It was the Summer of 1972. I was 23 years old and suddenly had the worst headache of my life. I was nauseous and had to stay in bed all day. I thought I might be having a stroke, but I was so young! Then I figured I was just sick with a virus. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t do anything. The next day it was gone. I called my mother. She told me it sounded like a migraine headache, as these types of headaches ran in our family. I had no idea. I didn’t really know anything about migraine headaches. In fact, back then, the medical world knew very little about them.
The headaches recurred and I finally went to a neurologist. I was diagnosed with migraine. It was devastating. As I got older, the headaches became more severe. In my thirties and forties they were the worst. Each headache lasted three days, with severe vomiting, and dehydration. I was often incapacitated. There were no dedicated migraine drugs at that time. I often wound up in the ER, or at my doctor’s office where he would shoot me up with Demerol for pain, and an injection for the vomiting. Sometimes I’d be put on an IV drip to rehydrate me. It was a nightmare, and affected my entire life!
I missed so many family get togethers, and other events. Migraine strained my relationships and made it so much harder for me to care for my daughter. I also missed lots of work, but thankfully, my job was in the medical field, and my employer was very understanding. I, on the other hand, felt ashamed. I felt like I was flawed and I had no hope. There was a stigma attached to migraine in those days. Now we know it is a neurological disease.
I finally found a neuro-endocrinologist who specialized in treating migraine patients. He was the only doctor who ever helped me. I live in the Boston area, and he was doing research on migraine and I was entered into a study using the drug Parlodel. My migraines were hormonally driven, and the Parlodel put me into “remission” for seven years. I had my life back for those years. But then the drug slowly stopped working and the headaches returned with a vengeance!
As the years went by, more was learned about migraine, and the media began educating the public about this disease. I didn’t feel so ashamed. I had a disease, and I was learning to deal with it as new drugs were developed specifically to treat migraine. Once menopause was behind me, the migraines began to ease up. My life was a living hell for over 35 years with migraine headaches.
Today I am no longer a a slave to the headaches. I still get mild migraines on occasion, but I have rizatriptan to take, which is very effective for me, and knocks the headache out right away. I want people to know that there is help out there. We no longer have to suffer the way we once did, and we should not feel ashamed.
My maternal grandmother suffered with migraine, as did my mother, my older brother, and several of my cousins. And unfortunately, my daughter also has inherited this dreadful disease. It is a disease like any other disease, and research needs to continue. The public needs to know that when someone says that he/she has a migraine, it’s not “just a headache.” Migraine cripples the entire body in many ways, leaving people unable to function.
I am a migraine “survivor”, and I am very vocal now about being proactive about one’s health care. I am 69 years old, healthy, and very active. I have become a grandmother, and enjoy every minute with my grandson. I pray he does not grow up to have the disease of “migraine”. I speak up for migraine sufferers wherever I go, and have become very proactive in educating people that I about the disease of migraine.