Cassie McCarney


In 2016, my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia. Chiari Malformation is a condition where the brain extends down into the spinal cords and Syringomyelia is when cyst forms within your spinal cord, putting pressure on your spine. Through the years playing volleyball had frequent headaches and I just thought it had to do with not eating or drinking enough. Then, the shoulder pain started, the pain extended into my neck and down my right arm which eventually went numb. I worked closely with my athletic trainers and team doctors to get to the bottom of my pain. Throughout the years the diagnoses went from torn rotator cuff to neck strain to herniated disk to finally Chiari Malformation. The team doctor sent me for an MRI on my neck which is when we found the problem, Chiari Malformation. Now, all the headaches, balance issues, neck pain, numbness, dizziness and the occasional vision problems made sense.I had to go see a neurosurgeon as soon as possible to discuss what to do next. The doctor said my best option with having the syrinx, is to have brain surgery. At that moment, my world came crashing down. Questions began running through my head: “Will I get to play again?”, “Will I be able to go back to school on time?” and so many other questions. December 2016, I had my surgery to make my skull bigger and remove my C1 vertebrae. The surgery was to reduce the pressure on my spinal cord and brain stem while allowing the cerebral spinal fluid to flow normally along with halting the progression of my symptoms. The recovery process was a painful one. I returned to school two weeks later to finish my sophomore year.I was able to return to the court for my junior year and I was named a captain for my senior year. Today, I am still living a pain and symptom free life. This experience has taught me how strong a person actually can be. It was a struggle explaining to people what was going on because on the outside, I looked fine. Some people told me “Oh, everyone gets headaches” but what they didn’t know was that it felt like I was fighting gravity daily. It was hard to do daily things like sit up for long periods of time or drive, the things we take for granted. This experience made me realize that we cannot take things for granted. Make the best out of each day and to play each game like it’s your last.

Bailey Cartwright