Neurologic conditions can be very difficult to diagnose--just ask Rosanne Cash. The Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter and daughter of legendary country singer Johnny Cash lived with painful and often debilitating headaches for most of her adult life. It wasn't until more than a decade of searching that Cash finally discovered her symptoms were caused by a Chiari I malformation, in which part of the brain is forced downward into the spinal cavity, and an associated syringomyelia, which is a hole that forms in the spinal cord and can fill with fluid.
One Long Headache
"I've had headaches for as long as I can remember," says Cash, who lives in New York City and has made a name for herself over the last four decades as a musician and a writer. She has been nominated eleven times for a Grammy and won the 1985 award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Her 2010 memoir, Composed
, was critically acclaimed.
Cash's headaches worsened during her second pregnancy. By 1994, they were so severe that she finally consulted with a neurologist. Still, it wasn't until 2007 that Cash's Chiari I malformation was accurately diagnosed. The first neurologist Cash went to thought the singer was experiencing cluster headaches--an exceedingly painful and relatively rare kind of headache that tends to occur in a cyclical pattern--but the medications she prescribed offered little help.
The second neurologist, a headache specialist, diagnosed Cash with migraines. When the headaches continued and intensified, the diagnosis changed to atypical migraines.
"This went on for a decade," Cash says. "A decade!"
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