Call our Helpline: 0808 808 1000

Meet Shreena

Shreena has Chiari malformation and is taking on a half marathon to fundraise for the Brain & Spine Foundation.

Shreena’s story

“I was 20 years old and living alone in Canada when one day I felt a shooting, debilitating pain reverberate through my head. After several visits to doctors abroad and multiple scans, I was diagnosed with a Chiari malformation (Type 1) in 2017”

How would you describe yourself?

I’m a young, active, family-oriented person and love travelling - I have lived abroad in Canada and France and enjoy embracing new cultures and languages. I’m a passionate foodie and spend most of my free-time conjuring up new recipes for my friends and family to try. Running is also a huge part of my life, I aim to run 2-3 times a week and enjoy signing up for new races to keep the motivation levels high! I also recently got married and planned my wedding through COVID-19! 

Tell us about your journey so far.

I was twenty years old and living alone in Canada when one day I felt a shooting, debilitating pain reverberate through my head. After several visits to doctors abroad and multiple scans, I was diagnosed with a Chiari Type 1 Malformation in 2017. It is a condition where part of the brain extends below the opening of the base of the skull. The part of the brain that extends down is called the cerebellum and it controls coordination and balance. 

How has your life changed?

Exercise was a huge part of my life pre-diagnosis. Living with this painful condition has involved several adjustments to my daily life. I was a competitive badminton player and had to give this up unfortunately. This is how I found my love for running, a sport I can undertake without putting too much strain on my body. This year, I am running the London Landmarks Half Marathon in aid of the Brain & Spine Foundation. I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to support this charity and raise awareness for this important cause. 

How do you manage your neurological condition?

Over the years, I’ve tried many different pain relief strategies such as physiotherapy, yoga, and avoiding any high-intensity activities such as rollercoasters. However, the best strategy that has worked for me is regular sleeping patterns. This condition makes me really tired and having 8-10 hours a sleep per day, especially during the pandemic, has helped me to feel re-energised. I would also say that balance is key - knowing when your body is tired, knowing when to stop exercise, or say no to going out. 

How has the Brain & Spine Foundation supported you, either practically or emotionally?

As a rare condition, I struggled to find information online about coping with Chiari Malformation. The Brain and Spine Foundation had a wealth of information online, including a detailed information pack, talking about living with Chiari. The information pack is easy to use and gives tangible, easy-to-implement suggestions.  

What do you wish your friends, family or colleagues knew?

Chiari malformation is a structural neurological condition and not muscular - there are also certain activities which are difficult to participate in because it physically hurts or I know will hurt the next day.  

What would you tell someone at the beginning of an experience like yours?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to others! I’ve found the Brain & Spine Foundation and the support page incredibly helpful. Talking to someone with the same condition can be a great stress-relief and make you feel like you’re not alone.  

Tell us about someone who has inspired you.

My grandparents (who I call Baa and Papa) are my inspiration. They keep me going with their abundance of love, home cooked food, riveting stories, and cheery smiles!  My husband and both of our parents are also incredibly supportive and understanding of the condition. 

 

Shreena is taking part in the London Landmark Half Marathon on Sunday 3 April to raise funds for the Brain & Spine Foundation. If you, like Shreena, are looking for a new challenge in 2022 then take a look at our upcoming events.