Nystagmus and Neurology Update – Over 2.5 Years Post-Op

I cannot emphasize what an absolute blessing it is to live in Houston, Texas and just minutes away from the Texas Medical Center. I truly feel privileged and I honestly believe that I would not be here today if it hadn’t of been for the immediate and incredible care that I received at Park Plaza Hospital and Memorial Hermann. It has been awhile since I’ve updated you on my recovery.

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It’s been two years, eight months, and twenty days since my brain stem surgery and removal of my cavernous malformation by Dr. Arthur Day of the Mischer Institute at Memorial Hermann. (To catch up on my brain surgery back story, start with my very first blog posts).

Today was a very special day. Today, I found hope.

Her name is Dr. Erin Furr-Stimming, Neurologist and Movement Disorders Specialist practicing at the UT Physicians Neurology Clinic in the Texas Medical Center.

It’s taken me a while through out my recovery to see the right doctors, get the right information, and learn the new ways of living my life post-malformation. One of the only, yet major, conditions I still deal with post-op is my nystagmus.

My nystagmus is characterized by the involuntary movement and vertical shaking of my eyes. In other words, my eyes go up and down 24/7 and I can’t stop it. There are different types of this condition and from the majority of research that I’ve read, people are usually born with it (congenital nystagmus) and in most cases, it tends to be horizontal (from side to side). My case differs greatly because my nystagmus was acquired, I wasn’t born with it. It started as a symptomatic result from the hemorrhage in my brain stem… we think.

Ah, the brain and its many wonders.

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Neurology is so fascinating and our brains are incredible. I’m still astonished by the advancements in medicine that saved my life and the neurologists, nurses, and other doctors that I’ve been blessed to encounter along the way. They truly inspire me and the woman I met today is no exception.

Today’s visit with Dr. Erin Furr-Stimming included a number of tests (physical, coordination, and visual), a comprehensive review of my medical history, as well as, reviewing the extensive vision testing and exams I had when seeing Dr. Rosa Tang, Neuro-Opthamalogist, a few months ago. I was also really happy when they asked to document my shaking eyes by making a video. I am ALL for education about these issues and was so happy to help with this. I’ll do my best to get these video clips to share here, on my blog, so you guys can visually see what’s going on with these eyes of mine.

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Art Credit: Ileana Hunter

Houston, we have a plan!

Back to today’s visit. It’s taken me a while but I finally found the Doctor who has a plan to try and remedy this nystagmus. I could hardly believe my ears when she confirmed that there are available medications on the market that are being used to treat nystagmus although, the research and data are rare and small in size.

Of course, with any medication, it’s going to be trial and error to see how my body and my brain react. I am well aware of this. I do, however, have hesitation to utilize these medications because I’m afraid to worsen my condition. I will be conducting further research and learning more about these drugs but I will go ahead and share the information I do have so far…

Nystagmus Medications:

  • Lorzone; Parafon Forte DSC – also used to calm muscles
  • Ampyra – also used to treat MS (multiple sclerosis)

Again, I must disclose that going into these possible treatments, I am scared. I am so grateful to God each and every day to wake up and be able to SEE. I am grateful for the vision I DO have even though, it’s not what I’ve been used to for the first 25 years of my life. I did not wake up blind as a result of my brain stem surgery and I don’t suffer from chronic double vision all of the time (these have been results of similar surgeries to mine) and I know I am lucky.

But, of course, I feel that I owe it to myself to see if this is something that we can fix with modern day medicine and health technology.

So! Medication is an option but first, we will try formal Vision Therapy – which I had NO idea even existed. I am being referred to Dr. Bhavani Iyer, Neuro-Optometrist at The Robert Cizik Eye Clinic, and cannot wait to schedule my appointment and begin therapy with her!

I will, of course, continue to blog about my experience on this nystagmus journey, so stay tuned for more updates as they come. (You can subscribe to my blog by email on the widget located in the right side bar.)

Further Research On Nystagmus by Dr. Timothy Hain

Another amazing thing I learned from my awesome visit today was the new research out there by Dr. Timothy Hain, a neurologist who specializes in balance disorder. He’s making tremendous strides in neurology research by educating people about nystagmus, also known as Oscillopsia, and how it affects those of us who have it.

With this condition, you truly do have to learn how to see the world in a whole new way. Your brain has to learn how to process these new images because they are constantly moving. You have to be able to compensate for the time that it takes to register these things, that’s why my proximity when driving is pretty terrible. I have to be extra cautious and careful but it’s a blessing to be able to get around. Yes, I drive like an old lady and my husband makes fun of me for it but I don’t care! I will always rather be safe than sorry. Let’s arrive alive, people! Ha! (For more on my tips for driving with nystagmus, visit this post.)

Please visit Dr. Hain’s fantastic work on “Oscillopsia: Bouncing Vision” on the Gentamicin Information Center website. I encourage you to view these incredible videos and read his accurate depiction of this mysterious condition. I am so in awe of his explanation and recreations of what it’s like for us because it’s so dead on. I haven’t yet seen any nystagmus research anywhere like this before! It really has helped me to better understand my condition.

7 Keys to Living the Life You Want

Earlier this month, Toyota sent me to experience the Houston stop of Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour. It was a very fun, very inspiring and very busy two days. Honestly, it’s taken me some time just to let everything sink in and simmer. In this post, I’m sharing my lessons learned when it comes to living the life you want inspired by Oprah and her Life Trailblazers.

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7 Keys to Living the Life You Want

1. Gratitude

First and foremost, living life with an attitude of gratitude will propel you in the right direction always. At whatever stage you are in your life, even if you’re not where you want to be, you must always be grateful. YOU ARE ALIVE. Take a moment and just stop. Close your eyes and focus on your next few breaths… Wow, you are BREATHING. If there is air in your lungs, you have life and the ability to DO.

“Living the life you want begins by embracing the life you have. Your life is miraculous.” -@RealRobBell

Rob Bell did an incredible job of driving this point to all of us in the audience. We may not know why bad things happen but because we are able to move past them, we should be grateful.

“Suffering raises all sorts of questions but so does grace and gratitude.” -@RealRobBell

2. Inspiration

Living an inspired life is essential to living the life you want. Wherever you find your source of inspiration, keep it coming. Amy Purdy mentioned how her biggest inspiration is seeing others live their dreams. I have to agree!

3. Service

‘Everyone has the power for greatness — not for fame, but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.’ Even before I first heard my all-time favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I knew in my heart that the message was true. As far back as I can recall, my prayer has been the same: ‘Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.'” – Oprah Winfrey

Further reading/inspiration: Oprah’s Favorite MLK Quote (VIDEO) via Huffington Post  

4. Self Awareness

Deepak Chopra is a master meditation guru. The thousands of us that were on hand for the Life You Want Tour in Houston were in for a very special treat. We all got to experience a guided meditation with Deepak and Oprah. It was incredible! I’m pretty sure this was on my bucket list, I just didn’t know it yet.

It’s so important to be self-aware and take time for yourself. Take time each day to meditate and just enjoy the silence, take this time to listen to your body and listen to your life. Clear your mind and just breathe!

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Photo Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns

5. Connection

Oprah made an awesome point about how we, as humans, want to know that we matter. We want to know we matter to our husbands and wives, to our friends, to our family members, to our employers, to the stores we choose to shop at, etc. It’s important to realize this and acknowledge the ones around you. Let them know how much they truly matter to you.

6. Balance

One of the exercises in the Life You Want Tour workbook was to take a look at our lives today and all the different components of it. Oprah had us rate our happiness with each of the categories. It’s important to take a look at your life and see where your attention may need to be redirected. Is there anything missing?

A few of the life category examples included: friendships, body/health/well-being, occupation, hobbies and passions, home, financial situation, spouse/partner/mate, family/children/grandchildren/parents, contribution to the world, and spirituality/faith/beliefs.

Oprah utilized this exercise so that we can realize where we are now and then use this knowledge to create a better life vision to go after for achieving a better future and the lives we want.

7. Evolution

Always improve. Oprah said it herself that she is always reaching for a better tomorrow. We should always strive to live our greatest life and be our best selves.

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Is there anything you would add to this list? 

Free & Customizable Weight Loss Journal Printable

I’ve received a lot of feedback from my post about How To Make an Awesome Weight Loss Binder. Thanks for all the great comments! I’m so glad to hear that this tutorial has been helpful for so many of you.

Today, I’m so excited to share a free printable to get you guys started with food journaling. Remember, you’ll want to tailor this document to YOUR needs.. whatever weight loss plan you may be following, be sure to make the proper adjustments.

free weight loss printable, free food diary journal template,  food journaling, how to make a weight loss binder The whole idea of this food diary template is to make it easy for you to keep on track and stay on plan. After all, the more organized you are, the smoother your weight loss will go. This food diary should help you with meal planning, as well.

When you start your day, actively think about what you’ll take with you for lunch at work. Make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks on hand. Also, I really recommend adding your calorie count goals and tracking with My Fitness Pal – especially, for the first few weeks while you’re still figuring out your staple diet foods (like chicken breast, fish, veggies, etc.).

Here’s what the food diary looks like. As you can see, it’s super simple!

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-Click Here To Download Your Free Food Diary Printable-

You’ll also want to log your exercise for the day!

Another great feature about this food diary is it helps you track your water in take! For weight loss, you’ll want to get in at least 80 oz. of water per day. That’s 10 8 oz. glasses. If you drink 16 oz. water bottles, then that’s at least 5 a day! :)

Aim to drink at least one glass before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For weight loss, you should be drinking A LOT of water through out the day. This is just something you’ve got to get used to. Your body will THANK YOU. Yes, plan for many more trips to the restroom, but it’s well worth it once you begin to see the results. Water intake is SUCH an important key to weight loss!

For more tips on how to tailor your food diary, check out my blog post about How To Set Yourself Up for Weight Loss Success by Food Journaling.

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My Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport Experience

Recently, I had an awesome opportunity to experience the 2014 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport for a week. Mind you, I’m definitely by no means a car expert, however I am super excited to bring you my first automotive review on xtine danielle.

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Photography Credit: Lexus

For someone who hasn’t bought a new car since the time I got my 2004 Honda Element, it’s a whole new world when it comes to driving!

Taking On the Houston Roadways

As Houstonians, we just have to accept our longer than we’d like commutes to work. The daily grind of Houston traffic is just a part of our work day and chances are that many of us spend more time behind the wheel than we’d like to.

My commute to work consists of Galleria traffic. I can honestly say, driving around in this 2014 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport – even in rush hour traffic – was an absolute pleasure. The Lexus RX 350 rides so crazy smooth – taking bumps in the road was a completely different experience, too! Just wonderful.

Enjoyable Features

My favorite features were the amazing computer system, the back up camera (SO freakin’ helpful), and the awesome sound system. I also have to mention the computer system’s track pad was super nice, making it easy to navigate through the different computer options. It was also super easy to connect my iPhone via Bluetooth. I loved the leather interior, as well. This vehicle has plenty of storage with a secret compartment under the center console. This is perfect for hiding your purse or wallet when at the gas pump!

My husband and I also loved the seating warmers and coolers. I almost always run hot and he’s usually cold. It was so nice to be able to cool my bum while warming his. I can definitely see this helping us out, and couples like us, in the future – especially, in the winter time.

I’ve created this Flipagram to share my photos from the week:

I love how sleek and sexy the vehicle is. I also happen to believe it’s the perfect sized SUV for me, too. I had more than enough room to do all my weekend errands including trips to Target and the grocery store. It was so nice not to have to worry about having enough space. Also, the back seats were very roomy. I drove my family around and they commented on how much room they had to extend their legs.

For more details on this vehicle check out this article: A Closer Look at 2014 Lexus 350 F Sport by Jay Casteel.

Overall, I loved the Lexus RX 350 F Sport.

I would absolutely consider this SUV for my next vehicle purchase. It’s sexy, yet practical, and offers features that truly helped me to drive safer, smarter, and better.

I’m very, very excited to see what the 2015 model of this fantastic SUV has to offer. I absolutely loved my time with this ride! For more details on the latest Lexus RX models, visit the official Lexus website.

Disclosure: Thank you to Lexus for providing me with this vehicle for a week to complete this review!

Our Journey to Home Owning & Tips for Building Better Credit

Tracking PixelDisclosure: This post has been sponsored by Credit Karma™. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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My husband and I have officially started traveling down the road to becoming home owners. Since we first began living together back in early 2011, we’ve lived in two different apartment complexes. Sure, there are some perks to apartment life, but we are well beyond that point in our lives.

We want our own home and room to grow. We need more space. We want a backyard for our fur-baby. We want to be able to host gatherings with enough room for friends and family to be comfortable. We want a bigger kitchen, more storage space, a garage would be nice, etc. The list goes on and on. Plus, we are so over sharing just one bathroom between the two of us! We have simply outgrown our apartment and are more than ready to move to that special stage in life… becoming first time home owners!!!

We have set a goal date and plan to be in our new home by the end of October 2015 when our current lease is up! That gives us one whole year to continue saving. I’m excited to begin blogging about our home buying adventure because as you might know, these things take time and there are many steps that lead up to the big move (in). One of the main things we are focused on at this point in the home buying process is building our credit. My husband has not been as blessed as I have by the credit score gods so it’s taking some definite time and effort to build his score up to where we want it to be. We’re getting there, but not alone.

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How Credit Karma™ Can Help You Reach Your Financial Goals

Today, I’m sharing about one website that has truly served as the ultimate resource for us over the last few months. Credit Karma™ is a credit monitoring website that offers you free access to your credit report and credit score. I’m sure you’ve seen their commercials on TV.

This is one of my faves:

Credit Karma™ is PRO-consumer, which is awesome. Their founder believes that everyone should have free access to their own data. It’s just FAIR. If you think about it for a minute, in order for us to get anything done in this world, ie. applying for a job, buying a car to get to said job, applying to purchase a home, etc… you must have a credit score or you may not get very far.

Credit Karma™ offers its users free weekly access and monitoring so that we can do what we have to do to build, maintain, and just be aware of our credit health.

It’s quite shocking if you take a look at the statistics about credit. There are an estimated 220 million people out there with a credit profile. 33% of those people have never even checked their credit scores before. The little lady in the video above is not alone. There’s also another 25% out there with errors that they don’t know about on their credit report that could be causing them some major financial headaches.

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By using a credit monitoring service such as Credit Karma™, you are only empowering yourself and your future. Plus, it’s FREE. Absolutely FREE. They will never ask you for a penny when it comes to using their services. You have NOTHING to lose. Actually, you have a LOT to gain. Aside from monitoring your credit report, you can also connect all of your financial accounts into once easy place (a lot like Mint). Once you link up your accounts, read-only data is safely transmitted to your Credit Karma™ dashboard, making it a one stop shop for all of your financial health monitoring.

Other favorite features of mine at Credit Karma™ are their awesome forum community and blog. They have a vast amount of helpful articles and forum topics about anything having to do with your credit score, money habits, and beyond. It’s important stuff that we all need to know about.

Sign up today for your free credit report monitoring and give yourself the gift of financial health awareness.

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Tips for Improving Your Credit Score

Don’t be late on your payments! 

Set alert reminders in your phone or on your calendar. Be sure to never miss a payment. Even just missing ONE payment can affect your score tremendously. Personally, whenever I charge something, I put a calendar reminder in my phone to pay ASAP as soon as it posts.

Deal with any derogatory marks ASAP.

Once you’ve been alerted that you have an outstanding payment and collections accounts are trying to reach you, take care of it. Credit Karma™ does a good job of monitoring and the second something pops up, they alert you immediately. Taking care of collections matters in a timely matter is very important. Also whatever you settle on with these people, make sure to get the agreement in writing.

What’s a good credit score goal?

Aim for a score of 720. When applying for a home, you’ll need a credit score of at least 720 to get the best offers on loans, financing offers, etc.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Credit Karma™.

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Have you used Credit Karma™ before? Has it been helpful?

Are you currently saving up to buy your first home? Share your story.

Are you already a home owner? What advice would you offer to first time home buyers?

Get in on the conversation! I LOVE hearing from my readers. Please share your answers, thoughts, and opinions in the comments section below!

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