Shortly after giving birth to my daughter, I started experiencing headaches so awful the pain would radiate down my neck. I figured they were tension headaches from sitting funny while feeding the baby. A few moths later, they started to make my eyes hurt, as well. I had heard friends talk about their migraines and thought perhaps that was what I was experiencing, too—though I had never had them before, Perhaps something changed when I gave birth to my second child? Pregnancy and childbirth does weird things to the body, I thought. The disconcerting thing was whenever I would change position or exert myself, a sharp pain would shoot through my neck and head. During that time I was preparing for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and singing high notes made me double over in pain. Not good.
When I started getting double vision, I panicked and went to see my ophthalmologist. He sent my to a neurologist, who immediately sent me to radiology to get an MRI which lead to a spinal tap. It frightened me, the speed at which everything was happening, Obviously something was very wrong. I never heard them say it, but I knew I had the symptoms of a brain tumor and I was terrified.
Fortunately, I did not have a brain tumor. Unfortunately, after several lumbar punctures, I was diagnosed with a rare condition called Pseudotumor Cerebri. Basically, my body does not adequately absorb the spinal fluid it creates and this puts pressure on the central nervous system, causing debilitating headaches, dizziness, nausea and neck and shoulder pain. If left untreated, it can cause blindness.
The doctor also let me know obesity has been associated with PTC, and obese women under 44 are most likely to develop the condition. So, while weight loss wasn’t a guarantee for remission, it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Great. Except one of the symptoms of PTC is increased pain with physical exertion. Like I mentioned before, I could barely get through my Mozart aria without tears—how the hell was I going to exercise?
So, I tried and fell off the wagon. Tried again. Fell off again. And again and again and again. For the most part I’ve been able to keep my symptoms in check with regular exercise. I have even improved my vision somehow, which blew away my ophthalmologist. However, the moment I start slacking, BAM! I’m on my back with a headache so bad I hate even breathing.
I don’t really talk about my PTC much. I don’t want people thinking I use it as a crutch or an excuse. But let me tell you folks, I have been struggling lately. This week was especially hard because it started with a PTC headache and I had to take the medication that makes me so ill I need two days to recover. When that happens, I throw the most incredible pity party for myself, which must include wine and french fries.
And so it’s just a vicious circle.
But this week was different. Yes, I had the headache, and the awful medication, and even the pity party, but I still got my ass to the gym. I totally phoned it in for a couple of days, but I went. And it hurt and I felt awful and I wanted to puke, but I reminded myself of all the times I quit and how months later I regretted it and wished I had stuck it through.
I have embarked on quite the journey. To be honest, it can really and some days I am knocked flat on the ground wondering how in the hell I managed to get myself here. I’ll be feeling so great and something will set me back and I have to remind myself that I’m doing everything I can at this moment in time. Honestly, though, I’m at the point now where I have more good days than bad and I am starting to like this Lisa chick.
A bad day or even a bad week doesn’t mean I should just throw in the towel. A champion doesn’t give up after failure—champions keep trying until they get it right. I’m going to use these tough moments to make myself a better, stronger person.