personal, tarlov cysts

Why I Had Not Posted in a While

Hurricane Maria happened. I posted in my Tarlov Cyster blog because I focused more on the physical toll, and not on the emotional one.

 

Going Beyond the Body

Standard
health, personal, tarlov cysts

Strange Dreams

I have been having strange dreams lately. I dreamed of a frog suctioned on the edge of my tongue, unwilling to let go. I could remember the disgust I felt. That disgust was different, not quite heartfelt. Instead, it was like a concept hovering over me, recognized but not fully internalized. Someone – I was not quite sure who – in my dream said that the frog was supposedly known to do that. It was an accepted fact, a habit on the frog’s part to hop into people’s mouths and just clutch as mightily as it could.

frog

I also dreamed about a bunch of people dressed up in “Ghostbusters” gear, hunting for eggs that are supposedly very priceless. Doing so without getting official permission by a certain organization would mean jail time. Still, off this group go – hunting for huge, precious eggs.

Both the frog and the eggs symbolize fertility, a welcome theme for someone who was almost unable to conceive a child and for someone who must continue thriving in a creative community. Maybe, my writer’s block would end. Maybe I would start drawing with some inspiration again.

However, there is also a darker tone to all of this. I received the weird set of dreams after I laid down to sleep without my pain medication. The sudden change in sleeping activity reminded me that I had become so dependent on Lyrica to make me survive each day. Whenever I remember just how scary it is to have growing cysts on my spine and how they eat at my bones, I could not sleep. But I want to sleep, even if it means giving in to strange dreams.

Standard
Uncategorized

Back Updates

Last Saturday, I got checked by my neurosurgeon again. She offered to increase the dosage of my pain medication. It was tempting, really, but I said “no”. She was surprised because her job was to ensure that I feel zero pain. I explained that I want to be able to honestly answer my orthopedic surgeon whenever he asks if I feel any pain after a certain strengthening exercise.

Image

Pain is not the disease. It is a symptom. I want to hold on to that symptom so that I could be aware of what is going on inside of me. I have two 4 cm. Tarlov cysts that are being monitored. The neurosurgeon will only operate on me if the cysts are damaging my nerves (a possibility when they grow? any Tarlov cysts sufferers out there?). At the moment, they are eroding my bones. This is actually minor compared to the complicated surgery that it will take to remove them. The neurosurgeon has said as much that reconstructing the spinal sheath after cyst removal will be difficult. That is not exactly a comforting thought.

I am finished with my physical therapy sessions. I miss them because they make me feel rested. Now that I am working full time as a multimedia instructor, I wake up and go to sleep in pain. The comfort that this gives me, though, is the fact that my nerves are fully awake and working. They are not damaged. I am alive and feeling everything with full intensity.

Standard
health, motherhood, personal

Mother

My mom will be travelling to the Philippines come Monday/Tuesday. I forgot if she was leaving Monday, Dominican or Philippine time. She will be arriving here just in time for Mother’s Day.  That is not her intention, however. She did not even plan on visiting this year because of health issues and responsibilities at work. Still, she is on the way home because she wanted to be with me when she heard about my Tarlov cysts. Whether I go through surgery or not, she will be here – that’s what she told me.

Even with her own scoliosis and congenital heart disease, she will be braving two to three days of travel alone. Dad has too many patients and medical students to accompany her. The usual route is Dominica-Puerto Rico-Miami-New York-L.A.-Manila. I don’t know if she opted for the European route this time around. I forgot to ask.

My mother and I have a weird relationship. We love each other terribly but when we fight, we sound like the best of enemies. Yet, we can count on each other. We can count on the other to forgive because our bond as mother and daughter is strong and has become stronger when I became a mother myself. As a mom now, I realize that I am slowly turning to a version of my mom. Though I look like my dad, my facial expressions are starting to match hers.

I am proud of her and what she is about to do for me by visiting despite her own health issues. I am proud that when I was a child, she never paid teachers anything just so I could get good grades. We did not donate refrigerators. We did not bribe teachers. She and my dad believe in me and in my brother – in our capabilities. My brother and I, in turn, also believe that our parents will do just about everything to ensure our safety, our health, and our development into good persons. This upcoming visit is one proof of that.

Standard
health, personal, rant

Taking the Strain Off My Bad Back

If you have read a few of my more recent posts then you would know by now that I have degenerative scoliosis, two protruding discs and two Tarlov cysts along the S1 and S2 regions. My painful condition is alleviated by Lyrica, which is a strong nerve pain reliever. The medicine, however, leaves me zonked out some mornings or afternoons because somehow it is not able to make me drowsy during the evenings when I actually take it.

So, yes, I have a bad back and bones that are older than my 31 years. The neurosurgeon advises against heavy loads. I wonder how I can make it through my life without having to carry heavy loads.

Why?

I have a 5 pound laptop (8 Gig RAM, core i5, NVIDIA GeForce). I can’t make Photoshop and Autodesk Maya work in a netbook, obviously.

My bags are mostly made of genuine leather. My mom loves buying me bags. I get bags from her whenever she visits the Philippines.

I have a 45 pound three year old. Love him so much!

I am a multimedia teacher. This means that I don’t just bring my laptop but also textbooks and piles of test papers.

I love my gadgets: my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and Kindle keyboard. I bring them along MOST of the times. Now, I am trying NOT to bring them too often and perhaps not together.

I love BOOKS. Good thing there is Kindle or else I would bring loads of books if I cannot decide… but then again I am an MFA in Creative Writing student. So, I still bring some books that are not available via Kindle.

However, I really do need to change my lifestyle.

So, here are some must-haves – at least in my case:

A large bag made of cloth material with a zipper. The last time I used one without a zipper, my wallet, credit cards, ATM cards got stolen. That last time was just last week, btw, and I am still waiting for some of the other replacement cards.

Comfortable, all-around shoes. Locally made pairs from Rusty Lopez (at only 2000 pesos for each pair) are heavenly. The leather is light and soft. I need more pairs of these. I have a tattered grey one and a brown one.

A slim book or ultrabook that can handle Maya. Oh ok, I have to save money for this one.

A pillow for sitting down for hours. Thankfully, my husband got me one for our sixth wedding anniversary. Now, I am wondering if I should buy another to bring for work.

At the moment, the above are all I could think of. I will come back to this blog to update when I think of more.

(image courtesy of weheartjunkremoval.com)

Image

Standard
health, personal, rant

Update: Tarlov Cysts

The good news is that I won’t be undergoing surgery any time soon. My nerves are not pinched significantly by my protruding discs and Tarlov cysts. The bad news is that the cysts do need to be monitored regularly. I am set to undergo another MRI in three months’ time to check if the cysts are growing. At 4 cm in diameter each, the cysts manage to be not so problematic, but things could change if they grow even an inch each.

If things go for the worse, I might undergo surgery. Surgery plus hospital accommodations and doctors’ fees will total to approximately 400,000 pesos. The money is a small fortune here in the Philippines. It will also take two weeks for one to recover from the spinal surgery. Also, there is that strong possibility of the most excruciating pain imaginable. We are, after all, taking about a spot where a bundle of nerves lies.

Right now, though, I am still feeling a little lucky. I am set for two weeks’ physical therapy to strengthen my spine and to hopefully correct the protruding discs. I have been prescribed more than three months’ worth of Lyrica, a strong nerve pain reliever. I am also taking care to avoid carbonated drinks that block the absorption of calcium. I am drinking milk twice daily to hopefully correct three decades’ worth of nutritional and lifestyle mistakes. By lifestyle, I don’t mean one that is full of vice because I do not drink, smoke or eat lots of fat. In fact, I choose the meat when the maid and I go grocery shopping. I go for lean meat, fish, and veggies. There are fruits all the time, too. Juices are abundant. Unfortunately, I often shy away from milk and water. Somehow, though, a generally healthy-living medical doctor’s daughter ended up with lots of health problems: tarlov cysts, degenerative scoliosis, protruding discs, asthma, kidney stones, mild fatty liver. My dad and uncle are medical doctors. My brother is a medical intern. I am the sick one.

Still, I have to keep on fighting. I have a young son who is relying on my survival. I pray that this stage of my life is only a reminder of my mortality – that I should take things slowly because I tend to work as if there is no tomorrow. I don’t want to be right – about that tomorrow I mean.

(Image of me as a nineteen year old working at my dad’s clinic as secretary. This was in Dominica before I went back to the Philippines for university.)

(Image

Standard
health, personal

Tarlov Cysts: Beginning of a Journey

It has been a long while since I last wrote a post here. I was busy with getting back to the academe as a part-time college instructor, teaching subjects such as Digital Imaging and Color Management, Maya Rendering, and Vector Graphics. I am also a home-based blogger and a mom to a three-year old. Oh yeah, I am also writing my thesis proposal and thesis samples for my MFA in Creative Writing course.

For the past few months, I busied myself with house-hunting, preparations for my son’s fourth birthday, lesson plans, MFA thesis, blogging, and the usual household concerns (bills, grocery shopping, organization, and the like). It took some really intense back pains for me to realize that there should also be some time to slow down.

All this April, I have been suffering from moderate to severe back pains and sciatica. The worst pain can only be described as the bones in my sacral region being crushed every time I get up or sit down. There is also a shooting pain from my right buttock to the back of my right knee. I immediately suspected a herniated disc.

(image courtesy of www.actasurologicas.info)

tarlov cysts

I went to an orthopedic surgeon on the 6th of April to get checked. She suspected that a pinched nerve is causing the sciatica. She ordered an MRI. I was scheduled on the 15th at UST Hospital. The MRI showed that I have two protruding discs, a degenerative scoliosis, and two 2.0cmx3.0cmx4.0cm Tarlov cysts on my lower spinal cord. Supposedly, the location of the cysts has very few nerves, according to the Manila Doctors’ neurosurgeon I was referred to by the orthopedic surgeon. She ordered a nerve test, which turned out normal I believe, but I will be getting my official results tomorrow. On Saturday, I will be seeing the neurosurgeon yet again.

The neurosurgeon wants me to go through conservative measures first: physical therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs. She said that she was able to successfully treat a patient with bigger cysts this way. I do want to ask her the following questions on Saturday:

– Do my cysts have potential to grow bigger?

– The cysts are now eroding my bones. What does this mean for me in the future?

– Will the cysts affect or add to pain during future pregnancies? I am 31 years old with only one child, after all.

– How much is surgery?

– How much time will it take for me to recover?

– Will the surgery benefits outweigh the risks?

Tarlov cysts, apparently, are rare. Even in the United States and Canada, some neurosurgeons are still not quite sure how to deal with them. People all around the world then have to endure all the pain associated with the cysts. These cysts, after all, are sitting near a bunch of nerves. The doctors I have seen are not that sure if the cysts are the cause of my pain. Then, why is the pain I am feeling consistent to the symptoms associated with Tarlov cysts pain?

Standard