Life of a Migrainuer
Part 3: Intense treatment

Many of you reading already know what a migraine attack is like.  So I don’t want to go into all the details.  But I will at least give a hint of what an attack might be like in this point of my life.

Migraine attacks are different in everyone.  In fact, they can be different every time in the same person.  I’ve experienced migraine with aura.  Migraine without aura.  Migraine with no headache at all.  Whoever said variety is the spice of life did not have migraine.

A bad attack for me would leave me in intense pain.  Not only that, but repeated vomiting.  Weakness, stiffness, and it would not be over in just a day.  Migraineurs often talk about a "migraine hangover" – the next day after a bad attack can be almost as bad as being in the middle of the attack.

There was a lot going on at this time of life.  I worked as a baker.  I worked in construction.  I worked as a salesman (an honest one!  I know, hard to believe, isn’t it?).  I spent some time working at Radio Shack.  I stopped the baker job because of the nasty hours (changes in schedule are murder for me, and many other migraineurs).  The construction was temporary work, and the rest was sales.

Shari and I on our honeymoon in Tobago

Shari and I on our honeymoon in Tobago

During this time I also got married to my beautiful, smart and supportive wife (she’s got a great personality too).  Some of you know what it’s like to have someone like that – I’ve been blessed!

In 1998 I started a period of time with pretty intense treatment.  At the time the University of Calgary was doing a study on migraine in conjunciton with the Calgary Headache Clinic.  I volunteered to be a part of the study, which meant I got the normal treatment everyone else got, plus I had the privilege of being asked a million questions!

A little disclaimer – nothing I say here is meant as a slur against any particular doctor or clinic.  This clinic did a good job in many ways, though I don’t agree with everything they did.  But this was also some time ago, and our understanding of migraine has come a long way.  I certainly wouldn’t try to dissuade anyone in the area from going to the Headache Clinic for help.

That being said, I used to joke that I joined the drug-of-the-month club (though of course, as everyone knows, it generally takes 90 days at least to really test out drugs of this type.  Drug-of-the-3-month club isn’t as catchy).

Yes, I tried one thing after another, while I was asked questions about every area of my life, my sanity, my employment, and how I felt about my mother (I like my mother).

It’s interesting going back now and reading my doctor’s notes.  He started out quite confident, but things didn’t get better.

Migraine with daily headache … he’s already tried this this this this and this … neurological exams normal … medical history unremarkable … no obvious cause of headache … I’ll try this and this and this first.

So, on we went.  I had the unprecedented privilege of giving myself and injection when a migraine attack was coming on.  Now today many researchers believe that migraine simply makes you more sensitive to pain.  So, when I’m the most sensitive to pain I’m supposed to stick a needle into my body?  Those of you that do that often – I feel for you!

Months passed, not much change.  New treatment.  More months, no change.  I keep thinking I’m looking at a copy of his notes, since he keeps writing "there has been no change".  He actually wrote in 1999,"I am becoming somewhat discouraged with respect to his headache response."  At least he was honest.

During this time I had further testing on my spine and neck through another practitioner.  I also went to a pain clinic, which brought on a host of other treatments.

What about TMD?  How about physical therapy?  Nutritional counselling?

I did get some physical therapy (which I think was helpful – it was movement therapy), though I couldn’t continue as long as I wanted for financial reasons.  I also tried an alternative therapist.

I tried many of the common migraine treatments – antidepressants, beta-blockers, selective calcium antagonists, triptans, ergots, anticonvulsants, antihistamines, NSAIDs, plus some herbal treatments, and other types of treatment.  One at a time, combinations, stopping everything…

My daughter was born during this period of my life – she’s a great addition to the family.  I spent many late nights with her – she wasn’t all that contented at first, but she loved it when I held her and did deep knee bends.  For a couple of hours.  I’m sure the exercise did me good, and she’s a very happy child now!  😉

But we’re not done with the migraine treatment yet.  Now that we’ve tried intense treatment and some research, it’s time to start some intensive research.  And that’s coming up in part 4.

Continue to Part 4: Intense research

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