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Chanting for the comeback

Senior Cassi Gough has high spirits for recovery

Walking into the hallway at the UC Davis hospital, senior Cassi Gough didn’t feel anxious, scared, or fearful; instead, she felt relief. She was walking into surgery that would correct her from Arnold Chiari Malformation, a painful diagnosis that tried to hold her back from living life to the fullest. As Gough waited with two IVs in her left hand and one in her right, she knew that recovery would be long, but her battle with ACM would leave her victorious.

Arnold Chiari Malformation occurs in one out of every 1,000 births, and women are more likely to be affected than men, according to the National Institution of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The malformation is when the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance, has a structural defect. Thus, the cerebrospinal fluid is restricted to going to the brain, causing swelling.

Gough stepped into the hospital at Davis for a surgery called Posterior fossa decompression. This surgery relieved the compression on her spinal cord, giving more safety and comfort to Gough. During the surgery, the bone at the back of spine and neck is removed to decompress and provide the natural flow of cerebrospinal fluid and support the brainstem.
The surgery and recovery period was longer for Gough because of an abnormal bone structure near the cerebellum. Only 50 percent of people diagnosed with the malformation have surgery to fix this problem. There are 500,000 people in the United States that have malformation, according to During the recovery process, Gough created a tear in her stitches while watching the football game at Arroyo Grande, causing a spinal fluid leak. Gough is being treated with pain management at Sierra Vista, but says the pain was worth it for going to cheer on her school.

“Having ACM was always just something in the back of my mind…I just learned to relax and not worry,” Gough said. ACM was dormant in Gough her entire life until symptoms appeared on June 2014 , but on Nov. 21, 2014, this worrisome setback was stopped in its tracks, allowing Gough to resume living life to its fullest.

[blockquote author=”Cassi Gough” pull=”pullright”]

Having ACM was always just something in the back of my mind…I just learned to relax and not worry


“I was upset at first when my doctor said I wasn’t allowed to jump or stunt until after my surgery, but I came to realize that none of that mattered as long as I could still be on the sidelines with my team,” said Gough who was elected 2014 Cheer Captain.

Sophomore Taylor Pafumi was diagnosed with ACM on Nov 21 but was re-diagnosed with Occipital Neuralgia, which is described as sharp pains in the neck and back of head, according to the Web Medical Doctors. Pafumi still looks up to Gough as an inspiration.

“She’s honestly amazing. She’ll forever be someone I look up to and admire.” Pafumi said.

Seniors Amy Cantrell, Aly Kilcrease, and Riley Benado are close friends with Gough. Cantrell has known Gough since freshman year, Kilcrease has known her since kindergarten, and Benado is also a captain with her this year. All three friends encourage Gough throughout her diagnosis, surgery and recovery.

“She’s really optimistic; she’s one of the strongest people I know. There is nobody else in the world like her…this was going to be tough but if anyone could get through it it would be her,” Cantrell and Benado said.

“The cheerleaders are cheering for her and hoping that she does well,” Kilcrease added.

Gough looks forward to an exciting senior year. After graduation, she plans to major in criminology.

“It’s kind of bittersweet. I’m ready to begin my life, but at the same time I’m going to miss cheering, leadership, and all of the wonderful friends I’ve made in high school,” Gough said.
With a spirit like Gough’s, not even Arnold Chiari Malformation can hold her back.

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