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A local teenager is looking for the support of her family, friends and the extended community to help her win the fight against Chiari Type 1 Malformation, a brain disease that causes widespread pain throughout the body.

Taylor Thillemann, 19, is a 2014 graduate of Case High School and works at Malicki’s Piggly Wiggly while also attending school at UW-Parkside to pursue a career in law enforcement like her dad, Robert. She’s hoping through the sale of t-shirts that feature a purple ribbon and the words, “Help Tilly Fight Chiari,” to bring awareness to the disease and to help others who also suffer from it.

Carla, Taylor’s mom, is confident Taylor will overcome her diagnosis. But treatment for Chiari can include surgeons removing a piece of skull to relieve the pressure on the brain stem  Taylor is expected to undergo this surgery later this year.

Taylor and her mom, Carla. Photo credit: Carla Thillemann

“She is a strong girl, and a hard worker with goals and ambitions,” she said. “Taylor is very caring and giving and she is going to fight this!”

Taylor’s condition was discovered after years of shoulder issues. As an active athlete, she was no stranger to injury, but the pain never really subsided even after graduation. Finally, when she started feeling numbness down her right arm doctors ordered an MRI and discovered Taylor’s problem wasn’t a pinched nerve; it was Chiari.

The disease causes the blockage of cerebral spinal fluid, pushing the cerebellum down onto the brain stem. Chiari patients can experience a variety of symptoms throughout their body and potentially suffer permanent nerve damage.

Anyone interested in purchasing a t-shirt – they’re $14 – can visit the “Help Tilly Fight Chiari” website. The Thillemann’s need 13 more orders to send the shirts to print.