I Found Out I Have Chiari Malformation: Wait, What?

I am on my mid-30s, and as of this age, we are all expecting to have a little weirdness in our body. However, mine was a little too extreme for me. I came to the point where I suspect myself of dying from cancer. I thought of several diseases that could be causing the suffering I am feeling.

For over ten years, I was working as an executive secretary, working in front of a computer all day, doing all tasks and errands from the bosses. I was experiencing overwhelming stress, and I thought this contributed to the way I was feeling lately.

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For the past year, I was feeling weak, having headaches and vision problems which were understandable given the nature of my job. I went to see an ophthalmologist, and I had my first eyeglasses. He said my eye problem could probably be due to my exposure to radiation, looking all day in a monitor.


At first, the eyeglasses helped. I had fewer headaches than before, but eventually, my condition worsened. I had funny gait. My colleagues would often comment that I walk like a drunk person, and would often tease me, “It’s too early for a drink!”


There were times I had stuttering and neck pain, and I thought I was having a stroke. I looked up on the internet regarding my symptoms, and I suspected my condition to be diabetes or vertigo. It was tormenting not to know what exactly I was experiencing, but then, I was too much of a coward to find out. I was afraid that the doctor might say I only have a few months to live.


Then one day, the beginning of the revelation of my life happened. I was as usual busy at work when I decided to get some coffee because I was feeling sleepy and lazy. On my way to the pantry, I felt dizzy and lost my balance. It was a good thing the glass wall at my senior’s office caught me. I couldn’t stand up for a while, and one of my colleagues saw me sitting on the floor. She called for help, and I was rushed into the clinic. The nurse said I needed to see the doctor as soon as possible. My condition could be nothing, but it could also be something, so I better find out.

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The next day, I got a day off, and I went to see the doctor. I was hesitant, but I did it to free myself from the fear of knowing my condition. He reviewed my medical history and my symptoms. He also conducted a physical examination and requested that I get an MRI or magnetic resonance imaging. It is a test to diagnose Chiari malformation. It uses radio waves and magnets to resemble the body and creates 3-D images of physical oddities inside the brain that could mean an illness like the Chari malformation where the cerebellum extends into the spinal canal.


At last, the result came, and I was positive for Arnold Chiari malformation type 1. I mean, what? He said this type of condition could only manifest during late childhood or even adulthood which what happened to me. He also said that since my case was not severe, I will only be under medications and not a surgery where they need to eliminate a part of the bone at the back of the skull and to take away the pressure in the brain caused by the extension of tissues into the spinal canal.

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Having Chiari malformation made me incompetent in my job as I couldn’t move much like how I used to, and the simple task of getting documents from another department became a challenge for me. I realized that we should never ignore any symptom, that anything we experience outside of the normal is worth a visit to the doctor’s clinic. Now, I can sleep well, and all it took was a confirmation that I’m going to be okay.

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