Cavernous Chaos

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” – Bob Marley

Two years ago I was diagnosed with a Cavernous Malformation on the lower right pons of the brainstem. I recently joined the ‘Angioma Alliance‘ group to learn more about this condition and others experience. I have never posted anything about this publicly but now I feel ready to open up and share my experience to hopefully help and learn from others.

It was January of 2016 when I realized the new year was bringing an unwanted change to my health. I was experiencing frequent headaches which were somewhat alarming to me because I had never gotten headaches in the past and medication didn’t seem to take it away. However, I thought maybe it was hormonal as it was around ‘that time’ of the month.

What started as a slight headache had progressively grown worse and I would wake up crying a few nights in a row as the pain was so bad. In the morning I would wake up hopeful that it was gone, and then be severely disappointed when I got out of bed to realize it was still there. My ears were very sensitive due to the migraine, even the shower/fan in the bathroom seemed so loud. I was miserable. One day at work the headache became a sudden excruciating migraine, but I continued to work through it.

In February 2016 the muscle spasms began. At first, I thought anxiety, or maybe I overexerted myself during exercise. I went to Dr. Google and became more anxious as I re-learned all the signs and symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. I had learned about MS in college and I was always worried I would have it because I ‘fit the profile.’ So by now I was convinced that I had MS.

Next, I began to notice some weakness on my left side. I particularly noticed the left forearm when I went to dump a pot of spaghetti into the strainer and I was too weak to hold the pot. Eventually, I could hardly lift my left arm above my shoulder without the feeling that something was ‘pulling’ it back down. This made it difficult to wash my hair in the shower or style it. I thought maybe I did some damage to my shoulder. I was also experiencing severe neck pain so I associated the weakness with a ‘pinched nerve.’

Finally, one morning I got up to get ready for work. I felt very nauseous. Got into the shower and my left arm was weaker which scared me. I felt sick so I hurried up and got out of the shower. I sat on the toilet because I didn’t know how I was going to be sick, and all of the sudden felt I was going to lose consciousness. I called my boss from the bathroom and told her I was not going to make it to work. I stayed at my boyfriends house at the time while he went to work. I felt better as I slept but when I got up I noticed my smile was asymmetrical. I took pictures to send to my bf and he agreed, it was subtle but there was obviously something going on.

I was so nervous and terrified at this point I wanted him to come home and take me to the ER. By the time he had gotten home I was ready to walk out the door when he told his family where we were going. His mom somehow calmed me down and convinced me not to go to the ER. I called my PCP’s office for advice/referral to neurology and was told to make an appointment. That night I woke up with severe “spasms” in my left leg- mainly the hamstrings and left arm. The spasms felt like giant contractions that lasted too long and were uncontrollable. I immediately sprung out of bed and tried walking around but could barely move my legs. At the time I was living with my brother and he was thankfully home from working the night shift. I ended up in the ER by 1 am. My muscles were going crazy- only on the left side. My BP was elevated. They drew labs and that was it. I was told that I had low potassium (hypokalemia). They gave me some potassium to drink, which tasted awful. Gave me some pain medicine for the headache, some zofran for nausea, and I believe benadryl. I left the hospital around 3:30 a.m. with D/C papers to follow up with PCP and Neurologist. I somehow woke up for work although the combination of drugs still hadn’t worn off and it was hard to keep my eyes open. I felt like I was in a daze on my way to work and it was very hard to stay awake that entire morning.

After finally finding a neurologist that could see me in weeks versus months, I explained my symptoms, he performed a small neuro exam to test my strength and he agreed that the left side was weaker. I was told all of those symptoms were the result of a “complex migraine.” An EEG was ordered which came back normal. I was not satisfied with the answers I received. I know my body and I was certain that something was not right. Finally, the Neurologist ordered an MRI to ‘put my mind at ease.’

By March I went in for the MRI and they gave me a CD before I left. I took it home, opened it on my computer, and I had no idea what I was looking at but I saw a white circle in my brain that I was sure was not supposed to be there. I thought I had MS. The whole weekend I was so full of anxiety. Finally, I get a call while at work. “This is your doctors office. He would like to see you as soon as possible. Please give us a call back and do not take any aspirin.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! Cue panic attack.

I immediately called and they wouldn’t tell me anything over the phone. Finally, I was sitting in a room when the doctor walks in. He says “Why is your brain bleeding?” I had no idea what to even say. He was so upbeat about the whole thing. Said he never suspected a brain bleed as I was walking and talking just fine. I was surprisingly relieved and asked- “so I don’t have MS?” He assured me that I did not, but I was trading one difficult diagnosis for another. He referred me to a neurosurgeon, who then referred me again to a surgeon who specializes in cavernous malformations.

I could not believe what I was going through. I never expected for anything to actually come of this. Nothing ever did before. A few years prior, I had similar problems, seen a neurologist, had an MRI which came back normal and was told to follow up with PCP. All of my symptoms were relayed to ‘generalized anxiety’ which I was prescribed medication for, but I am not one to take medicine so I decided that this was something I could conquer without meds. In a way, I was relieved to have a diagnosis that explained my symptoms and to know that it wasn’t all in my head. No pun intended.

So anyway, sitting in my Neurosurgeon’s office I began to cry my eyes out as he told me about the possibility of surgery and the associated risks. Due to the location, the surgery would be a high risk and not an option at this time. If surgery is ever an option the one thing he was confident that would happen would be losing my hearing on the right side, as he would have to drill through my Eustachian tube. Other complications could be blurred or double vision, facial weakness, and the worst possible outcome- a feeding tube as I could lose my ability to swallow. Oh, and death. Taking it all in- in disbelief, I could not maintain my composure. Hearing this at just 24 years old was life-changing.

More tests were ordered to verify that it was indeed a cavernoma. First, another MRI with contrast. Second, CT scan of the brain, which makes you feel like you’re peeing yourself. Finally, a cerebral angiogram where they puncture a catheter through your groin (or wrist) and check out the blood vessels. This one was fun. I got some drugs, had them play reggae music and drifted into a twilight. I was aware but there was no pain. I felt peaceful, actually. Once he finished and they were about to take me back to my room in the hospital for observation and he said “there’s your brain,” pointing to a giant white screen with my brain all lit up, and I stared at it in awe. It was actually quite beautiful to see.

So it was finally confirmed in April of 2016. Cavernous malformation of the brainstem, right pons. No AVM, no fistula, no anuerysm. Just a low flow cluster of capillaries that didn’t form properly and one day decided they were going to let a little blood leak out and see what happens.

I had a second opinion at U of M who also confirmed that I am not a candidate for surgery at this time because: 1) size. They would like a bigger challenge. No, the real reason is that it’s too deep in the brain. If it were bigger it would be easier to access. It’s not worth the risk to pull it out unless it grows or bleeds again and causes symptoms. 2) location. Again, it is right on the brainstem deep down in the brain. Even an experienced surgeon admits that scares him and he wants nothing to do with it if he can avoid it because there is a 50% chance of having some complication whether it is minor or major due to its location and all the brain they’d have to go through to get to it. 3) Asymptomatic. They cannot make me better than I already am. Although I have minor symptoms, they are not significant enough to consider surgery right now as my quality of life is still good.

So now I live with the anxiety of another bleed or this thing growing over time. It is known that if your cavernoma bleeds once, it is likely to bleed again. I do believe the chances of a recurrent bleed decrease significantly after two-five years from the first one. But there is really no certainty on this, and that is what kills me- the uncertainty about cavernomas in general!

I wake up almost every day and look at my smile in the mirror. Not to start the day positively with a smile. But to make sure it is still symmetrical. If I go out and have a few alcoholic beverages I get anxiety that I will wake up with another bleed and feel guilty about drinking. I worry constantly about the possible effects this cavernoma could have on my physical appearance/ability to do things independently/cognitive function/life in general. It is a tough diagnosis to live with. I have had many dark days, but try to keep them mostly bright.

As I end this post after waiting to publish it post ‘annual follow-up’, I was hoping to share good news. There was some. The brainstem cavernoma has not grown since it was discovered and there was no evidence of a recurrent bleed! The bad news- there was a new finding. I now have one on the left temporal lobe and have to watch out for aggression, speech and memory problems, and right-sided symptoms such as numbness and tingling, etc. This means I likely carry the gene and could develop many more. I will now go see Dr. Awad at the University of Chicago to establish myself with an experienced, highly rated neurosurgeon- just to be prepared.

As I continue to read other people’s stories in the Angioma Alliance group they give me hope. Most people go through a rough time at first but the story doesn’t end there. Most are uplifting success stories. The ones I’ve read about going through with surgery have shown me strength that one could only understand being in a similar situation. It’s all about mindset. Maintaining a positive mind will lead to a positive life. There’s no doubt about that. “What you think, you become.” – Buddha.

To be continued…. (or not, hoping this new finding and the original finding cause no more issues and nothing more is discovered so I can move on with my life and never look back).


Letting go…

What do you do when your thoughts contradict each other?
When your heart says one thing, but you head says the other
Long-term relationships but still no lover
Am I wrong thinking there could be another?
Broken hearts as a result of this ambivalent war
What’s the reason for wanting more?
I had all in one: Mind, Body, and Soul
But there was an emptiness, no one could console
Intellectually stimulating, spiritual depth, emotional connection
But the fire was dim.
Could it be-
this was all caused from within?

Years of uncertainty coming from each other
One more willing to fight than the other.
Maybe I was wrong (It’s true the mind only wants what it had once it’s gone)
Searching for a soulmate only to find
That what I was looking for, I had the whole time.
Why is it that we realize things only when it’s too late?
It is only for so long one is willing to wait
Not knowing ‘if’ or when I’ll ever be ready
Gave the impression that I’ll always be unsteady
Knowing that it’s unfair to live in wonder
I decided to let everything go under.

I have hope that in time, you and me will wake up to see
All of this was meant to be.
Until that day comes
Live your life free
Be a success – and don’t worry about me
Because at the end of the day we may both look back and say:
Had I never known you as my significant other
I wouldn’t be who I am today.

What is your dominant Jungian archetype?

The 12 Jungian Archetypes

“The psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung, used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche. He believed that universal, mythic characters—archetypes—reside within the collective unconscious of people the world over. Archetypes represent fundamental human motifs of our experience as we evolved; consequentially, they evoke deep emotions.

Although there are many different archetypes, Jung defined twelve primary types that symbolize basic human motivations. Each type has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits. Also, the twelve types are divided into three sets of four, namely Ego, Soul and Self.”

I am “The Explorer” (according to another)


:Motto: Don’t fence me in
Core desire: the freedom to find out who you are through exploring the world
Goal: to experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life
Biggest fear: getting trapped, conformity, and inner emptiness
Strategy: journey, seeking out and experiencing new things, escape from boredom
Weakness: aimless wandering, becoming a misfit
Talent: autonomy, ambition, being true to one’s soul
The explorer is also known as: The seeker, iconoclast, wanderer, individualist, pilgrim.


Music on a different level.

I love every song I’ve encountered by Nahko and Medicine for the people, but I recently discovered these two and I’m even more in love!! Enjoy~



Other good songs by them:

Budding Trees

Black as Night

I Mua

7 Feathers

Wash it Away

Fix it



Black Holes: Part I

I realize it’s been a couple months since my last post on Gravitational Waves, where I said that I would be posting about black holes next. I had a lot happen in the past couple months that I had to deal with before I could start focusing on blogging again. Today, I will give a brief introduction to black holes, and the next post will go into further detail. Stay tuned, and stay patient 🙂


There are only three things you need to know to understand a black hole and that is it’s 1) mass, 2) spin, and 3) electric charge.

By definition a black hole is  an object whose escape speed is the speed of light. Escape speed is the speed it takes for an object to escape gravity (the curvature of spacetime). In order for an object to escape a black hole, it must reach the speed of light. Therefore, light itself cannot escape a black hole. The speed of light can be thought as the “speed limit” of the universe.

It is known that an object that comes into contact with a black hole gets sucked in by it’s gravity and cannot escape. Once the object is sucked in, it is no longer visible and all of it’s information is believed to be lost forever, as if it never existed.

Although a black hole’s gravity is a very strong force, an object that enters into it’s orbit is able to escape as long as it does not cross the event horizon of the black hole. Before reaching the event horizon, gravity is weak. Thus, a slight push would allow for an object to escape the black hole. Once that object reaches the event horizon, it has reached a point of no return. Gravity becomes so strong, that the object would have to have that much stronger of a push in order to get out. Once the object reaches the singularity of the black hole- the small, dense skeleton of the dead star and the source of strong gravity, that is when the object needs a push faster than the speed of light to escape, and that cannot happen. This is why we remain oblivious as to what goes on inside of a black hole, because an object that falls past the event horizon is said to never leave, giving us zero information about what’s inside.

event horizon

Picture from  Shane Larson’s blog; who provides a lucid, and entertaining explanation of everything science!

That’s it for now, stay tuned for more 🙂

This post is part of a series, for links to other posts, click here!


DIY Toothpaste!

I don’t like to use regular toothpaste because of the fluoride (an industrial toxic waste product, which is a poison, and can cause neurological and endocrine dysfunction) and other unnecessary, cancer-causing ingredients.

I started using organic toothpaste, but after learning the many benefits of coconut oil toothpaste, I decided to give it a try! Some of these benefits include: attacking streptococcus bacteria (a major cause of tooth decay), no harmful chemicals, anti-cavity properties,  and cost efficiency!

And here’s something slightly personal- fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, which I had a mild case of since I was a kid. I did not realize that once I started using my homemade toothpaste my teeth would become naturally whiter and I no longer have those disgusting lines on my teeth as bad as I once had!

I’ve officially gone coco loco.

So now I’ll tell you how I make my toothpaste (the simplest way possible).

2016-02-28 20.00.17
All you really need is coconut oil, and baking soda. A small zip-lock bag, spoon, and a curious puppy 😉

Continue reading “DIY Toothpaste!”


Waves of Spacetime- GW150914

On February 11th, 2016 the world was exposed to a shocking discovery that scientist’s have been questioning since the 1910’s. The idea of Gravitational Waves had been tossed around but never confirmed. This was mostly due to the fact that the detection of a GW seemed impossible because the technology simply did not exist. However, nothing is impossible in the scientific community. The first encounter with GW was with the Hulse-Taylor Pulsar, in which they observed the pulsar’s orbital decay which matched Einstein’s predictions of energy loss by gravitational radiation. This discovery would win them the Nobel Prize in 1993.

Not too many people are familiar with gravitational waves, so I will take this opportunity to clear things up. By the way, the name of the GW detected in the title of this post is the date that it was found! Fun fact for the day.

What is a GW? A gravitational wave is formed by a mass in motion. Think of a stone tossed into a lake. The stone creates ripples, or waves that propagate throughout the lake. The same idea can be applied in space. However, stones in a waternot all masses in space are strong enough to send ripples through spacetime. Only the large, energetic ones like a rotating binary system, supernova’s, black holes, etc. These massive objects are so strong that the space around them will “ripple” as they spin or explode while they are losing energy in the form of gravitational waves. This is why the detection of GW is huge. Only massive violent events in space cause them, therefore, we can study GW to learn more about the events that produced them, like mysterious black holes and possibly the big bang itself.

How do we detect gravitational waves? As previously stated, GW are nearly impossible to detect. As they pass through, they cause distances to change and periodic deformations. Their effect, however, is so small which makes it difficult to detect them. This is because gravity is a weak force and the period of the wave is extremely small. For example, a mass with a diameter of 1 meter would only be deformed by 10^-21 meters. This is why it is very difficult to detect GW. Nevertheless, physicist Albert Michelson came along to show us how we could measure such a small motion. Using the wavelength of light as a measuring device we are able to detect precise movements for exquisitely small distances, or periods.

How is light used as a measuring device? If you’ve ever taken a physics class then you’veinter probably learned about Young’s two slit experiment that allowed us to “see” the wavelengths of light. A single light beam that is shined through two slits can be seen on a blank screen some distance away as a pattern of light and dark “fringes.” This is known as interference. The distance between fringes is directly related to wavelength.


Laser Interferometer’s
LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) is a collaboration between multiple physics institutes and research groups dedicated to the search for GW’s, which began in August 2002. Because the wavelength of a GW is directly related to the size of the cosmic event, detectors must be about the size of the cosmic event. Thus, we have two types of man-made devices: Ground Interferometer’s, designed for small cosmic sites w/ GW of a few thousand kilometers, and Space Interferometer’s, designed for large cosmic sites with wavelengths tens of millions of kilometers. The ground interferometers are located in Hanford, Washington and Livingston, Louisana.

Basically, an interferometer sends out a laser beam that hits a beam splitter, splits the light in two where the light is directed toward mirrors that finally send the light back to the beam splitter to form an interference pattern. The arms of the interferometer are the trajectory of the beams, so the pattern depends on the distance between the arms.


If a GW goes through, the distance between the arms changes, leaving the interference pattern changing periodically!
In theory, LIGO could also detect hypothetical phenomena of GW caused by oscillating cosmic strings, and domain walls

Lisa is the first space interferometer that was successfully launched on December 3, 2015. The mission is to map out the technical difficulties that may be experienced by eLisa, which will be launched with three satellites positioned 5 million km away from each other with laser beams connecting the three satellites. Any change in the distance of laser light will suggest a GW passing through.

To watch and learn more about this fascinating historic event, see the video below!


Are we really able to learn about the creation of the universe by studying a GW?
Because gravity is such a weak force, gravitational waves interact weakly with their environment. In fact, the effect is so small that they don’t change much because of their weak interactions. This makes them the perfect little “messengers” of distant cosmic events, providing us more information on gravity and how the universe works as gravity is turned into waves.

Side note- an interesting comment was made in the discussion post on GW so I thought I would share:
“gravitational waves, to me, would better explain some kind of déjà vù, because space time is being curved, it would be a variation on the time that maybe allows someone to look into the past or future for a few milliseconds (or the time it takes to the wave to pass)” -M.A
Something to think about!

That about sums up the discussion on gravitational waves, next time I will talk about black holes- their mysterious nature, escaping them and how GW will provide us with information we would never be able to gather otherwise!

This post is part of a series, for links to other posts, click here!


Books I’m reading…


The Implications of Gravity in Spacetime

The theories in which modern science rest heavily upon were presented hundreds of years ago by the scientists we have grown to learn about and love. Their theories have yet to be disproved, and that is why those theories are the platform on which modern science now rests. It is a strong platform, but as it ages, we must fill in the cracks. That’s where we are at in this day and age, filling in the cracks of an old foundation. Gravity is the most fundamental force in the universe, yet it is a very weak force. The series of posts I am about to share rely heavily on our concept of Gravity, so it’s important to get the basics down first.

We will start with Galileo. In a uniform gravitational field, Galileo believed that all Galileoobjects fall identically-irrespective to their mass. To prove his theory, he climbed up the Leaning Tower of Pisa where he dropped various masses. In doing so, he proved that when an object is in free fall, it will not experience a force in relation to it’s mass and that all objects, regardless of their mass will move in the same direction, at the same time. Think of an elevator- your head and shoes will “fall” at the same time, even though your head is heavier than your shoes. Galileo gave us the understanding of inertia; where an object that is set into motion stays in motion until it is acted upon by some external force.

Aristotle believed that the Earth did not move because if you threw a ball straight up in the air it would come straight back down, instead of going to the left/right etc. Galileo argued this idea giving an example of the cabin of a ship. Inside the cabin, if there are no windows, there is no way to tell if the ship is moving or not. Galileo concluded that the laws of physics are identical in all Galilean (intertial) reference frames, providing us with our first encounter with relativity.


Next, Sir Isaac Newton comes along to explain the force that acts upon all objects. Newton’s first law of motion is essentially Galileo’s concept of intertia. The second law of motion tells us that the force needed to act upon an object depends on it’s mass and acceleration. If you have a large mass with a large acceleration, you will need a large force to act upon it and so on. Finally, Newton’s third law of motion state’s that for every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction.

Newton’s laws gave us a better understanding of the physical world around us. Einstein decided to apply his idea’s to the entire universe. On November 25th, 1915 Einstein
published his Theory of Special Relativity. This theory has Einsteinprovided us a profound understanding of our universe, and much of what we know has been found using Einstein’s theories. Special Relativity tells us that the speed of light is the same in all constantly moving frames and that Time slows down the faster you travel and vice versa.

To better understand the idea of special relativity, I will provide an analogy from the book “Hyperspace” by Michio Kaku: Continue reading “The Implications of Gravity in Spacetime”



I randomly signed up for an online physics course that would last six weeks. Little did I know, I would become so intrigued by the end that I am now spending every spare second reading science blogs, science books, and re-watching the lectures of the course. I plan to share with whomever takes the time to read this, the exciting new things that I learned from the course.

Let me start with an introduction about the course.

The title of the course was “Gravity! From the big bang to black holes.” So, as you may assume, the topics ranged from Einstein’s general relativity, the big bang, inflation, dark matter, dark energy, gravitational waves, and black holes. Some old concepts, some new (to me). The best thing about the course was that you did not need to have any background in physics. Just an appetite for learning, and maybe some extra research on your own time if interested.

The course was taught by Professor Pierre Binetruy of Paris Diderot University. Pierre was the first director of the AstroParticle and Cosmology laboratory in Paris upon it’s creation. His main interests, according to a bio online, include cosmology and gravitation; connecting the theories of the early universe and fundamental interactions. He’s highly knowledgeable about inflation models, dark energy, and cosmological background of gravitational waves. Due to these areas of interest, he is highly involved in the eLisa mission- which I will go into more detail about later on.

I would just like to express how happy I am about taking this class. The course provided such lucid, comprehensible explanations on theories and concepts of physics. There was hardly any math involved, which was nice. The detailed explanations and demonstration’s made these unfamiliar concepts easy to grasp. Finally, Pierre arranged live hangouts where we were introduced to prestigious scientists, and we were able to ask questions during a live chat. George Smoot was one scientist that was present during the hangouts, and also recorded a lecture himself to explain the concept that won him the Nobel Prize in 2006. We were also able to meet key scientists that were actively involved in the LISAPathfinder mission, which was launched 12/03/2015. This mission will (hopefully) uncover another corner of the veil on the universe. I now anxiously await the discoveries that will be made from this mission. The series of blog posts that follow should explain why.

Here I will post the links to the series of posts I will be writing:

  1. The Implications of Gravity in Spacetime
  2. Waves of Spacetime- GW150914
  3. Black Holes: Part I