Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Cheer

I'm having one of those migraines where the nausea is the main symptom, although I have head pain as well. Bleck. Luckily, I haven't thrown up (yet); I rarely do, but the nausea feeling is almost as bad. I'm eating lots of ginger mints. But before today, I'd been doing MUCH better on the headache front. This could be from several factors which I'll talk about in a later post. In case I don't get to that post before Christmas, I wanted to post these pictures in hopes of bringing you some holiday cheer. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!!! :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hormone (& Other) Test Results!

I got the results back from my hormone saliva test, and as suspected, my progesterone levels drop during my luteal phase. My gyno prescribed 100 mg of progesterone (bioidentical hormone) which I take at night on day 22 through the end of each cycle. I've only done this for one cycle, and I had two migraines pretty soon after starting it and have had really bad headaches most of the other days. I'm going to stay positive and hope that this is just an adjustment period and that once my body is used to the progesterone boost each cycle, I'll see an improvement in my migraines and headaches.

I also got blood test results back from my neurologist's office. She had all of the following tested:
We hadn't met to review the results, but from what I could tell from looking at them on the web portal, everything was normal except for my carbon dioxide levels, which were a little low. My next neuro appointment is in January, and we'll probably go over the results then.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Migraine on Thanksgiving, but Blessings Abound!





I don't know if I've ever felt so blessed by the Lord than I have today. Last Saturday, my mom and dad had me, my husband (Jonathan/J) and some of our relatives over for an early Thanksgiving dinner. Then Monday, Jonathan drove six hours to be with his dad for the week. His dad is 87 (even though J is still is his 20s like me), and his health has been deteriorating. J has been taking care of him all week, and I was planning to leave this morning to go join him (I had to work M-W).

Well wouldn't you know, I woke up with a migraine this morning. My migraines usually start as bad headaches that progress into migraines, but occasionally I'll wake up with them, and that's always a bad sign. I took two Butalbital/Fioricet, ate some eggs for protein, and slept a little more. All the drugs did was make me dizzy, and I still had my migraine, so I decided not to go to my father-in-law's, and J completely understood.

Here's the big blessing. My sis is a nurse and works nights (same for my mom), so I figured she wouldn't be doing anything for Thanksgiving since she worked last night and works tonight. Turns out, while she was sleeping during the day, her husband made her a HUGE Thanksgiving meal (from SCRATCH - even the bread!). They invited me over to eat with them (they only live about 45 min. away), so I didn't have to spend Thanksgiving alone after all! After napping most of the morning, I managed to bake a side dish and drove over there. I took two more Butalbital Fioricets when I got there and then took their dog (my nephew whom I love dearly) for a walk. Not sure if it was the walk, dog or drugs, but I felt much better. Unfortunately my migraine came back, along with nausea, but I was still able to eat a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

Even with the migraine and being without my husband, I still had a wonderful Thanksgiving thanks to my loving sis and bro-in-law. I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful too. :)

Sorry to do a "teaser" but this post is already long so although I have lots of test results back, I'm going to hold off on sharing them until the next post. Plus my head is pounding and I can't think straight, as I'm sure you can understand. Stay tuned though.

Happy Thanksgiving, and blessings to each and every one of you! <3

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I *heart* my neuro

As I write this post, I'm drinking homemade apple carrot juice. Thanks for the suggestion, Jessica! I added a little celery, splash of OJ, and honey too. And the apples are Pink Lady apples, fresh from the mountains. YUM. While I haven't noticed a change in headaches (yet), the juice is without a doubt clearing my face.

Last week I finally got to see my neurologist, who is back from maternity leave. She spent a lot of time with me and I feel really good about things! I had been keeping a list of things to ask her, and we went through them all together. My Twitter friend Gina suggested that I write down every health issue I've ever had, even minor ones, and share it with her to see if the list would trigger ideas or show that I might have an auto immune disease. My neuro looked it over, commented that a lot of the ailments are common for people who end up having migraines (such as colic which I had as a baby), and decided to have me do an infectious disease blood test. I'm still waiting on the results. My neuro also is going to contact my insurance to see if they'll cover Botox for me, but I'd be in complete shock if they do (at least any time soon).

Speaking of tests, I finished my hormone spit test and mailed in the tubes, so now I'm in waiting mode for that one too.

In the meantime, I've started a new non-pharma treatment, Butterbur, which may prevent/reduce migraines. I got the pills from Whole Foods and they contain feverfew too.

I'm still seeing a therapist, and I still am wearing my TMJ mouth guard, but I'm slowly tapering down the hours - right now I wear it 17 hours a day. It hasn't helped my headaches, but I do have less jaw pain in the mornings, so I'm probably going to wear it every night for the rest of my life.

For emergencies, I had my neuro write me a prescription for Butalbital (Fioricet), and as long as I take it as little as possible, it helps my migraines (if I take it too much my body gets used to it and it stops working, and plus it can cause rebound headaches). I can generally handle the almost-constant headaches, but if they get really bad I'll take two Aleve pills. I'm starting to feel ulcer-type pains again, so I'm trying to take as little Aleve as possible.

I'll keep all of you up to date on the results of all the above. Thanks for all your thoughts, suggestions, comments and prayers. :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Homemade Juice!

Lately, I've started making my own juices, and it's SO much fun! I don't have a juicer, but I saw this video that explains how to make juice with a blender using a nut milk bag. So, I ordered the one I linked to and started making my own juices. I don't go by recipes; I just buy a bunch of organic produce and add what I think would be good.

Here's the one I made tonight. It has grapes, cilantro, grapefruit, water, and a small amount of kale (which I bought for the first time and tried steaming but I discovered I don't like it, so now I'm adding small amounts to my juice to make it even more healthy).

I do exactly what Natasha does in the video, storing it in glass jars, and then I have a glass every day or so. I'm hoping to get more servings of fruits and veggies, clear my acne, and maybe even have more energy. If it helps with my headaches, I'll let you all know, but I'm not expecting it to. But you never know.

On a different note, I'm sure you've all heard the big news about Botox being approved by the FDA for treatment of migraine. If you haven't, just google "Botox" and "migraine" and take your pick. Soon, insurance may start covering it, and then I might be tempted to give it a shot (bwahahaha).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hormone Spit Test

I haven't been to any doctors for my headaches in a while (except for my therapist) but over the summer I went to a new gyno for a hormone consultation. I have headaches all the time, but during my period, they're constant, often migraine-level, and drugs don't seem to touch them. The gyno suggested I take a Female Hormone Panel saliva test. I've had my hormones tested by a former neurologist, but it was soon after I stopped hormonal birth control and it was a single blood test (results were normal from what I remember). For this test, I have to fill 11 tubes with spit on particular days throughout my cycle. It's supposed to work better because it's taken before, during and after ovulation, and saliva carries a certain kind of hormones, or something like that. The cost will be $200, but I haven't been taking regular meds or having frequent copays, so that's my justification!

In addition to the test, I've been charting my cycles by taking my temperature every morning, using instructions from Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. From what I can tell, my luteal phase is too short which means I have low progesterone levels. The former neurologist I mentioned above suspected I had that problem and had me visit a compounding pharmacy to get bioidentical progesterone, but then I saw a new neurologist and she told me stop taking them.

I have 10 more spit tubes to fill, freeze and mail, and then the company will send my gyno the results and we'll review them together. Side note, it's tough filling a tube - maybe 3/4 inch, with spit, not including the foam. The directions say you can chew sugar-free gum a few minutes beforehand, but I've cut fake sugars for good so that's not an option. I tried visualizing myself biting into a juicy strawberry, but that barely made my mouth water. Next time I'm going to look at pictures of food or maybe smell stuff in my fridge and see if that helps!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Aaahhh, vacation...

Vacation was WONDERFUL! I finally had time to relax, spend time with my husband, work out on almost a daily basis, and eat amazingly delicious and healthy food. Now that I'm home, I'm going to try my best to keep up with the workouts and healthy eating. In fact, I made some fresh juice today with cucumber, celery, carrots, apple, lemons, cinnamon, ginger and honey (all organic). YUM.

The bad part is, I still had headaches while away. Not nearly as many, but near the end I got a migraine from a tough hike. Luckily, two Butalbital helped. Then I got it again near the end of the next day and have had it all weekend long. I'm trying to fight this one out without drugs, and luckily it's not a very severe migraine so I've still been able to function. I'll probably end up taking drugs so I can make it to work tomorrow.

I'm just thankful I had a chance to appreciate God's beauty this past week. :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review: The Migraine Brain

A while ago I read The Migraine Brain by Carolyn Bernstein, M.D.

The book was a great overview of migraine and had some neat information, such prodrome symptoms to look out for that I hadn't thought of before. I've paid more attention and noticed that before I get a migraine, my writing is off. Like when I am at work and I write myself a reminder on a post-it note, I'll cross my l's like they're t's, add extra humps on m's, completely misspell obvious words, etc. Sometimes if I think I'm getting a migraine, I write song lyrics on paper (so I can write fast without thinking) to see if I slip up any.

Another thing the book said to do is to take a picture of yourself when you have a migraine and then take one when you're migraine-free so you can see if you have facial changes. I did this, hoping I could show my husband the migraine one and say, "Be nice to me when I look like this." The scary thing is, I noticed my right eye drooped in the migraine picture, but when I took a picture when I didn't have a migraine or even a noticeable headache, my eye still drooped. Perhaps my face is permanently disfigured? Scary thought. I now use my eyelash curler a few extra seconds longer on my right eye no matter how I'm feeling. :)

Overall, The Migraine Brain is a typical migraine book, but it's definitely easier to read than others because the author is a neurologist, woman, AND migraine sufferer.

Quick update on flu thing is still hanging around and now I have ear/nose/throat issues too, which of course triggered a migraine. I'm on antibiotics and am hoping they'll make a difference. I've been missing way too much work and am nervous about that, but so far my boss has been really understanding and has even let me work from home some. My husband and I are taking a week-long vacation to the mountains soon, so I'm praying I'll have some headache/migraine-free days during that time. I need a time out from these health issues before I go crazy (or crazier)!

By the way, I've been getting a lot of e-mails and blog comments lately from people going through the same thing as me. Thank you so much for writing!! There are too many of us out there, but if we all keep fighting and praying, we'll eventually find something that will get rid of our headaches/migraines. And if we don't, at least we're still living our lives as best as we can - and we have each other! :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I missed you guys!

Hello again, friends! I'm back to blogging, although I'm going to start slowly. One, because my relaxing week-long mountain cabin vacation hasn't happened yet, thanks to my husband's lovely job, so I don't feel well-rested yet and won't until late next month when I can finally have time off. And two, over the last week I've had some sort of flu that went around my office, and I was able to work from home, but I was still working so the rest didn't happen. After seven days I'm not better, so I might go to the doctor tomorrow to see what's up. The sickness started after stopping Gabapentin (Neurontin), and even though I stopped gradually, it could possibly be related. Regardless of the cause, I feel like crap, so I'm going to take it easy and try not to think or do too much!

So that's how I am right now. More importantly, how are YOU?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Blogcation

Image by Storm Crypt on Flickr

I've decided to take a break from blogging this summer - let's call it a summer blogcation. My therapist told me to take a break long ago, but I didn't feel the need to. However, the other day my husband asked me to; not in a mean, demanding way, but in a "I care about you and think you should give yourself a break" kind of way. I finally caved and agreed. Here are my reasons:
  • I need to reduce stress. Not that blogging is stressful - it's not; but it's one more thing I "have" to do. Plus my day job is more than 50% writing and I get tired of it.
  • Headaches are ruling my life. I had two days in a row of no head pain last week, and it's the first time that's happened in months. All I think about is the pain, and I'm constantly trying to find ways to stop the pain. I spend a few hours a week doing research, reading other headache/migraine bloggers' posts and writing my own, and while it's not that much time, it is time I'm thinking about headaches and migraines. I need to take a break and focus on anything but that. Which brings me to my next reason...
  • I'm going to replace the time I spend blogging and reading blogs with something stress-free and non-head-related. This could be painting, biking, cooking new recipes, shopping with friends, and spending more time with my husband. The options are endless!
Please know that I WILL be back, probably in August unless something drastic happens that I can't wait to blog about. I'll try to respond to comments to my blog, but I'm not anticipating many. Thank you for not only being a reader of my blog but for being a FRIEND. I hope you all have an amazing summer and improved health!

P.S. I hate to make this a long post, but I want to close some loops before I take my blogcation.
  • Elimination Diet: It wasn't too helpful for me, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't help others; in fact, I know it's helped others. I have a few questionable foods that I'm going to test again later, but in general I've added back most foods and am no longer restricting my diet, at least not as it relates to migraine triggers. I just finished "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver and it has inspired me even more to stick to organic foods (as much as possible) and maybe even grow my own someday when I get out of this condo. I cannot recommend this book enough!!
  • Occipital Nerve Block: Didn't work. At all. AND, apparently 5% of women have spotting and cramping from the steroids for about a month. Yes, I would fall into that category. I didn't see anything online about it and was getting concerned, but the doc filled me in during the follow up. So now it's online. Be warned.
  • Drugs. I stopped the Zonisamide because of the daily stomach issues, and I decided to give up on preventatives (I've tried almost all of them, seriously). But my doc recommended Gabapentin (Neurontin) so I figured I'd try ONE more. So far the dizziness and drowsiness are killing me but I'm trying to stick with it. My stupid insurance denied coverage of Treximet so my doc said I could try Imitrex (generic; apparently my insurance doesn't even cover Imitrex; and it only covers four generic pills a month - jerks) along with 500 mg Naproxen. I just tried it today and it was so not the same. I still have Aleve, Butalbital and Toradol if I have migraines, but they're hit or miss. Other than that, I'm free of meds except for topical acne medicine.
  • TMJ mouth guard: no luck for headaches yet although my jaw pain, which I only get when I grind my teeth at night, is better. I'm still wearing it 24/7 except for eating.
And no, I will not be on the sailboat in the picture during my time off from blogging. Sadness!

    Saturday, June 5, 2010

    National Headache Awareness Week 2010

    National Headache Awareness Week 2010 takes place June 6-12. The National Headache Foundation has a wealth of information on its website including activities taking place across the U.S. during the week, free newsletter sign-up and topic sheets. The NHF will also be posting answers (provided by headache experts) to questions submitted by website visitors.

    While we headache and migraine sufferers are all too "aware" of the impact chronic headaches have on our lives and the lives of those close to us, I think it's important to spread the word and educate non-headache-sufferers. Sometimes I feel I share a little too much and sound overly negative or just plain boring, but people need to know that we aren't lazy, hypochondriacs, drama queens or kings, or crazy. We're in severe pain. Awareness could also result in additional funding for research and better health insurance coverage (please allow me to dream).

    Happy National Headache Awareness Week. Spread the word!

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Occipital Nerve Block

    On Friday I had my first occipital nerve block. *Update - I'm referring to the procedure described below as an "occipital nerve block" which is what the doctor who performed it (an anesthesiologist), called it. If you read the comments below, you'll see that "occipital nerve block" could mean different procedures to different doctors. As always, please talk to your doctor and do not make medical decisions based on my blog posts. Thank you!* If you're not familiar, here's a description in Q & A format (note that I do not go to this medical provider; it was simply the best description I found via google). Forgive me if this explanation is not entirely medically accurate - it was difficult to tell what exactly was going on during the actual procedure because my head was turned away; plus the pain clouded my thinking!

    My husband had to take me to the appointment because I wasn't allowed to drive home. Once I got there, my vitals were checked and I went to the first room. I filled out a general headache questionnaire and then a nurse (not certain about the title) inserted an IV in my hand "in case" they needed fast access in case something went wrong. Nice. Then the anesthesiologist came in and had me sign a consent form. I had to replace my shirt with a lovely hospital gown, and then they had me go to the procedure room.

    Talk about intimidating! In the procedure room were three different people with surgery masks, aprons and hair covers. A tech had me put my hair up and she put a hair cover over me. Then she had me lie down on the exam table in the middle of the room and turn my head to the left because I was having my right side done. The door and all the action was on the right, so the only thing I saw the whole time was the X-ray tech making adjustments to the machine above me. After what seemed like forever, the anesthesiologist came in the room and I couldn't turn to see him because they already had me positioned properly. He marked the spots on my neck with a marker and then covered the entire right side of my face and neck with a sheet of plastic, I'm guessing so germs wouldn't get in the area during the procedure.

    Finally, the shots began. The first was Lidocaine which numbed the skin. Then the real pain began. I couldn't feel a lot on the surface, but from what I could tell the anesthesiologist inserted three needles into the appropriate spots, which hurt pretty bad - not from the needles penetrating the skin but from them going into my neck muscles where many of my headaches seem to start. The sudden stabbing pain plus soreness made me want to groan in pain but held it in. The tech (not the X-ray tech but another one) was holding my hand the whole time, and at this point I gave it a slight squeeze and took a deep breath. Next the anesthesiologist said it was time for the injections. The pressure was also fairly painful, but it was quick. Finally it was over, and I was helped into a wheelchair and taken to a recovery area.

    One of the nurses gave me a soda (I asked for Sprite since I've eliminated caffeine and aspartame, which ruled out the other options. I've added citrus back to my diet and found that it is not a migraine trigger, thank goodness). After sitting a few minutes and changing back into my shirt, the nurse removed my IV and walked with me to the waiting room where my husband was patiently waiting. I was dizzy and my balance was thrown off because the right side of my head/neck was numb, so I asked him to stay close to me. We were out of there in an hour-and-a-half, but I'd guess the actual procedure took no more than five minutes.

    So has it worked? Well, I'm not sure yet. On Friday it hurt to move my head at all, and yesterday I felt like I had whiplash. I've been icing it and resting, and it's not nearly as sore today. I still am having slight headaches on and off, and they still seem to be all over my head. The effects of the steroid are usually felt three to five days following the procedure, so I'm patiently waiting.

    Here's a picture of my neck. Note that the purple is the marker, or at least that's my guess since there was some purple on the band-aids when I took them off.

    I'll do an update soon on whether or not my headaches have improved. Here's hoping they do!

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Migraine Infographic, plus Migraine Twitter Chat

    CureTogether members shared symptoms and treatments of migraine, which led to the following infographic:

    One treatment I haven't tried in the "Surprisingly Effective" section is morphine. I don't plan on trying it any time soon, but it's good to know that there's something out there I haven't tried that has worked for others. CureTogether is coming out with other infographics, including one for depression.

    I have a quick news item, too. For those of you on Twitter, Diana at Somebody Heal Me is starting a weekly Twitter Migraine Chat. The first one is Thursday at 8 p.m. CENTRAL time. Click here for details. I'll be chatting tomorrow as @drummerheather. Hope you can join us!

    Saturday, May 1, 2010


    *Whew* it's been rough lately. I'm still going off Zonisamide gradually and I have another week left before I can cut it completely. I've been crying at the drop of a hat, getting sick to my stomach every darn morning, and cursing like crazy which is so not like me. I won't directly blame the medication and/or withdrawal from it, but something is going on (and NO I'm not pregnant).

    I had 24 days of headaches and four days of migraine-level pain in April. This past week I had to try Treximet for the first time - at work. In a perfect world I'd be able to try it at home to test it out first, but I had a migraine hit me suddenly and didn't have a choice. As with all triptans for me, it got way worse before it got better...but it did get better and after about two hours I was able to function again and I even finished the work day. But I have zero confidence in triptans because every one I've tried in the past has worked a few times and then stopped working or even made my migraines worse. I know Treximet has the NSAID component, but I'm trying to make my tummy happy by avoiding NSAIDs.

    Also, some food for thought: check out Diana Lee's blog post on medication overuse headache. Here's an excerpt:

    "...some researchers believe one type of migraine-specific medicine, triptans, is more likely to cause recurrent migraines rather than just recurrent generic headaches."

    I only received two samples from my doctor so I have one remaining, but I don't know if I should try and get a prescription or not. Since it's my only "emergency" med that works (for now), I probably should. It really did save me the other day, but I don't like the thought of them causing recurrent migraines!

    P.S. - you all have been giving really insightful tips/thoughts in the Comments section lately. Check them out if you haven't yet; you may benefit from some of the ideas, particularly in the last post. And THANK YOU for taking time to leave comments. You all rock! :)

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    When Medications Fail

    My biggest fear came true last week when my "strong" medications, Butalbital (Fioricet) - for painful headaches/migraines and Ketorolac (Toradol) - for the super kill-me-now migraines, no longer worked for me. After managing to avoid these drugs for a month, sticking to Aleve instead, I couldn't stand the constant headaches anymore and finally gave in. No relief.

    Last weekend, I had a horrible migraine that lasted three days. It may have been from the chocolate I added back to my diet (although I started adding it a week before I got the migraine) or just a bad sleep schedule or let-down migraine following a week of work stress. Either way, I had plans to attend the Azalea Festival in Wilmington, NC with friends Saturday, and I was not going to miss it. I took four Butalbitals (as two doses - I normally take only one or two pills), which made me dizzy and brought the migraine down a few notches. I was nauseous and in pain, and had to hold my husband's hand so I wouldn't lose my balance - particularly on the section of cobblestone streets - but I managed to survive it and have an amazing time!

    My next neuro appt. wasn't until April 29, so her physician's assistant saw me today. I've been having stomach issues that have now become daily, as well as general dizziness and random rapid heart beats - flu symptoms I guess, but they've been going on for weeks if not months. The only thing I can think of that would be causing it is the Zonisamide (Zonegran generic), and since it obviously wasn't helping my headaches a bit, I'm weaning off it. My blood pressure was really high today, which could be from the Zonisamide and maybe would explain why I'm feeling so crappy. Also, the fact that it suppresses your appetite combined with my migraine diet contributed to me losing 11 pounds since Feb. 9, which is cool for most people but not good for me when there's not much to me as it is!

    I asked for an "emergency" medication and the PA gave me Treximet samples. I've taken Imitrex and several other triptans with no luck and in fact bad side effects (go figure), and I shared this with the PA, but she said Treximet, which is combined with naproxen, might be different.

    The next thing I'm going to try is an occipital nerve block, which I don't have any links for because I haven't had time to research it yet. I have a consultation Monday and will find out more details then. Also, I have a TMJ checkup Friday. Doctors, doctors, doctors...

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    Pain is Serious!!!

    I'm sorry, but I'm going to be a bit of a drama queen in this post. You've been warned.

    Last night, my husband did the unthinkable. I was totaling my headaches for March based on my headache calendar, which I do at the end of every month. I had 29 headaches. I shared this with my husband, which I usually do because, well, if you had more than 20 headaches each month, wouldn't you want the person closest to you to know about it?

    His reaction? He automatically shook his head to the left and right, as if to say, "no, that's impossible." Then he realized what he was doing and stopped. I asked him to explain why he did that and he wouldn't talk. (He's not much of a talker to begin with.) So he started watching TV and I was sitting by him finishing some work on my laptop, but I wouldn't drop it, so I kept pressing him.

    You don't believe me?!
    Why the h*** would I lie about having headaches? What would that accomplish?
    At the end of every day I write down whether or not I have a headache. It's not like I can make a mistake!

    And on and on. Nobody seems to understand how debilitating headaches/migraines are. I told my husband how my  headaches have been maybe a 4-6 on a 1-10 pain scale where 10 is the worst, and once they get to the 7-10 range (this is just my opinion, and my own perception of my pain levels, not an official scale), I would have to stop all activities - including work - and stay at home because the pain would be too intense. I told him the pain seems to be getting higher and higher and it's getting closer to that point and that scares me. When I take medicine it's just a temporary fix for a few hours and then the pain is right back where it was before, and I've had zero luck with preventatives - make that negative luck if you count the side effects. I even said I've considered going to a hospital to see if they could keep me a few days and give me strong meds to try to break the pain cycle and see if that helps.

    After all of that, I honestly feel that he still thinks I'm just being dramatic. How do I get through to him, and others I encounter on a regular basis?

    (Side note - I'm aware that I care too much about what other people think, and I'm working on this with my therapist. ALSO - I should add that I have the best husband in the world. Pain is just something he doesn't have experience with, so you can't blame him for not understanding.)

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Adding foods!!! :) :) :)

    Lately, I've been down in the dumps, big time. I think it's the Zonegran, but I can't go off it until I see my neurologist again, which isn't for a while.

    So, I've decided that three months of the food elimination diet (instead of four) is enough (and yes, I have cheated a few times). Just this decision is already lifting my spirits!

    I'm supposed to add one migraine trigger back at a time, per week, and eat that food every day that week. But since my headaches never stopped (although my migraines are less intense), I don't really know if the food has anything to do with the headaches. Instead, I'm adding back two foods at a time per week. This week it's tomatoes and onions, not because I like them the most - I don't really like them at all - but because they're the easiest. They're in so many darn things that you don't even realize!

    Flickr photo by John-Morgan

    The idea is, of course, that if I get a migraine, one of those foods is a trigger for me.

    I'm thinking the following week will be chocolate (that will get my mood up!) but I still need to limit that one because of the caffeine content. I'm not really supposed to add caffeine back at all. Cheese might be the second trigger that week because I've really missed the "good" cheeses. And now I'm hungry...

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    My Weapon for Nausea

    Nausea hasn't been a big problem for me lately, probably because my headaches are more daily headaches and not so much migraines (and by that I mean the intensity is not a 7 to 10 on a 10 scale and I don't have nausea and throbbing). This could be due to the Zonegran, the TMJ mouth guard which I got last week and now wear 24/7 except for eating, or my migraine trigger food elimination diet. I hope it's not the Zonegran that's helping because it's similar to Topamax, and I'm having similar side effects - loss of appetite, word loss, trouble concentrating, hair loss...but this could be because I'm on the generic.

    But back to the nausea. I know that many migraine sufferers do have nausea, so I wanted to share something that worked wonders for me when I had nausea.

    Drumroll, please....

    Newman's Own Ginger Mints. Yes, they're organic! Meaning no artificial sweeteners, which can trigger migraines. I buy them at the health food section of my local Kroger, but I found them online here.

    I'm not promising this will work for you. My nausea may not be as bad as yours. I've only thrown up once from a migraine, but I don't throw up much in general. Even with flu, I get symptoms on the other end, if you know what I mean. TMI, sorry. However, with migraines, I would get nausea in waves so bad that I'd have to stop what I was doing to concentrate on not throwing up, and when I took this it would help a lot. Hope it works for you too! :)

    No, Newman's Own is not sending me free stuff, and I've never actually ordered through

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Healing Service

    My church is having healing services every Wednesday during Lent, and I was finally able to make it this evening. We had a small, intimate group and it was very moving and powerful. I was anointed with oil and prayed over while the attendees layed hands on me, and I did the same for others who needed prayer. (No, this is not like what you see on TV with those over-the-top televangelists.) I personally believe in God's healing. And it's scripture based:
    "Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so you may be healed." - James 5:14-16a
    Here's our closing prayer, which was printed in the bulletin. If you choose, you're welcome to pray this as you read it:
    "Almighty God, we pray that our brothers and sisters may be comforted in their suffering and made whole. When they are afraid, give them courage; when they feel weak, grant them your strength; when they are afflicted, afford them patience; when they are lost, offer them hope; when they are alone, move us to their side; in the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen."

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Medication: How much is too much?

    An anonymous person commented on my blog; here's an excerpt:
    "...your reliance on meds is overwhelming to me! I know you are in alot of pain but as I read your blog, it is always a new drug for you. Just the aleve alone can do damage your stomach. Stomach issues and ulcers can cause headaches! You try all these different remedies and if they don't work your done with them, but you never stray from the drugs. I really fear for your health as you do not really know what these drugs can do to you. I know you are desparate for some relief ...I know I've been there, but please try to get away from these drugs!!! They are doing more harm than good."
    I'm going to be completely honest. At first this comment infuriated me. I showed it to my husband hoping for support, and he agreed with the comment! I should have known. He's always felt that way. He rarely takes medicine, but he also rarely (if ever) has headaches. Now that I've calmed down, I have to say I agree too.

    But please allow me to be human and get defensive. I try to keep this blog positive, so I don't write much about my pain and instead try to focus on treatment. But don't doubt that I'm in pain, almost every day. And my headaches don't last a few hours each day and go away. They're generally constant, all day long, getting progressively worse throughout the day. A few times a month they reach high pain levels, which is when I label them migraines. This is when I have nausea and throbbing too. Naturally, I want the pain to go away. I hate medicines and the side effects, but I think God gave doctors and scientists the abilities to develop medicines for us to use. They might not work for everyone, but it's worth a try. If I have a bad reaction to a med, I'll stop it immediately (Cymbalta for example). Otherwise, I'll try a med about three months and if it doesn't help my headaches I'll stop it and try something else, all under a neurologist's supervision. Also, I've tried/am trying many non-medication ways to fight my headaches.

    I admit that I haven't had any luck from medications, other than the "rescue" meds, which are simply band-aids that don't last. But at the same time, if I were to stop trying, I would feel defeated. I'm not sure what to make of the comment because I really do agree - I hate the side effects of meds and I hate that they don't fix what they're supposed to fix, but I feel like I have no other options. I'm in too much pain to sit and do nothing.

    What's your opinion on medications? How much is too much? Is there a point when one should just give up on trying meds for headaches/migraines?

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    My (Awesome) Visit with the TMJ Specialist

    My neurologist recommended me to a TMJ specialist because I clench my jaw and grind my teeth at night. The specialist was at an oral surgery clinic that is part of a larger hospital; it wasn't at the actual hospital but it was on the campus. Check out the spectacular building!


    I was just as impressed with the doctor as I was the building - ok, more. I started with x-rays and after just a few minutes, the doctor brought them in and she clearly explained what everything was and said that everything looked normal. Then she did a physical exam and that's when she noticed the wear on my teeth, popping, and tenderness. She said that my TMJ isn't acute but it still could be causing some - probably not all, but some - of my headaches.

    Here's our battle plan:
    • Take Aleve twice a day (morning & night)
    • Do a moist heat massage on the jaw and temporal areas once a day
    • Diet modification (GREEEAAAAAT....)
      • No gum, chewy candy
      • No bagels, pizza crust, tough meats (cut meats into small pieces)
      • Reduce sweets
      • No big bites: cut apples, sandwiches, carrots, etc. into pieces
    • Mouth guard
    I've done all but the last one. I'm waiting on my insurance to approve the mouth guard, and if/once approved, I'll wear it 24/7. After 60 days I can stop the Aleve, then after a while I'll be able to stop the other steps and will eventually decrease the amount of time I wear the mouth guard until I'm wearing it nights only.

    I love that I don't have any new drugs to take (I was afraid I'd have to try a muscle relaxer which I tried for grinding/clenching in the past), and I'm also happy that while the doctor didn't promise complete relief from my headaches, she thinks the frequency will reduce. And she has seen plenty of headache patients, so she knows what she's talking about. I mean, just look at that gorgeous building she works in! :)

      Sunday, February 14, 2010

      Double Book Review: elimination diet

      As a Valentine's present to my readers (sorry, not very romantic) I'm doing a double book review, with lots of pictures!

      First, a much-talked-about book in the headache world, "Heal Your Headaches: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain" by David Buchholz, M.D. This book outlines a three-part plan: (1) Avoid rebound-causing medications, (2) Reduce your triggers, particularly foods that commonly trigger migraines, and (3) Try preventive medication if the first two steps aren't working.

      This is the book I've been using to guide my elimination diet. It says to try the diet for four months, which I'm hoping to do, although it's a big challenge...then again, so are headaches! I've pretty much completed the first step, although I still take one or two Butalbitals a month (If I remember correctly, I'm supposed to get down to zero for a while and then add to once or twice a month if needed). The elimination diet is going ok, and the book brings up an interesting point about preventive meds. Dr. Buchholz claims that they won't work as well unless you're doing the elimination diet along with taking the meds. This is why I've decided to try them again - I don't want to take anything I've tried before though, because I know about the bad side effects, so I started a new one (which I mentioned in my previous post).

      The only negative about the book was I felt like I was being talked down to at times, but the author also talks down toward other doctors who are getting it wrong. It may be my own sensitivity, and I wouldn't let that stop you from reading this book.

      The second book I'd like to review is "Migraine-Free Cooking!" by Heidi Gunderson.


      This book uses "Heal Your Headache" as a guideline for recipes. I'm being a little stricter than these two books for now by avoiding tomatoes and pork, which are not-as-common migraine triggers, but I may add those back soon. I'm waiting to see a reduction in headaches, and so far that hasn't happened (it can take a while, I've heard).

      Instead of writing a lengthy review of Heidi's book, I thought I'd let my pictures of a few of her recipes that I've tried speak for themselves. Enjoy! :) 

      Garlic Butter Shrimp

      Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches



      Blue-Strawberry Smoothie


      Brown Sugar Chicken

      Seasoned Salmon

      Tuesday, February 9, 2010

      New medication: Zonisamide (Zonegran)

      I saw my neurologist today and told her I was willing to try another preventative medication. Although I've tried several - I'd guess at least 20 - and tend to have the horrible side effects, I had 27 headaches last month, which is completely ridiculous. Also, a book I read (I WILL do a review soon, I promise) said that preventatives sometimes won't work unless you're doing an elimination diet at the same time. So, I'm trying Zonisamide (brand name Zonegran), a seizure medication. Has anyone ever tried this for headaches - if so, please comment and share your experience! Also I'm weaning off the Ropinirole.

      I have to admit that I've cheated on my elimination diet. I went on a ski trip the other weekend and ate some common migraine trigger foods. Of course I've had daily headaches so I didn't notice a difference. Plus I was on Aleve all weekend because skiing (and falling) makes you sore!!! But I will take it more seriously moving forward.
      Me & my hot husband in our dorky ski gear

      Finally I'd like to thank Emily (WinnyNinny PooPoo) for mentioning my blog in the post below. I encourage you to check it out and share your thoughts!

      Does Anyone Really Know What Causes Migraines?

      Monday, February 1, 2010

      MRI Results

      Thanks to the electronic health portal of my unnamed health center, I've received my MRI results with notes online. My official results:

      1. Normal brain MRI
      2. Incidental congenital failure of segmentation anomaly and C7-T1, otherwise normal cervical spine.

      From a past X-ray at a chiropractic office, I already knew about #2. Basically two of my neck discs are missing the thing that goes between them. Can't remember the technical terms, but I've received chiropractic treatments and physical therapy and neither helped.

      Most everyone told me I wouldn't want anything to show up in the brain MRI, but I really did. I want an answer - a reason for my pain. I can't begin to explain the mixed emotions I'm feeling right now, but most of all I'm disappointed.

      Wednesday, January 27, 2010

      MRI and other fun things

      My MRI last week was interesting. Upon arriving to a top-notch hospital, I was completely thrown off when I discovered that the MRI was going to take place in the PARKING LOT in mobile units connected by wooden covered walkways. I went in one trailer for check-in, another to get the IV thing put in (so they could easily add the contrast) and another for the actual MRI. I thought it would take hours to do the neck and brain scan, with and without contrast, but it only took a little more than an hour. I also thought I'd have trouble holding still, but it wasn't bad at all. The hardest part was not falling asleep, because I tend to jerk when I wake up and didn't think that would work out to well.

      I called Monday about my results and found out I had to fax an authorization form, which I did right away, so I'm still in waiting mode right now. Of course I'll write about my results, good or bad, as soon as I find out anything.

      Since I haven't mentioned things I'm trying other than the elimination diet in a while, I thought I'd do a quick recap.

      Meds: The only med I'm taking is Ropinirole for restless leg syndrome (which I don't think I have, but my neuro wanted me to try it due to my sleep study results). I hate it because it wakes me up at night and makes me feel like I'm going to throw up. I haven't yet, but every time I'm sure I'm going to. I take iron every so often, but other than that and some topical acne creams I'm not on anything else, which is nice. When I have headaches, I take 2 Aleves and pray that they work (they generally don't). If they're bad enough, I have Butalbital/Fioricet, and if they're unbearable I have Toradol, but I'm trying to stop relying on those.

      Therapy: I'm also still seeing a therapist for stress and pain management. It's not expensive with my insurance, and it's awesome to have someone to talk to because I feel like I overburden my husband and mom with my problems.

      Diet: The elimination diet is getting discouraging, not because it's hard to do (although it is) but because I'm having no relief in my headaches. I'm convinced they're hormone-related, but my hope is that I can still have fewer headaches by doing the diet, but I'm slowly losing that hope. Also, I've gotten sick three times this month, and the symptoms have been similar to my MSG symptoms (trust me, you don't want me to elaborate) but I, of course, didn't eat MSG. This diet might be making me aware of foods my stomach is sensitive to, so I've been writing them down.

      Exercise: I'm still working out; maybe not four times a week but at least three most weeks.

      I wish I had better results to share, but all my efforts don't seem to be getting me anywhere. I'm considering making some (additional) life changes to cut down my stress levels, but I'd rather not get into that now. Next month I meet with my neuro again and a TMJ specialist. Always something to look forward to. :\

      Monday, January 18, 2010

      Food Elimination Diet Update

      Just wanted to give an update on my elimination diet. I started January 1 with a rice-only diet and lasted about four days; then I added in foods that don't typically trigger migraines. However, I still decided to completely cut out dairy and tomatoes in addition to more common trigger foods. And I cut all my vitamins/minerals except an occasional iron pill here and there. My diet guidelines are two books that I'll review in a future post.

      The good news is I'm losing some of my tummy fat and have had one or two days without headaches (but I had a killer migraine last week and had to miss a day of work). Also I'm not eating out (except for once) so that's saving money; although I'm buying more produce and organic meats which are pricey.

      I'm planning to do the diet through the month and reassess at that time, depending on how my headaches are doing.

      P.S. - my first MRI is scheduled for Thursday, assuming my insurance approves it this time (see my comments to this post for details if interested). Very excited! :)

      Have a great week everybody!

      Tuesday, January 12, 2010

      New Book: Migraine Heroes

      Alexandra, co-founder of CureTogether, sent me a new book called Migraine Heroes to review. is a Web site that helps people anonymously track and compare health data, to better understand their bodies, make more informed treatment decisions and contribute data to research. It started in July 2008 with three conditions: vulvodynia, endometriosis, and migraine. It has since expanded to more than 280 conditions and 150,000 data points submitted by members.

      From the book: Migraine Heroes presents stories and data from 271 people who gathered at to share their experiences. Anyone living with Migraine is a hero. By sharing knowledge, we can help ease the pain of Migraine.

      I thought the book would be only personal stories, but that's just the beginning. This book has tons of statistics from its members on their migraine symptoms, treatments, etc. and shares some comments after the statistics. While there were a few misspellings (from user-submitted information), overall this is a good book with a lot of ideas of things to try to treat migraines as well as resource links at the end.

      If you'd like to purchase the book, please click this link or the link below. Under full disclosure, 20% of sales from this link will go to me. (No pressure to buy whatsoever!)

      Migraine Heroes
      A new guide to treating Migraine, based on the experience of 271 people who've been there.

      Sunday, January 3, 2010

      Rice diet - I am insane.

      As I write this blog post, I'm SO hungry. A little background: I decided to do a two-week rice diet, nothing but white rice (no flavorings or seasonings, not even salt) and water for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I ran it by two neurologists to make sure it was safe, and they said it may not take a full two weeks, but I should be fine. I'm doing this as an easy way to eliminate migraine triggers - there are so many that it's easier to only eat rice, in my opinion. Or so I thought.

      I went to Costco and got a ginormous bag of rice; then I made a big batch. I'm on day three of my rice diet. Brushing my teeth is the highlight of my day because my taste buds actually get some flavor (toothpaste)! The rice tastes so plain, I'm actually craving foods I don't even like. Since it's rice enriched with iron, my burps taste like metal. (You're welcome for sharing.) I thought after doing a gluten-free diet that this would be a piece of cake (ooh cake, yum...), but it's hard always being hungry but not wanting more rice!

      I'm also frustrated because I'm still getting bad headaches/migraines so now I'm thinking maybe food doesn't trigger them after all. So I've decided to redo my plan a little. First I'm going to finish my rice, so I'll do the diet another one to two days. I'm doing a lot of research to find out what foods I can and can't eat (book review coming soon) and I'm going to start adding in some foods that are NOT known to trigger migraines.  Then I'll add in common migraine triggers, one per week.

      Since it's a new year, and last year sucked on so many levels, I wanted to share my resolutions. I generally do not make resolutions because I always thought they were pointless, but I want 2010 to be awesome. So here goes:
      • Eat healthier. I'm considering going completely organic, but I think that's a little too ambitious (and expensive). But I'm going to try to eat as fresh as possible. I got a food processor for Christmas so I'm hoping that will make it more fun to chop veggies!
      • Exercise at least four times a week. A typical resolution, I know. I drove by a gym the other day and it was PACKED. Lucky for me I have a gym in my condo's clubhouse, and it's hardly ever in use, so I have no excuse. Even when I have head pain, I'm planning to at least walk for 20 minutes.
      • Read through the Bible. Not really headache-related, but my Bible study group at church is doing it and I'm actually really excited about it because even though I'm a P.K. (preacher's kid), I can't say that I've read every word in the Bible.
      • Don't stress! Work gives me a lot of stress. Not because it's all that stressful, but because there are always articles to write, projects to manage, deadlines looming, etc. and I think about them constantly, even when I'm not working. I need to find a way to leave work at work and enjoy my free time.
      P.S. - here's one resource on the migraine diet if you want to try it. The food lists are not all-inclusive based on other things I've read, so I'd do additional research, but it's a good way to get started. Note that I have never visited the clinic it's from, but a friend shared the link with me. Also note that I'm not sponsoring the rice company from the picture in any way!