medical treatments made me feel even more defeated. Therefore, last month, I took a risk and traveled to the Mayo Clinic for 10 days.
It was an honor and a privilege to be in Rochester Minnesota. I must admit, I was so afraid at first. Would they find something? What if they didn’t? I wondered if this was the right choice for me: I am still active and working! And there will be so people who are actually sick there and I am not that bad…
However, these negative thoughts proved to be wrong. I was not alone! I sat in the waiting rooms at the clinic surrounded by people who looked just like me. But obviously, because we were all there, we weren’t feeling well and we were desperate to get answers and feel good again.
Being in the medical field myself, I know how the healthcare experience can be… good or bad! My time at the clinic was nothing but superb. From the people at the desks to the doctors themselves, this was excellence in care; the gold standard. I planned on being there for 3 days and ended up staying for 10 due to many consultations, tests, and therapies.
I kept this matter private for the most part as I did not want to worry anyone and I couldn’t handle the questions that may follow at the time. My reserve for stress can be low these days…
My doctors were international speakers and authors. The best. And the best couldn’t find anything major causing my headaches. Blood work was coming back ok, and scans looked good. (As they did back here too.) This was a major relief to hear from them, but it was also difficult. We do not want anything to be wrong, but anyone dealing with something physical knows that if you can put a name on it, then you feel like you have an answer and can take the necessary steps to treat it and make lifestyle changes.
The Mayo clinic has changed some things I was doing and is treating my symptoms with some great tools. I have been implementing them since my return home. They are still conducting more tests. I went back this past week and will be there in December and January to finish. No big changes yet, but perhaps some small ones! I have often struggled to know if exercise is helping or hurting me. The doctors all agreed, it can only help! It gets things flowing and often reduces pain. To my delight, I was cleared to exercise moderately most days of the week! I was encouraged to be careful with a few things, but also add more Yoga and some Pilates to my regimen. Another reason we know what we do by working out is key to wellness!:)
I am not through with my testing, and I cannot help but feel like this journey is not over. My doctors agree. I truly believe that God doesn’t lead you somewhere without providing for you, so I choose to trust in that.
Confession: I am filled with pride, fear, and junk that needs to be worked out. Throughout these 6 years, I have made so many positive changes in my life due to this affliction. Changes physically of course, but transformations mentally, occupationally, emotionally, and spiritually have been the real growth. I pride myself on how strong I can be. I feel bad, but I am still going. I am doing, I am productive. I don’t complain.
Strength has become an idol in my life.
Resilience and perseverance are characteristics that I desire and are valuable to me. However, taking those and turning them into the striving need to be “strong” all of the time is not healthy for me or my mindset.
Have I preserved through these challenging years? YES. Have I been resilient in the face of pain, frustration, and fatigue? YOU BET. Have I been strong? Nope- not always. I have had some hard days and it was challenging to say the least. Challenging for me, my husband, and those who care for me. However, my faith and tenacity in healing have gotten me through.
You may be wondering where that leaves me. I am in good spirits! I have a great support network of people who love me and care for me, and I am letting them! In years past I have been stubborn in how I wanted to treat this affliction. In my mind, I was going to be strong, and that meant there is a concrete reason for my health issues and once we found it I would be better. Now, for the first time ever, I am open to say we may not know exactly what is going on and its time to treat symptoms and not just strive for learning the cause. This is a new idea for me! I am open to hearing the doctors talk about medicine, therapy, injections, pain clinics and more. I was afraid to even open up because this sounded like failure to me, but not anymore.
You all are so loving and supportive of me. I am not sharing this for your sympathy. My deepest desire is authenticity. I know many of you care about me, and I know many of you have struggled in your own life. Like I said before, I value people I can relate to. I hope you can relate to me. I am just like you. A person who desires love and health, running through life with intention and letting go when necessary. I desire growth and enrichment, happiness and laughter. My life is full of the good stuff. You are part of that good stuff! My vision is for you to help me by all that you give me, and for me to help you. I am excited to get clean on my fears regarding my health, and I am anxious to continue the journey. I will let you know how it all turns out! I am fine, and I am going to be fine. This I know!
Thank-you for caring, thank you for persevering with me towards our hearts desires.
Yup, still have the headaches and chronic pain, but I would say I feel better on a day to day basis than ever over the last 10 years! Though the headaches never went away, the feel-good hormones from pregnancy and breastfeeding in 2014-2016 (plus the new major distraction!) helped me to feel really really good on the pain scale!
I no longer have ANY of the side effects of female or GI health going on. (Chronic pain and stress can wreck you in more ways than the initial injury or issue. If you’re struggling with chronic issues of any kind, I encourage you to never give up looking for answers and ways to feel better!) I no longer struggle with chronic fatigue and I am on zero medications. (Praise God! He is good!)
It wasn’t until late in 2016 that the intensity of the pain crept back in. In 2017 I visited a local pain clinic in Illinois and had a current MRI of the cervical spine confirm that I have a displacement of the vertebrae in my C5 and C6 region. I have early disc dehydration in C2-3, C3-4, C4-5, and C5-6. (Degeneration of the discs is a natural process of aging, but they say I am too young for this level! This dehydration or desiccation of the disc material reduces the flexibility and typically the height of the disc.) In the C5-6 vertebrae I have a bulging disc and have facet joint arthropathy (which is basically like having arthritis). My options for the headaches and neck pain is to treat the symptoms or have surgery. In early 2017 I went to a very respectable pain clinic for treatment options to help relieve the symptoms. I will continue with another clinic in California, as I am not ready for surgery!! My other pain issues regarding my back and right leg also persist and many time wake me up at night when it gets really bad…but I often wonder if that’s from years of compensation due to the neck pain. It might be time to head back to PT! It has been a long time!
I am quite guilty of ignoring intensity increases in my pain hoping that if I ignore it, it will just go away. (Hmmm…it just doesn’t work like that, does it!)
My current habitudes around this are as follows:
-Pray for relief, healing, and for God to use this pain to grow me.
-Practice self-care techniques that keep the symptoms calm and avoid exercises that aggravate the neck.
-Look into treatment options to manage symptoms.
-Get on with life! We all have something we’re dealing with. I WON’T let pain rob my joy or keep me from pressing on!
Have you ever dealt with a similar injury, and if so, what has helped you? If not a spinal injury, how have you managed injuries and pain in your life?
Thanks for reading the update!