Moments with Marie

Marie was a woman I never met — until after her death in 2010. Marie Little was one of the ultimate Migraine victims, because this disease took her life.

Migraineurs often complain that society doesn’t understand them because there are no “big stars” brave enough to stand up and tell the ugly truth about Migraine Disease. When they dare to tell their stories, often they are met with salty attitudes and worse publicity. The stigma and misunderstanding of Migraine is often even accidentally perpetuated by well meaning celebrities who choose instead to focus on their *victory* over Migraine Disease by minimizing its effects on their lives and careers. This is how they defend themselves and survive in their publicity filled world.

The fact is nobody wants to appear to be a complainer, or a weakling. From the outside looking in, it’s very easy to fall into one of two places: the “Happy Place” where everything is sunshine and roses, or the perpetual pity party in the land of “Woe is Me” populated by whiners, complainers and weaklings.

That’s how outsiders see us anyway.

Migraine stigma abounds.

But back to my Migraine sister Marie…

I have a photograph of a star shaped stone in one of the walkways in Las Vegas. It looks similar to the stars I’d expect to see in Hollywood with the name of a famous actor or actress emblazoned across the front. It stopped me cold and brought an unexpected flood of tears that really confused my husband when I found it by accident just a few weeks ago, because although the woman whose name was on the stone was not an actress and played no part in show business, I knew her name very well.

Below her name was one simple word that said a lot about her life… Humanitarian.

Next to her star on the sidewalk was another star with a name much more familiar to people in my age bracket — Rich Little. He is a brilliant comedian and impersonator and in the 1970’s and early 80’s you’d be hard pressed to find a human being who didn’t smile when hearing his name. Marie knew him well — he was her husband.

I could go on and on about how Marie was the light of Mr. Little’s life, but that is information you can find on your own with a simple computer search. I want to talk instead about the story that Marie has to tell us all…

By published accounts, Marie suffered terribly. I tend to believe the accounts because in the end her Migraines were so seriously out of control that she saw no way out of her misery but to take her own life.

The common remark “Pain never killed anyone” has been proven a lie yet again…

Marie and her husband had access to some of the best health care there is. They traveled the country in search of help for Marie, visiting clinics such as Mayo’s where it is reported that no cause for them was found. Apparently there was little help forthcoming either.

In the end, Marie saw no way out and did the only thing she knew to do to escape her tormentor.

If someone like Marie Little is unable to receive appropriate treatment and management of her Migraine Disease, what does that say about the general population? What does that say about the disenfranchised who suffer with us?

We’re all in this together

Chronic pain is a disease, and it is an epidemic in this country. The war on drugs has yielded collateral damage in the form of desperate chronic pain patients who find themselves being told there is nothing to help them – their situation is hopeless – “Learn to live with it.” Those who create and defend these laws and activities do not understand what it is like to be a chronic pain patient. They cannot understand pain so severe that it literally drives a patient to death.

Chronic pain patients do not have a death certificate that reads Chronic Pain. Instead their final paperwork reads Suicide, Overdose, Depression, Medication Side Effects or any other of a long list of causes that actually resulted from their chronic pain conditions being seriously undertreated.

As a Migraine and Chronic Pain patient advocate, I see someone almost every day who toys with making the kind of decision Marie and others have made — out of sheer desperation. We are not professionals in this realm, but we are here for support.

I plan my day so that I am sure to be online to check for community members who may be desperate enough to contemplate suicide. Teri Robert and I have teamed up to be sure there is always someone available should a member need to talk or be directed to professional services. We are here to try to support and educate Migraineurs before they are desperate enough to contemplate such action. Those members who have friended me here or on Facebook know they can get in touch with me whenever they need, and I will stay up all night if necessary to try to be sure they are safe and being properly cared for by someone who can help them. Teri herself has contacted law enforcement in the past to be sure an intervention occurs when it’s obvious a member is truly suicidal. All of this is a part of our lives because we care so deeply for the patients we interact with.

I was moved to think there is a tremendous lesson to be learned by Marie.

It is so easy for us to fall into the pit of despair so deep and overwhelming that we become victims of our disease. We need instead to join together to create the change we need in our lives. We do this by putting our *money where our mouth is*. Contact your legislators. Create action instead of complacency. Be like one of the mere 1000 out of 25,000 people contacted by Teri last year who took 5 minutes out of their day to take action. Politicians are in the business of doing what their constituency wants and needs. They do listen, so make yourselves heard! From your desks, from your kitchen table, from your legislator’s offices. Wherever you are, with whatever means you have… tell them your story. Tell them why we need better access to medications, doctors and research for a disease that effects 37 million Americans. Tell them what it’s like to be collateral damage in a war you didn’t start. Make it personal. Give them a reason to want to stand up for us.

Marie did this for me. When I was asked to go to Headache on the Hill, it was her star in the middle of the Las Vegas strip that confronted me. It was the desire for not one more Migraineur to lose their life to their disease that has me flying thousands of miles to talk to lawmakers. Afterall…

…If we don’t’ stand up for ourselves, who else will?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (60)
  • Yamihere
    2 years ago

    I was received into the Catholic Church before my migraines reach this level. Suicide is not an option, but I understand the desire to poke a hole in your skull to let the pain out.

  • pooh2you
    6 years ago

    I am so happy to have found this site. It is so nice to have some place to turn to where I can “be among” others like me and know that I am not alone. And to know how much you care makes it that much better. I have other sites bookmarked but most of them only provide migraine info and are always asking me for money, which as a single mom who is barely working with medical bills – well you get the picture. It is just nice to come here and be me, read about others, and get tips/info on how to deal with my chronic migraines. Thanks for all you and Teri do!!

  • Lynne Lee Bennett-Cassaro
    7 years ago

    We all need to stand up against the gov’t war upon chronic pain victims & the physicians who risk both licenses and freedom to help us. I have had chronic pain for several different reasons. In 2003ish an MD snobbily asked why I was on so many meds…only darvocet as an opiate. I asked him what my options were…a bullet? In 2005? My permanent headache began then chronic side pains…burning/stabbing in 2007. It took me over five years with one clinic and near OD on NSAIDS for my previous pain mgmt MD to begin a uselessly low dose fentayl patch. His partner couldn’t understand why I was on such insignificant amount of meds…and he only increased to where I only get some relief. My new pain mgmt doctor and nurse practictioner increased the hydrocodone from 2to4 per day max…they have to drug& alcohol test me every visit. I have to sign contracts to only use one pharmacy. I have to be supercareful to not misplace or lose anything because I will not be believed OR if so…they still have to err on the side of caution. I never feel high on my meds and cannot function or drive without them. There is so much false information and stigma as to make the fight seem hopeless but I try. Wedo not deserve these diseases nor do we deserve to be treated like an addict or criminal. If the people who judge&discriminate against us had our severe pain that refused to decrease despite every other medication class, healthy lifestyle choices, alternative & herbal remedies they’d be begging for help. Addiction rates are only about 1% in chronic pain patients but the ignorance rampant in both the laity and the medical fields make it seem the norm..ONE PERCENT! Leave us and our physicians alone and go fight real crime. Quit driving people to alcoholism or suicide to escape but try to understand and help…gov’t and family and friends..and you people who consider yourselves doctors and nurses…many of you should be ashamed of yourselves for the harm you cause.

  • Charles Perria
    7 years ago

    Maybe you could tell him that most of it developed after visiting his office? And then looking at his bill!

  • Charles Perria
    7 years ago

    I would like to ask that doctor what are the options…that’s good Lynn.

  • Jennifer Lovato
    8 years ago

    So sad! So many suffer because it’s so hard to find doctors that are willing to help migraine sufferers.

  • Jennifer Lovato
    7 years ago

    I have lots of migraines too. God bless your mom. I’ll pray for her and her migraines!

  • Debra Grant
    8 years ago

    that is soooo true Jennifer, My mom suffers sooo bad from them

  • Lisa Lampe
    8 years ago

    WOW this brought tears to my eyes because I understand the the daily struggle of dealing with migraines…migraines have ruined my life 🙁

  • Elizabeth Fulginiti-Entrican
    8 years ago

    I know Lisa. wasn’t this just a great and sorrowful story? I posted part of story that meant alot to me.

  • Elizabeth Fulginiti-Entrican
    8 years ago

    Great story Ellen! Thanks for your words.The fact is nobody wants to appear to be a complainer, or a weakling. From the outside looking in, it’s very easy to fall into one of two places: the “Happy Place” where everything is sunshine and roses, or the perpetual pity party in the land of “Woe is Me” populated by whiners, complainers and weaklings.

    That’s how outsiders see us anyway.

    Migraine stigma abounds.

  • Karie Johnsonbaugh
    8 years ago

    I have now been suffering from Complex migraines and/or migraine symptoms daily. I have been on so many different medications that in turn have caused more suffering than it is worth. I have tried and am still trying to get them under control through medication, counseling and physical therapy. All of which still doesn’t seem to be doing a lot but costing me more money than I truly make. I am at a loss at what to do anymore but than I came across this site and I am hoping that I can get some help on what I can do to take care of this as it is ruining my life both socially and emotionally. I am now on medical leave for at least a month due to this diseae, and that is also something I can not really afford to do either. But I am happy to know I may have found the support needed.

  • Jackie DiMarco
    8 years ago

    maybe I missed something because of my aching head but it starts out I didn’t meet her then she was my sister. Anyhow the only thing I take for my migraines is dhe45, toradol, nucynta and topamax for prevention yet still they come everyday and I try to medicate only 2/3 times a week. Sucks. I really would just rather have something that worked – period, because these don’t always work. Has anyone tried marijuana medically? Maybe you can’t say. I have and it has alleviated all tension in my head wonderfully…kind of like taking a whole lot of muscle relaxers without the cognitive problems. Wish it was legalized medically in my state because it has cut down my useage of other drugs. Going to tell my doc about this on friday when I get botoxed. I think its awful and just discussed it with my dad and daughter the plight of marie. I will never ever take my life. I love my husband, kids and family too too much to do that.

  • Diane Hernandez
    8 years ago

    I forgot to add this…if you do not have insurance you may qualify for free imitrex from glaxo smith-klein the company that makes it. They will tell you how to do it if you all them.

  • Diane Hernandez
    8 years ago

    This is so sad & completely understandable. I suffer from cluster headaches. I get them 3 times a day when I’m in an active cluster cycle. The pain is so unbearable. I thank God for Imitrex injections as they have truly saved my life. For those without insurance, it is extremely expensive. I recomend asking your doctor to prescribe the 5 pack vials, you are then able to administer yourself half a dose which has proven to be just as effective as a full dose. you will then get 10 doses for the price of 5.

  • Helen Williams Lopez
    8 years ago

    This story is so sad. I know she must have suffered greatly. Also, Drs do not take migraine seriously – oh, it’s just a headache they say. Unforunately, when someone in a family suffers migraine disease, the whole family is affected. The best Dr I ever had also suffered from migraines. He knew from experience that they were not just “headaches”.

  • Addie Ebert
    8 years ago

    I just read this and cried my eyes out! Because I to believe no one can help. And friends and or partner or coworkers don’t understand! til you live it year after year I feel noone understands.

  • Elaine Gross
    8 years ago

    Last year when I read about Marie Little’s suicide it saddened me beyond words, but I understood and empathized only too well. I’m a chronic migraineur. Last year I was having relentless occipital neuralgia along with other head pain and migraine symptoms. I was mostly bedridden. My husband kept a handgun in his nightstand. I couldn’t get the thought of that gun out of my mind. I just wanted the intolerable pain to end. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of my husband coming home and facing that nightmare I would leave which he would face and never forget. One morning I left him a note asking him to remove the gun and put it somewhere I wouldn’t know it’s location. He was so upset he cried. Soon after I spent a week in Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia getting IV infusions which helped. Afterwards my specialist from the Headache Center has placed me on preventative meds and I’ve also have had Botox injections. I still have chronic migraines. The frequency is less than it used to be, and the level of pain is not as bad as it used to be. The quality of my life is better. I actually have a life! I don’t live in the bed. Things could be better, but thank God, they”re not what they were a year ago. I’m so grateful for that.

  • Tanya Morsbach
    8 years ago

    I can understand how this could happen. migraines are bad.

  • Michele Ott
    8 years ago

    Tears running down my face, day 5 of a migraine episode. ER shot of dilaudid took edge off for 24 hours, but rebounded. I have a 2 children, 11 & 2 yrs old, and force my way through the pain to interact with them tonight. Allergies to sumatriptan’s.. tried the gamut and so sick of doctors either looking at me like I’m a drug seeking addict or telling me.. deal with it. What to do, what to do.

  • Val Milo
    8 years ago

    thank you for sharing this, very moving story. Sometimes it feels like you can’t hang in there another day!

  • Val Milo
    8 years ago

    Little creepy when I saw how old she was, 45, like me!!! I’ve been having those moments lately. What did they do for you?

  • Nathan N' Sarah Searle
    8 years ago

    I had one of those nights last night. When it gets that bad I just lay on the bathroom floor & cry until desperation sets in and go to the ER. I didn’t get home til 430 this morning but I feel soooooo much better!

  • Eileen Gove
    8 years ago

    Poor Marie and poor Rich. I hope he didn’t feel that he failed her in any way BECAUSE HE DIDN’T!

  • Eileen Gove
    8 years ago

    Why can’t people understand that migraines are not “just a really bad headache”? They are debilitating and adversely affect your life and abiility to function as a human being.

  • Melissa Dwyer
    8 years ago

    This story really hit home for me, as I have suffered and suffered and my pain has been written off so many times.. I heard those exact words from Mayo Clinic “learn to live with it” and when you’re living in a hospital or dark, quiet room you aren’t really living. After coming home from Mayo I also did something I’m not proud of.. I thought that if the “best” place in the country had no answers then I would never be cured and would live in terrible pain for the rest of my life… so when we got home from our long trip… I tried to take my own life. Thank GOD my mom knew something was seriously wrong with me and that all my hope had been taken out from under me.. and walked in on me swallowing pills and called 911 immediately. Again, I am not proud of this day and I have grown a lot since then. I almost did not make it. I overdosed on muscle relaxants to the point where my heart, a muscle, stopped beating. One of the paramedics was a friend I went to Jr. High and Highschool with and he ultimately kept my heart beating until arriving to the ER. It is a serious condition. People do not understand it. Since that day, I have had hope with each and every treatment I try… but I have learned NOT to put ALL of my hope into one specific treatment, doctor, medicine or anything… to have faith it will work but not to be completely let down and hopeless if it doesn’t. I shared my story because I am hopeful I will not live in pain, please do not post telling me it was a dumb thing to do.. because the moment I woke up and realized what I had done to myself, and my family, and everyone who loves me… I realized how dumb it was to even attempt. I thank God my mom has been here every step of my terrible migraine journey, and I tell her often I literally wouldn’t be here without her. Thank you for this story… Thank you so much.

  • Rachel Melton
    8 years ago

    I’m sitting here wiping tears off my face, while reading this through dark glasses, because I woke up with a migraine. I agree, no one understands unless they have suffered, or have family/friends who suffer. To many, it’s an excuse to hide behind, they say “take an asprin.. take a nap, it’ll go away” riiight.. like we haven’t tried those things before? I’ve suffered since age 10, and this month was the worst of all. I can totally understand why Marie did what she did. But it’s sad that any of us reach that point.

  • Rachel Melton
    8 years ago

    exactly, although I was told about an article(I haven’t read yet) about them finding a migraine gene.. I do wonder about that.. and since my youngest son get’s them it’s clear that they can be hereditary =(

  • Jenjen Inzer
    8 years ago

    be nice if they could find a cure for migraines but the problem is migraines are caused by so many things its hard for doctors to know what is causing them

  • Lori Haven
    8 years ago

    Thom just recovered from one that lasted like 2 days. I feel for him, but like Patsy, I can’t comprehend that much pain, and I am so glad I don’t have to experience it. I have enough with my arthritis and my sinuses responding to every weather/air pressure change.

  • Rachel Melton
    8 years ago

    That’s the million dollar question, Patsy!

  • Patsy Ross Storseth
    8 years ago

    I will never pretend to know what it’s like to have migraines!! I have had little headaches and that was enough for me!! When are they going to find a cure for those things?!

  • Dawson Laws
    8 years ago

    *hugs* i know the pain, zusakins. I’ve got seizure related ones, as you well know. *hugs again* at least they dont actually kill us, even though they make us want to curl up and die.

  • Rachel Melton
    8 years ago

    Me too, thanks. *hugs*

  • Sandra Robinson
    8 years ago

    Rachel, I so understand your pain. Thankfully with all the other crap that’s going on my life right now I haven’t had too many migraines to add insult to injury. I pray that this one doesn’t last long and you find some relief that lasts longer than a few hours.

  • melissadwyer13
    8 years ago

    This story really hit home for me, as I have suffered and suffered and my pain has been written off so many times.. I heard those exact words from Mayo Clinic “learn to live with it” and when you’re living in a hospital or dark, quiet room you aren’t really living. After coming home from Mayo I also did something I’m not proud of.. I thought that if the “best” place in the country had no answers then I would never be cured and would live in terrible pain for the rest of my life… so when we got home from our long trip… I tried to take my own life. Thank GOD my mom knew something was seriously wrong with me and that all my hope had been taken out from under me.. and walked in on me swallowing pills and called 911 immediately. Again, I am not proud of this day and I have grown a lot since then. I almost did not make it. I overdosed on muscle relaxants to the point where my heart, a muscle, stopped beating. One of the paramedics was a friend I went to Jr. High and Highschool with and he ultimately kept my heart beating until arriving to the ER. It is a serious condition. People do not understand it. Since that day, I have had hope with each and every treatment I try… but I have learned NOT to put ALL of my hope into one specific treatment, doctor, medicine or anything… to have faith it will work but not to be completely let down and hopeless if it doesn’t. I shared my story because I am hopeful I will not live in pain, please do not post telling me it was a dumb thing to do.. because the moment I woke up and realized what I had done to myself, and my family, and everyone who loves me… I realized how dumb it was to even attempt. I thank God my mom has been here every step of my terrible migraine journey, and I tell her often I literally wouldn’t be here without her. Thank you for this story… Thank you so much.

  • Carla Moessner Maxwell
    8 years ago

    This brought tears to my eyes as well. I am 46 years old and have suffered with migraines since I was 14. They have increased in every year. I suffer 4 to 5 days a week with them. Last month, I went 16 days straight waking up with a migraine. Most of the time, meds do nothing but give me a “hangover”. I have reached the point where I pray to die. This is no plead for pity. This is a statement of fact. And this is not living!

  • Katie Jo Allee
    8 years ago

    🙁 I’ve been where she was, many times. It sucks that there’s no cure to help us. Medication doesn’t help everyone with migraines 🙁

  • Kathy Spinks Shevlin
    8 years ago

    God bless Teri! Thankfully I have found a great Neuro to work with. He put me on Relpax and most of the time it works great. What bothers me is my Rx mail order company tells me I should change to the generic sumatriptan…. which is the generic for Imitrex, not Relpax! They think I wouldn’t look it up, and just roll over and tell my Neuro I want to switch because is it cheaper. The patent doesn’t expire on Relpax until 2013 so a generic would not be available before then. The nerve of them trying to convince me to switch to a money saving generic, which is not the generic for Relpax, all because of their financial bottom line… and nothing to do with the effectiveness and health of the patient!

  • Kathy Spinks Shevlin
    8 years ago

    When I told my Neuro what they tried to do, he was not shocked and said it is all about the bottom line for the mail order pharms…. it is all greed.

  • Val Milo
    8 years ago

    HATE DESPISE AND LOATHE mail order pharmacies. Just spent two weeks fighting with them about treximet.

  • Julie Stone
    8 years ago

    so glad to hear you are finally getting real help. still praying for you, my friend! xxoo

  • Betsy Blondin
    8 years ago

    Here, here, Ellen — magnificently written and and all good points to remember and action to take! Hugs to you.

  • Bray Patrick-Lake
    8 years ago

    Very well said.

  • Jennifer Collins-Gonzalez
    8 years ago

    I am so very sorry for her end of life over this terrible disease! That so many people think is just a “headache” and Just “get over it”! I have also been told those same things! It is a devastating situation to live with daily! I hate it! Hate to tell anyone I have it or when I am having it! I just try to avoid the whole thing which is getting harder everyday!

  • Heather Westall Puente
    8 years ago

    This article and it broke my heart because I to suffer from Migraines and have often felt like there was so point to go on anymore. I am in pain everyday and get little help from my doctors and insurance. I have given up on the fight because I feel doctors just really don’t care or understand.

  • Debbie Leasure
    8 years ago

    I agree with all of you, It is bad when you have no one who understands what you are going through, I started gettinf migraine when I was a teen, and had them up until I had my first child, luckly they went away by them selfs, well for a while, I am now almost 53 and they stated back 2 years ago. so far they are just getting worst and we have not been able to find any thing to help. I dont go to ER, and my primary dr has labled me an addict, and informed me that I will have to go to ER for them to find out what is going on, I do have an neuro who is doing all that he can. My prayer snd best wishes to all of you other suffers.

  • Heather Westall Puente
    8 years ago

    Corin, I pray everyday for the pain to go away or that a doctor will find what has been causing this. So far no such thing…I feel that I will be this way till the day I die. I have had a really bad year…lost my job that I LOVED, been in and out of the ER have been Red Flagged and labled as an addict by the ER. Funny how they are so quick to judge without knowing you. I don’t go to the ER after that experience in fear of going through the trauma they put me through. I have had migraines since then and they are so severe on the pain scale that I lay in the fetal position holding my head and praying for this to end. My husband can’t take anymore of my pain as he has said this has been going on for years and it is draining. He doesn’t even understand and tells me I need to toughen up. I’m rambling on here as I can go on and on. I hope you will find relief soon as well. Good luck and God bless.

  • Corin Palmer Duncan
    8 years ago

    I agree with you on “little help from doctors and insurance”. I too feel that they just don’t care or understand what I am dealing with. I have had some migraines that were so bad I would have done almost anything to get the pain to go away! Hopefully one day we will both get some kind of relief. Until that day, good luck to you!

  • Cindy Giltner
    8 years ago

    If only migraines could be treated the same way for everyone. What works for one person does not work for another. I read of Marie’s death and could not help but be moved by the tragedy of it. I’ve talked to Teri many times. She too is a gift to all of us with migraines. The clear facts she has provided are so valuable. There is so much misinformation out there. Thank you for sharing this blog with us all.

  • Karen Stanley Haack
    8 years ago

    all migrainers should visit an allergist and have a rast test. This has changed Sami’s life. Finding out about her food allergies have helped to allieviate most of her migraines. we have gone from constant never ending migraines with only 1 or 2 a month if she c heats on her diet….

  • Rhonda Forbus McCoy
    8 years ago

    Migraines are a terrible disease.

  • Stephanie Weis
    8 years ago

    Awesome story…thanks for sharing and thank you for your dedication to us!

  • Susan Salkins Murray
    8 years ago

    Traditional natural and pharmaceutic treatments do not always help everyone…I have suffered for over 30 years with migraine pain, and I can completely relate to this story…the same thoughts have entered my own mind. Thank God I have found medications to abort the pain (zomig, maxalt and relpax), if only I could find success in decreasing their frequency.

  • Susan Geitner
    8 years ago

    Two things that have gotten rid of Migraines for me: Feverfew and Chaga. Feverfew relieved the headache from it’s severity. Chaga has eliminated the event altogether. Both are non-pharma products. Get it? NATURAL remedies found in nature. God’s gift to mankind.

  • Sherri Franklin
    8 years ago

    Susan i have actually tried it on a consistant basis.i also never debunk any kind of treatment for migraines.i didnt post that to discourage anyone..and im not going to post a paragraph defending myself..#that is all

  • Sherri Franklin
    8 years ago

    Sigh* doesnt work for us all unfortunantly

  • Gina Marie Johnson
    8 years ago

    I read this and also have a flood of tears, because no one really knows and no one can really help us.

  • Julie Gibson Swisher
    8 years ago

    I know – migraine disease has really ruined my daily life!

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