Cori Murdoch Fights On
By Pamela Unverzart
There are those among us who were born to look at the world as a never ending battle…a world where a few small victorious skirmishes exist along the way, but somehow always believing the major battles forever rage on. They co-exist with the pain of life; sure there is nothing they can do as a single, lone human being in order to make any significant change of the order of things. They may hum and haw with frustration, but then remain firmly rooted in the belief that doing anything just isn’t worth the effort.
But among the many there thrive the few who know deep within their soul their existence is not by mere chance. They recognize every victorious skirmish takes action; where there is action there is growth; through growth there is change, through change there is success, through success comes deep satisfaction, and through deep satisfaction blossoms happiness.
These are the values that The Facial Pain Research Foundation was built upon, and when we meet someone with such like-minded values, we cannot help but stand back enthralled…especially so when the person with such a determined attitude has already won the battle of their life – fought a war that brought them to the very depths of surrender and came out the other side victorious. Yet their fighting spirit doesn’t rest on the sidelines to watch others find their way helplessly through. Indeed, they do just the opposite, pulling on their innate internal strength, determined to reach into the very heart of the enemy and rid the world of its existence for all others suffering and not succeeding.
That is the strength of Cori Murdoch. Blessed with a passionate disposition, Cori is forging forward to turn the battle of her life into a positive for many. Her fight with Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) started at the tender age of 25 and is one she openly admits thinking she’d not make it through. Cori humbly explains her journey below in her own words…
“In late 2010 at the age of 25, I began to experience a pain in my left cheek that I couldn’t even explain. I had never felt anything like it. I went to my doctor who suggested I get a CT scan of my sinuses. When that came up negative, my doctor suggested I get more rest and that he felt that the pain would go away sooner rather than later.
The pain lessened for periods, and I thought maybe he had been right – that I had just had a bad sinus infection or something which just affected me in a really weird way. However, in March of 2012, I experienced an “attack” so bad I nearly passed out. I felt as though someone had taken a Taser to my face and just held it there until I wanted to die. From that moment on, I experienced the excruciating pain in the left side of my face more often than not. It was like nothing else I had ever felt.
I began again to seek out doctors who might know what was going on with me. I was sent for a series of tests – blood work to check for Lyme’s and Spinal Meningitis, CT scans and MRIs to check for tumors, MS, and so on – yet not one doctor mentioned Trigeminal Neuralgia as a possible diagnosis. My symptoms were classic, yet it wasn’t on anyone’s radar.
All of my tests came back negative, so my doctors just kept saying it was stress, or would send me to see someone else. I went to acupuncturists and chiropractors and what seemed like every single type of doctor in my area and not one suggested TN. It wasn’t until my primary care doctor finally sent me to see my neurologist, in August of 2011 that she diagnosed me with TN. She started me on medications and suggested I go to a spine and pain center where they could work with my symptoms. There, I had 4 Radio-frequency ablations, all of which made my symptoms worse. I was extremely hopeless and couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life in that pain. It was debilitating and I was totally depressed and withdrawn.
By chance, however, I happened to find out that a friend of mine’s mom had TN and she had been pain free for some time. He gave me her number and she became a huge source of hope for me. She told me about Microvascular Decompression (MVD) and suggested I talk to my doctor about that as a possible solution. I asked the doctor I was seeing at the time about it, and he said that MVDs only work if there is compression on the nerve, and we had no evidence to suggest that there was compression on my nerve. So we tried some other treatments, none of which were working.
I brought up the MVD again to him, and asked him if he knew of any doctors that would be willing to talk to me about it. He sent me to Georgetown University Hospital, where I met my neurosurgeon. By this time, it was 2013 and I was utterly hopeless – deep down inside, knowing I couldn’t go on much longer without something working. My doctor ordered yet another MRI (and this time, and MRA as well) for me – and because of the type of imaging they used, it was able to show the compression around the base of the nerve clear as day. We scheduled my MVD for May 15th, so I just had to hold on for a few more weeks. My surgery was a success – as soon as I woke up, I knew the pain was gone.
Sadly, still, I know that this surgery isn't the answer for everyone with TN. Since my surgery, I’ve done a lot of research and realized that I’m one of the lucky ones. I certainly didn’t feel that way while going through it, but I’ve realized that the fact I lived with that pain for only three years is lucky compared to so many others who have searched (or continue to search) for years and years without adequate treatment.
The fact that many treatment options available don't work at all for people with TN, leaving sufferers in a state of hopelessness, is something that really needs remedied – we need to find an answer that REALLY WORKS, and I want to help in any way I can.
A friend of mine and I have set up a "Fund to End Facial Pain" and are working on putting together a benefit concert in August and a “Block Party and Movie Night” in October in order to support Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness and Research. Every dollar we earn will be donated to The Facial Pain Research Foundation.
I’ve never done anything like this before and have no idea what to expect, but all I know is that every person we reach that becomes more informed about TN is a step in the right direction, and every dollar we raise can get us closer to finding a cure. I know that together, we can really make a difference!”
Cori has a friend that stood by her side through every step of her journey of pain. Shannon Selwyn -- a long-time college friend -- drove her to appointments, sat by her side through the downward spiral of hopelessness at the worst of Cori’s pain, waited anxiously in the waiting room through her procedures…and was there to experience the excitement of Cori’s success following her MVD. One evening while watching a TV show highlighting celebrity chefs competing for their favorite charities, Shannon turned to Cori and asked what charity she would compete for if given the chance. Cori’s instant thought was to find a charity looking for a cure of Trigeminal Neuralgia.
Shannon’s response: “Then why don’t we actually do that?” And with Shannon’s question was reborn the spirit of giving back that had been beaten dormant inside of Cori during her struggle with TN. With heads together and a shared goal in mind, Cori and Shannon spent an initial four hours brainstorming what they could do and how they could do it. They called Michael Pasternak at The Facial Pain Research Foundation and soon were putting thoughts into action.
The two young women settled on the idea of first having a local music event – the idea of FACE the MUSIC was born – and they began cold-calling several possible locations. Their enthusiasm was contagious and their calls were answered. Jammin Java Music Club and Cafe in Vienna, Virginia agreed to host their fundraiser, and soon local, talented musicians were slated to perform. Two of the top performing acts include The Jonathan Sloane Trio and Keegen Corby. Ticket sales are currently available on line at https://jamminjava.com/calendar. Scroll to the date of August 30th and follow the link for purchasing. Tickets can also be bought at the door the evening of the event.
Organizing one event can be challenging, but these two go-getters have decided not to stop at just one. Quickly following up on their August 30th FACE the MUSIC fundraiser at Jammin Java, they are organizing a Block Party and Movie Night on Florida Avenue in D.C. The event will host live music, good eats and a movie on the lawn for the party goers. And in honor of Cori’s post-surgery craving for the soft, melting goodness of donuts, they’ve collected local bakers to have a donut bake-off to honor the best donut baker in the area. More details on times and ticket sales will follow as the details are finalized.
The Facial Pain Research Foundation applauds the efforts of these two courageous women from the bottom of our heart. Cori’s ability to have stared the devil in the eye and not retreat is more than brave...and Shannon’s un-ending devotion and caring for her friend’s struggles is more than audacious. Together they make a dynamic duo destined for success. Let’s help them in their goals. Join them in their efforts today!