A Mom With Migraines
My story, like most of yours, is hard to summarize briefly, but I’ll do my best…
I was only a child when I was first clinically diagnosed with “migraines.”
I have vivid memories of childhood events that were markedly affected when I ended up in a migraine attack.
My childhood migraine pattern remained largely episodic with maybe a migraine every couple months or so. It wasn’t until the beginning of menstruation that I would really notice an influx and new trigger in my migraine pattern…HORMONES. They were, and have always been, a BIG trigger for me. Because my childhood diagnosis was only that, I didn’t have any prophylactic or abortive medications to differ my attacks just many years of “waiting it out” with a cold rag, dark room and some Tylenol or ibproufen. On the days I couldn’t “wait it out” any longer it was off to our local ER. Usually it required the “migraine cocktail” as they called it, Torodol, Benadryl & something anti-nausea, was what it took to kick the migraines butt! I always left half dead, so exhausted from battling for relief…
This pattern was my norm for years…it wasn’t until I met my husband in 2006 that I began taking oral contraceptives…the beginning of the end…these synthetic hormones sent my migraines into a tail spin! My episodic migraines quickly became chronic…daily pain. Limited in our knowledge my husband and I knew we had to find help. What a way to live your first years of marriage…
Unsure where to find help we started at our primary care physician who seemingly threw a bunch of “ideas,” our way. In those first couple years we tried EVERYTHING! From the sublime to the ridiculous. Our doc tried blood pressure meds, muscle relaxers, anti-depressants…no avail. Recognizing the painful battle I was facing, well intentioned family and friends threw out any idea they had ever heard of, and in desperation I tried them all…crazy things like; smelling burnt toast, banana peels on the forehead and back of the neck, laying upside down and allowing “good blood flow to the head,” (my fellow migraine suffers you could imagine how totally counter-productive that was!) All sorts of crazy things…too many to list. Nothing seemed to help. My primary care doc ultimately called upon the expertise of a neurologist who prescribed Topomax. While it did seem to decrease my migraine activity some, it came with a catch. My cognitive brain activity. It wasn’t till the day that I couldn’t remember my husband’s name that I realized that I was paying a high price for relief, and that price could be “loosing my mind,” literally.
Back to the drawing board. We needed to find a “migraine specialist” someone who had some other “tricks up their sleeves.” That would come at a place called the American Migraine Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
Upon my first visit it did seem they were far more helpful and knowledgable than anybody else I’d seen. Finally we’d found some help. These docs opened my eyes to the wonderful word of Triptans. Finally something that would kill the pain, not just minimize it! They certainly had a lot more ideas than anyone we’d seen. Knowing what I’d already tried, they went straight to trying Botox injections, which were at the time a fairly new phenomenon and a cutting edge treatment for migraine sufferers, like myself. We gave it a shot and to our delight I got a good amount of help, and relief, from the Botox…for awhile, until the effects would wear off…
Having had relief from the Botox there was also a good deal of promise in a new surgical procedure for the treatment of migraines. It was essentially an eye brow lift that was performed by a plastic surgeon. According to his findings, those of his eye brow lift patients who suffered migraines before this procedure seemed to be migraine-free or largely migraine-reduced post surgery. It was with these stats he decided to offer this procedure to migraine sufferers; not necessarily interested in an eye brow lift, but interested in migraine elevation/reduction. That was me. The doctors really felt strongly that this procedure would benefit me greatly, seeing as how the Botox had helped rather significantly. I had the surgery in January of 2009 where a trigeminal nerve was released, and a septoplasty and turbinectomy were performed. We really looked forward to the relief it “could” offer.
Long story short and suffice to say it was less than miraculous. I was told to wait it out that the “true results,” might not happen right away. 5 years later and I still fight chronic migraines.
I would still be with the American migraine center but step back to 2009, post surgery…little did we know the events of the next year would put my migraines on the back burner. In 2010 my beloved father would pass away from a short term aggressive battle with colon cancer. We were absolutely grieved by his loss. We would go on to find out, a couple months after his passing, we were expecting our first child…we would carry for 9 weeks and miscarry our first pregnancy. A traumatic year in our lives, a year we just needed to step back and grieve. No time for the continual running back and forth to drs appointments, we just didn’t have the energy.
Then in March of 2012 we would have our daughter whom we so aptly named after my late father. What a gift.
Back to the the migraines though, still an ever present reality, it seemed pregnancy wasn’t a respit from them as can be for a large number of fortunate woman. I fought them through most of the pregnancy and unfortunately had to put aside the use of the triptans being as how little is known about the effect on an unborn baby. It was deemed that Tylenol 3 or Tylenol with codeine would be the safest yet most effective method while I was pregnant. And so while I had many attacks I worried greatly about taking these narcotic meds and doing some detriment to my unborn child. I was cautioned by my ob that overuse of Narcotics in pregnancy could leave my baby born with a “dependance” on narcotics. Wanting like any other mother-to-be to do the absolute best for my unborn child I limited my use as much as I could. I delivered my daughter very term, very healthy and not at all dependent on the drugs that I was dependent on. Thankfully. I would go on to breast feed her for over 2 years sparingly continuing to use the Tylenol 3 for big attacks. It’s amazing the strength we posses when it comes to the betterment of our children.
I’d gotten pretty adjusted to treating my attacks minimally and continued with only the Tylenol 3 even after nursing. It was just last year in September we had our second child, a son…I would again experience a tough pregnancy with him, my fair share of struggles….gestational diabetes, which I also had with my daughter, all sorts of unmentionable fun…and the cherry on top, an influx in migraines. My local ER has come to know me too well. As I spent a lot of time this pregnancy treating uncontrollable monster attacks. I’ve always been firm in my resolve to breast feed my children and to give them the very best of everything I can. I’m currently nursing my son now at almost 5 months. I’ve dealt with what’s been almost a daily, constant migraine, since after his delivery. I’ve seen docs look at me like I was nuts for choosing to breast feed, with my migraine history. I’ve heard statements like, “well if we’d take the nursing outta the mix we’d have a whole lot more options.” I understand I could make my life easier, on myself…but it’s no longer just about me and I’m resolve to do the best I can for my kids…even if it means I have to face chronic pain.
That’s my migraine history. And while it’s my story it isn’t my entire story. Yes, I’ve spent countless days of my life facing this giant, called migraines. Yes it’s affected my life greatly. Pain has been an ever present demon in my life. But that isn’t my story.
I’m so much more than migraines. I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter a friend. Migraines might be a part of my life but they aren’t even close to the sum of it. I look forward with hope that research will open the door to new alternatives…I believe it will. And if not for me for the next generation of migraine sufferers.
If migraines have taught me one thing it’s how to enjoy the wonderful things they minimize the painful. I live with the hope of an eternally redeemed, migraine free body…until then I’ll enjoy the little pieces of heaven here on earth.
I’m a mother who isn’t defined by her migraines.