A contribution by Maria McCutchen, author of “It’s All in Your Head – A Life of Mental Fogginess And Physical Pain”
The brain controls everything about your body; from moving your extremities, to regulating sleep, breathing, to eating habits, even your sex drive. There are different areas of the brain that control the different functions of your body, and when even just one area is compromised, it can be debilitating.
When my brain cyst grew so large that it compromised my brain, it compromised so many areas of my brain, that my body as a whole, was losing multiple functions and the ability to operate normally.
My cerebellum was being squished under the weight of my cyst – which sat at the back of the brain and grew to nearly a third the size of my brain. This caused me to have terrible bouts of dizziness and balance issues. As the cyst grew, I began feeling more and more like I was on a boat, all the time. I was dizzy and off balance. It was frightening, and a horrific symptom.
My brainstem was also severely compromised. This caused me to lose feeling in all of my extremities and lose function in my diaphragm. Losing normal function of my diaphragm meant that I was having terrible bouts of sleep apnea, and before long, there were times when I couldn’t feel myself breathe when I was awake and upright. I also had lots of nausea, along with visual disturbances and much more.
Sometimes problems with the brain can mimic other issues. Doctors may hear your list of symptoms and not put two and two together that what you have is a brain issue. They immediately think of other medical problems and other issues it could be related to your body and its many systems, but not think of the brain.
That is how my problems started. I saw a physician for some unnerving symptoms, and the brain was not considered – not once. Not at first, and not for a while. It was a lot of checking into other issues that were being looked into first, to see if my problems and symptoms were being caused by something else. When everything else kept checking out, finally – finally the doctor got around to checking the brain, especially when more and more symptoms mounted and my situated escalated.
When the MRI came back, I was shocked, (yet, not shocked) to learn that it was my brain all along. All these symptoms were being caused by what was seen on my brain – a very large brain cyst. Now, the doctors tried to tell me at first that it was not the cyst causing my problems. They tried to tell me that these types of cysts are normally asymptomatic and don’t produce symptoms. But I would not believe them. I would not listen to them. I knew that it had to be the cyst that was the root of all my problems and symptoms, and so I kept searching for a doctor who also knew this. I needed a doctor who understood brain cysts and understood what they do and were capable of.
After a great deal of searching, I found him. My treatment? Brain surgery. As devastating as it was to hear those words, I wanted treatment and I wanted to get better. I had to learn to put my fear behind me and move forward and for me, that meant a major surgery. It was a bitter-sweet thing to hear, that I needed this surgery because as much as I did not want to go through something so traumatic, I felt vindicated. I felt relieved. And I knew that it meant hope for me – hope in getting better.
Although I have had much more happen to me over the years, both good and bad, both positive and negative medical experiences, I am still here. I am still here to see my boys every day and I am here to be their mom. I may not be the mom I always dreamt about being as a young girl, and I may not be the kind of mom that other, more healthy women are. But nevertheless, I am still a mom, and I am still able to watch my boys grow.
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It’s All in Your Head – A Life of Mental Fogginess And Physical Pain
by Maria McCutchen
Maria McCutchen did not have time to be sick. With a husband who had just lost a job, two young sons, and a cross-country move on the horizon, who had time to be sick? Maria didn’t have time for a common cold, let alone a major medical condition. But one day while shopping in the grocery store where she had shopped hundreds of times before, she couldn’t find the milk. It was then she knew what she was feeling was more than just stress or exhaustion. There was something very wrong.
After consulting a few doctors, Maria discovered she had a rare brain cyst known as a posterior fossa arachnoid cyst—a very large brain cyst. Hearing these cysts were normally asymptomatic was of little comfort, especially because she felt her mind and body slipping away more and more every day. Normal mental and physical functions were becoming harder to control. Even if the doctors didn’t believe the cyst was a problem, she knew it was.
It would take months of living inside a shell of a person that she’d become, months of living in a mental fogginess and sometimes even physical pain, before she would finally get the medical attention she needed. It’s All in Your Head chronicles her harrowing medical odyssey and her attempts to regain some sort of semblance of her old life after treatment.