Sunday, December 18, 2011

War on Headaches readers, meet Ellie!

Hi, I'm Ellie and I'm a spoiled puppy!
Jonathan and I FINALLY found the perfect dog for us! We adopted Ellie 11/11/11, which is how we (Jonathan) came up with her name. She came from Saving Grace which is near where we live in N.C. They think her mom is a Sheltie/Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix and they don't know what her dad is, but some people tell me they can see long-haired dachshund. She 3 1/2 months old and about 8 lbs. so she'll probably be a small dog (her mom is 16 lbs.) which is good because we're still living in our condo which isn't the largest.

The first weekend we had her, I got up about 3-4 times each night/morning to take her out, and she had diarrhea from giardia (parasite) so I had little sleep and lots of messes to clean up. Even so, I didn't have a headache the entire weekend. Unfortunately, after that they came back as normal and got bad for a while because I was under so much stress with final projects and exams. Now that the semester is over with, I've had fewer headaches although I did have one today that Aleve didn't help much, but walking Ellie in the crisp, fresh air did help!

Ellie has been SO much fun and definitely worth the extra work. I've been getting more exercise just from going up and down the stairs to take her out every few hours, which is good because I had been slacking ever since I had costochondritis.

Oh a quick update unrelated to my puppy...I was taking 5-HTP for about 3 months and didn't notice any improvement in my headaches/migraines, so I stopped it - gradually, of course. It did help my anxiety, but I don't feel like the anxiety is bad enough to require pills. I need to do more research, but a friend gave me an article from Prevention Magazine about melatonin helping migraines, so that's probably going to be the next thing I try. Have any of you tried melatonin for headaches/migraines?

More cute puppy pictures? Of course!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cardboard Testimonials

Wow has it been busy lately! I'm looking forward to things winding down as the fall semester ends so I can finally take a breather. Luckily, it has been a GOOD busy (it usually is!).

First, a quick health update. I got a new gyno who was willing to do an ultrasound of my ovaries, and she found...nothing. I felt like a hypochondriac, but I really had extreme cramping. Not lately though, thankfully. The new gyno talked with me about my general health and when she found out about my migraines and other issues she started naming off all these ideas (acupuncture? chiropractor? etc.) and I'd tried most of them with no relief. Every time I see a new doctor it's like that. If I was a doctor, I'd be like that too; they're wired to fix people and I appreciated her concern and willingness to give advice. My migraines took a turn for the worse for a while, which I am convinced is from some cranberry pomegranate juice that had grape juice in it - I'm almost certain grape juice is a trigger for me so I'm going to start avoiding it. The last few days though, my head has been great. Is is the 5-HTP, or something else that I'll discuss in my next post? I think you all will enjoy my next post; I'll try to get it up as soon as I can. :)

So, wondering about the title of this post? Lots of churches have been doing what's called Cardboard Testimonials, and when my church decided to do them, I was asked to participate. Check out the video below; you'll know which one is mine. This is one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was for a combined service so there were maybe 400 or more people in the congregation, and reading other peoples' testimonials before going on stage was so touching that I started to lose it, as most people in the church did. I don't like being up in front of people so I was hoping the intimidation would distract me and I wouldn't cry, but obviously that wasn't the case. But, I'm glad that I could share my story and represent all of you struggling with pain. And I meant what I wrote; God hasn't healed me, but he really does give me strength, every single day. Here's the video:

Monday, October 31, 2011


I hadn't heard of until I received an email from them through this blog. I checked it out and it's pretty neat! If you want to find out what people are saying about certain medications or conditions (like migraines), do a search and the results are posts from forums all over the internet. You can even combine the two; I searched "5-HTP migraines" and found that I'm not the only person trying out 5-HTP for migraines, and I was able to read through what other people have been writing about in web forums.

Treato has more than 1,000,000 posts on headaches and 326,000 posts on migraines. I hope this will be a helpful resource for you. (Oh and the intro video's cute too!)

Happy Halloween!!! :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Study proves exercise helps migraines

I'm sitting in class but I came across this article and had to share it. Very exciting! :)

Exercise Is Just As Good As Meds at Preventing Migraines

Update: Please read the comments to this post for some links to blog posts that go more in depth on this story. This study has a lot of shortcomings and should not be considered an official scientific study.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall Break

For fall break, my husband and I took a long weekend trip to the NC & VA mountains. We biked the Virginia Creeper Trail, which is 34 miles but the first 17 miles are mostly downhill. As luck would have it, I had a migraine the morning of our ride, but 2 Butalbitals helped and luckily my pain pretty much went away before the hard part of the trail. The trail was also fairly smooth so that helped. Near the end, my costochondritis started acting up, so I had to go slower. The entire ride took around five hours, and that included stops for pictures and lunch. Speaking of pictures...

Farm along the trail. The leaves were starting to change!

Thank God for Butalbital & sunglasses

Got up for sunrise (then slept until 11:30 a.m. - hey, it's vacation)

I was hoping I'd have a headache-free vacation, especially since midterms are starting up and things are going to get hectic again. But I can't complain, because the drugs worked and the break from the city was exactly what I needed!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

No Botox (yet)

Injection image by TschiAe; modified by War on Headaches
Well, I assumed correctly. I called my insurance and they do cover Botox, only after I meet my deductible, and only 80% of the cost. I have a $1,000 deductible, so needless to say I will not be getting Botox injections anytime soon. I was really looking forward to trying least as much as you can look forward to multiple shots in the head.

Now I'm only doing the following for my headaches:
  • 5-HTP (no change yet)
  • Mouth guard at night for TMJ (might as well not be on the list since it hasn't helped my head)
  • Exercise
  • Gatorade once a day - update: I'm down to the bottom of my Costco-size container of powder, so I don't think my electrolyte levels have an impact on my headaches
  • Therapy about once a month 
  • Drugs as needed: Aleve, Butalbital, Ketorolac
  • Ice pack as needed
The list looks long, but basically I feel like I'm doing nothing, and I'm running out of ideas (that I can afford or attain legally). It's so frustrating. At the same time though, I'm still optimistic that things will get better, and I'm thankful that I've been able to drag myself to class, work and church even with the pain. Surely this headache thing will end some day, right?

Sunday, September 25, 2011


My body and I really don't get along. I've been really into running, as you probably know by now, and three weeks ago I ran 30 minutes without stopping to walk - which is the longest yet! I didn't even have time to be proud of myself because costochondritis took away my happy thoughts. Since I was a kid, I've always had random chest pains where it hurts to take deep breaths so I have to do shallow breathing until the "episode" goes away, but it didn't do it much and didn't concern me. Since I've started running, it's been doing it more and the episodes have been longer. After the 30-minute run, it was so bad that the chest pain would start for no reason and would linger for hours (it wouldn't hurt unless I took deep breaths or moved the wrong way). It would even wake me up at night if I ended up laying on my chest because the pain is on my left side and it would be so sharp I'd wake up and have to turn on my side or back.

By the way, I'm completely self-diagnosing myself. I haven't been to the doctor for it (although I did talk to my nurse Mom who is familiar with the condition because Dad had it once), but costocondritis (or "Costco" as my husband calls it) matches my symptoms. Nor do I want to go to the doctor for it because I see too many docs already. Instead, I took a long (and sad) break from running to give myself rest. I was fighting a cold and I think that made it worse too. Yesterday I went for a very short run and walked most of the time, and haven't had an episode yet, so I think I'm better. Who knows what will come up next to prevent me from running, but I'll fight whatever it is with all I've got!

As far as my headaches go, I had a neurology appointment last week and it was a little awkward because I'm not willing to try any new meds but I've tried just about everything else, so I feel like I put my neuro in a tough spot and we were both having trouble deciding what to do next. I did agree to try Botox and since the appointment I found out that my insurance does cover it BUT (there's always a but) the insurance company gets to pick where the Botox comes from so I'd have to bring in "approved" Botox for my neuro to administer. And of course, my neuro's office doesn't accept outside Botox. So next step is for me to find a doctor that will administer outside Botox, but first I'm going to call my insurance and make sure I don't have to meet my $1,000 deductible first, which I'm assuming is the case and if it is, I'll have to put Botox back on my "future things to try" list.

I also asked my neuro about 5-HTP for headaches/migraines and she hasn't had any patients try it but thinks it will be safe, so I've started 50 mg at night and will work up to 100 mg. No noticeable side effects, so that's always a plus!

Edited 9/26 - I forgot to mention that I did ask my neuro about the costochondritis even though that's not in her department, and she agreed that it sounds like what I have and told me to get it checked out if it lasts another week; luckily, it seems to be going away finally. I don't know for sure that running caused it, but I'm going to be more careful and do a lot more walk/runs for a while just to be safe.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Stopping Progesterone

My headaches have been relentless lately, showing no sign of improvement. I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm guessing it is related to stress because the fall semester has started. I enjoy my design classes, but the homework takes forever. I feel like that's all I do.

Last week I saw my gyno and told her I wanted to stop the progesterone cream. My reasons: acne, increased migraines and debilitating cramps. I can't remember if I blogged about it, but one night my menstrual cramps kept me up until 5:30 or so in the morning. Also, I missed church and class because of cramps. I've always had bad cramps, but never that bad! My gyno suggested I try yet another form of progesterone, sublingual drops, but I told her I needed a break from progesterone. Maybe I'll try the drops later, but right now I feel like I've messed with my hormones enough and my body is pissed at me.

Even though my headaches and migraines have been bad and I've used way too much medication lately, I have still been working out. Last Thursday I did yoga and running with a pounding head, and my head pain actually decreased while I was running. I'm trying to keep it up, but I'm also trying to not take as much medication and unfortunately the pain is starting to take over my life right now.

At least we survived Hurricane Irene. I hope you all did as well!

Pre-Irene sunset

Post-Irene sunset

Monday, August 15, 2011

Running Away My Headaches

I've always hated running. When I was on the tennis team in high school, my most dreaded part of practice was running. My sister was on the track and cross country teams, and while I admired her ability and her drive, I thought she was crazy. My friends who are runners seem to belong to some kind of cult or be on running highs because they're so into it and seem addicted. Who would want to torture themselves by constantly moving, having trouble breathing, experiencing pains and injuries, and being bored out of their minds?

Apparently, me.

I'm getting so SICK of my headaches and migraines that I'll do just about anything to get rid of them, even if it means torturing myself by running. I just recently started running, and amazingly I've discovered that once you start to build your endurance, running really isn't torture. My biggest mistake in the past was running too soon after eating and drinking, which gave me side stitches. Once I was able to avoid those, I realized that running was tolerable. Heck, maybe even fun. Why is this crazy girl calling running fun, you might ask?
  • It gets me outdoors. Running on the beach with my sister back in May started this whole thing. Now I run mostly on the treadmill due to the heat, although I have gone on a few runs on the nearby Greenway which is nice and shaded. The last two weekends I ran in the mountains of NC and GA while visiting in-laws. When you're gliding slowly on your own two feet versus whizzing by on a car, you're able to really take in the beautiful scenery.
  • I breathe better. Not every runner has to sprint and get out of breath while running. I take my time and take deep, controlled breaths, which does wonders for your health and mood.
  • It's easy to do. Get up, put shoes on (or go barefoot if you wish), and go. 
  • Muscle. Maybe I'll get killer muscles out of running. That's not why I'm doing it, but the thought inspires me to run even more.
  • It clears my mind. I'll admit that I usually watch TV when I work out on the treadmill (our condo's gym has cable which we don't have in our unit, so I can get my HGTV and Food Network fix). But for outdoor runs, my mind doesn't race like it does when I'm sitting still, and I'm able to pay attention to my body and how I'm feeling. It's also a good time for me to pray without so many distractions.
Recently, something else has made me even more motivated to run. My high school friend, Brad (you can find him at A Beer with Brad), recommended that I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I just finished reading it, and it made me want to go out and run 100 miles - seriously! I didn't, of course, but maybe one day... The book tells stories about ultra races, amazing runners and why humans are meant to be runners. It also shares techniques and has a good argument for barefoot running to avoid injury. While I haven't gone barefoot yet, I have changed my running style and my body feels great! I highly recommend this book, even if you aren't into running and don't plan to be. It's still inspiring to read about what we can accomplish if we stay positive and don't hold back.

Picture from

I won't be running marathons any time soon, but I'm hoping that if I run as much as I can, my headaches and migraines might reduce. Of course, running and other strenuous exercises can trigger headaches/migraines, so if you're going to try this with me, be careful and do it gradually. I'm alternating walking and running for now, and I'm doing a lot of daily stretches that my physical therapist taught me. If your health allows, I invite you to give running a chance. Happy running! :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hello Again, Neuro

It had been a while since my last neuro appointment, so it was nice to go back last week. My migraines have been bad lately and since my Ketorolac expired and a previous neuro had prescribed it, I figured it was a good time to pay her a visit. And boy, do I mean pay...the specialist copay for my new insurance is $50. That adds up when you see a lot of specialists!

The appointment went pretty well. My neuro mainly listened to the headache/migraine update I gave her, plus some ideas I have. She's going to see if my new insurance will cover Botox (not getting my hopes up). Another idea I had was doing a spinal tap aka lumbar puncture because I've never had one and it's my hobby (more like second job) to rule things out. She was able to schedule it right away, but when I called my insurance I found out I'd have to meet my $1,000 deductible before they'd cover it (well, 80% of it). So far I've paid $0 toward my deductible. I left a message with the neuro billing person asking how much a spinal tap costs, but this lady is chronically unresponsive. My online research shows it's about $300-$400, so I canceled my appointment and moved spinal tap back on my "One Day When I'm Rich" list.

The other week after doing a big run (big for me being 20 minutes without stopping, and the other 10 minutes walking), I started having sciatic nerve pain, and I talked to my neuro about that. We agreed that I need to keep exercising since it may help my headaches, so she referred me to a physical therapist and now I'm doing that once a week. Luckily the pain hasn't been bad, but it's good to play it safe. And that copay is only $25.

Other than that my neuro appointment was fairly uneventful, but it was still good to check in with her. I still really like this one and hope to keep going there for a while.

By the way, my thyroid test (which was ordered by my gyno) came back normal. No surprise there.

I was talking with someone today and she recommended 5-HTP for my migraines. Have any of you heard of it or tried it? WebMD makes it sound scary, but if it works for migraines I'd give it a try!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gyno Appointment Update; plus Bachmann News

I saw my gyno and neuro this week, but I'll start with the gyno. If you remember from a few blog posts back, I've been having bad cramping and was hoping to get an ultrasound or some kind of testing done. My gyno felt that my symptoms weren't alarming and she didn't see the need for me to have an ultrasound. I asked about endometriosis, and she doesn't think I have it.

Maybe that's good news, but then what would be causing my pain? We decided that I'm probably on too high of a dose of the progesterone cream, so this cycle I don't have to take the progesterone and next cycle I'll cut my dose in half (using it once a day instead of twice). I hope this will clear up my acne, decrease my stomach bloating, and stop the cramping, all side effects of the progesterone. Plus I'm convinced that's why my migraines have increased, although the whole reason I'm on it is so they'll decrease. Have I mentioned how much I hate hormones, both synthetic and bioidentical?

My gyno also reviewed my charts (I take my temperature 7 a.m. each morning and chart it to track where I am in my cycle) and noticed that my temperatures are abnormally low, so she asked if I've had my thyroid checked. I have, but it's been about five years and she said things can change within that time, so I had the blood test done. Once I get the results I'll share them in a blog post.

Even if you don't keep up with politics, I'm sure you heard about this idiotic article about Representative Michele Bachmann's migraines. I could go on and on about why this and other similar articles are ridiculous, but I can't say it better than Diana Lee in her article. Well, maybe I'd change the intro, but I prefer to avoid politics so I'll leave it at that. ;) Check out Diana's article, and please take her advice on defending migraineurs as people bring up this issue.

Neuro update coming soon. Until then, be well, dear friends! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011


My long weekend migraine finally went away completely on Monday - in fact, I didn't even have a headache! It was terrific. So was Tuesday. By Wednesday, I started to get a slight headache and today I feel the pain again, boo. At least it's not a migraine so far.

So did dog sitting last week help my head? As much as I enjoyed having my "nephew" around, the answer is no. To his defense, he had been to the groomers a few weeks before he came here and he still had a strong perfumey smell on his fur, so I took him outside and hosed him off (which he hated). Unfortunately, that only helped a little. Maybe that's why I still had headaches/migraines even though I was taking him for long walks/runs almost daily. Then again, it probably takes longer than a week and a half of regular exercise to see an improvement in your health. Either way, I still want a dog.

Speaking of exercise, I've been keeping it up as much as my head will allow. My body's been really sore from the running, which is probably normal and I've made sure to stretch so I know that's not the reason. I think I just need to get used to it. Another thing I've added to my headache arsenal is Gatorade.

Lemon-lime deliciousness

My mom read somewhere that hydration is important but that drinking only water may not be enough because our bodies need electrolytes. She said I should try Gatorade, so I went to Costco and found a big container of the powder kind so I can make my own and avoid the BPA in the bottles. I realize that I'm adding fake flavoring, fake coloring and more sugar (from what I can tell, the sugar is real) to my diet, but if it helps my head it will be worth it. I'm drinking one to two glasses daily - all at once, not sipping throughout the day, because I like the enamel on my teeth, thank you. I'll try it until I go through the entire container, and I'll let you know if it works!

Giveaway: my blogger friend Steph at Head Wise is doing a giveaway (a care package). So far, I'm the only one who has entered and that doesn't seem fair, so please go leave a comment to enter - the deadline is tomorrow! By the way, the giveaway is thanks to another blogger friend, Jessica at Painfully Speaking. These gals ROCK!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Headache vs. Migraine

My migraines have been bad lately. Migraines, not headaches (although headaches have been bad too). I had to switch my work days last week and today I didn't make it into work until 11 a.m. Luckily I only work 20 hours a week. If you have migraines, you know what they're like. They get in the way of life. But for those of you who read or stumbled upon this blog who have never had one, I thought I'd share a taste of how they differ from typical headaches, in timeline format based on my current migraine.

 Photo credits: Tibo (headache car); Icarus Kuwait (migraine car)

My nearly every-day headache: I start to feel head pain. I begin to assess the pain and decide whether or not I should take drugs.
My current migraine: Yesterday I have general headache pain and take GelStat earlier in the evening (I ordered a bunch of this online to give it another try). Last night I'm watching TV. I get up from the couch and my head goes BOOM BOOM. I say, "oh SHIT." I've been good about cursing lately, so this is a bad sign. I make some ginger tea to help my nausea, put an ice bag on my head, and then decide to try and sleep it off. I wonder what could have triggered it - storms, running, yoga, chewing tough steak, hormone issues from the cramping I've been having, a combination...

Headache: I sleep like a log.
Migraine: I wake up on and off due to the pain, sometimes moaning. The pain pulses with my heartbeat. Every time my husband moves in bed, even slightly, my head throbs. My soft pillow hurts.

Headache: I take 2 Aleve and go about my day.
Migraine: I wake up early and get some applesauce so I can take meds. It's an unopened jar and normally I'm a machine when it comes to opening jars, but when I strain my head throbs so I wait for my husband to get out of the shower so he can open it for me. I try eating a rice cake in the meantime but the chewing motion hurts my head too bad. I take 2 Butalbital, wait for it to kick in (which means the dizziness begins), take a a quick nap, and start getting ready for work. I make appointments for next week with my gyno and neuro (shocking that she could get me in so soon) because this is getting ridiculous. Then I tell my boss I'll be late. I'm lucky - he's always been understanding about my health.

Headache: Generally the Aleve works. If not I'll suffer through work and nap when I get home.
Migraine: My head starts to throb again every time I get up at work so I have to take 2 more Butalbital and drink a cup of caffeinated coffee. I have a meeting with my boss and stumble through the agenda, pausing and using the wrong words a lot - gotta love migraine brain. I work until the dizziness wears off so I can drive home. I'm still a little dizzy though.

Headache: I take a short nap and usually it eliminates the pain.
Migraine: I nap about 4 hours and wake up with a throbbing head again. I take two more Butalbital with dinner, along with ginger tea and my ice bag. This the the first time I've taken the maximum daily dose, and that makes me nervous.

Right now, I'm at the dizzy stage again. It's pretty much a guarantee that the head pain will start again soon, but by that time I plan to be in bed asleep for the night. I'm praying that the migraine doesn't last long and I wake up with a pain-free head, but my migraines usually last at least two days.

I'm hoping my doctors can help next week. My Ketolorac has expired (and I'm supposed to limit it to twice a month anyway), so for now my Butalbital is my strongest med and it's failing me. I'm starting to feel desperate, and that's never a good feeling. But I know a lot of you can relate, sadly.

Note: I'm not trying to belittle headaches in any way. They suck, too; especially the chronic ones, which wear you down over time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dog Sitting


I've been begging my husband for a dog, but we live in a condo and that's his excuse to say no. Plenty of our neighbors have dogs and we have a Greenway nearby, but...still no. Lucky for me, he LOOOOVES my sister and bro-in-law's dog, Colt. So much, in fact, that agrees to dogsit. At first we had to stay at their house because he didn't want a dog here, but the last two times Colt *was allowed* to stay here. Starting today, we're watching him for about 1 1/2 weeks!

This isn't news, but pets can be good for your health. We already went on a 45 minute walk today, 10 minutes of that running without stopping (huge for me). He's a sweet dog who stays calm unless you want to play, and then he gets all wild and energetic. I don't think I've ever met a dog who listens as well as he does, and I'm not just saying that because he's my "nephew." Maybe one day (when we go back to a house) I'll have a dog of my own.

Not related to Colt, but I haven't done a health update in a while, partly because my health has been weird. Of course I'm still having the headaches and a lot more migraines than I'd like. Luckily Aleve (for headaches) and Butalbital (for migraines) still help, as long as I limit my use. Which means the majority of the time I suffer through the head pain (it's not as hard to do since I'm not working full time anymore, but it still sucks). The thought of the meds not working in the future absolutely terrifies me, to the point of tears sometimes. I hate relying on drugs like that, but at the same time I'm thankful for them.

But here's the weird part (dudes will probably want to stop reading at this point). Twice over the last few months I had bad cramping incidences that weren't during my period. The first one woke me up at night and I went to the computer to research it but I couldn't figure out what it was. I finally was able to go to sleep once I got my heating pad. The second incident was a few weeks ago. It felt like I had menstrual cramps and they kept getting worse and worse over a few days until finally it was almost like I was in labor; it would come and go in waves and I'd almost have trouble breathing the pain was so intense. I made an appointment with my gyno because I was due for an annual visit, but the pain went away that day, until she did the exam and felt my ovaries, that is. Ouch. She said the left one, which hurt the worst, felt weird (I can't remember the exact word she used). She wouldn't do a consultation with me about the issue in addition to the exam, I guess because my insurance would want them to be two different appointments - lame, I know - so I didn't find out anything else.

When the pain went away, I assumed I had an ovarian cyst that ruptured. But then when I started my period yesterday the cramps were way worse than normal, and "normal" is bad for me. Last night I read about endometriosis, one of the conditions that came up in my earlier research, but reading the description and diagnosis options made me so nauseous my face turned green (seriously), so I had to stop.

Maybe all this is related to the progesterone I'm taking, who knows. I'll probably schedule an appointment with my gyno. In the meantime, if you think you might know what's wrong with me, I'm all ears. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

News: Migraine Genes Discovered

My pastor sent me the link to a newswire article, "Scientists find genes linked to migraines." An international study was published in a British publication, Nature Genetics. As the article states, "The influence of these genes is probably not large enough to be immediately used as a diagnostic tool. But the result is an advancement of the understanding of migraine biology."

"Advancement" and "migraine" in the same sentence? Works for me! I hope something will come of this study.

Speaking of my pastor, I've requested a fragrance-free policy, or at least a fragrance-free zone, for my church. She's completely on board and ran it by the senior pastor and church council. I've been having bad migraines after church, and although it could be the lighting, I'm almost certain it's the perfume that some people seem to bathe in. I did some research and turns out a lot of churches are adopting similar policies, so I sent the pastor some examples of ways we can implement it in our church. I'll keep you posted on how things go!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Interview with Serene Branson

Today I had the privilege of interviewing Serene Branson, an Emmy Award-winning journalist for CBS. If her name doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps this video will. Serene was covering the Grammy Awards in February when she suffered a complex migraine, which caused her to jumble her speech on live television.

Serene is now teaming up with the National Headache Foundation (NHF) to raise awareness of migraines through the “More Than Just a Headache” campaign.

Here’s some highlights of our conversation:

Me: When did your migraines begin?
Serene: Probably in college/post college I started to get really bad headaches but I thought they were a stress of the job kind of thing - long hours, etc. - and I brushed them off. Looking back I realize they were probably migraines, but they were nothing like what I experienced in February. That was the perfect storm; all the triggers aligned.

Do you have any known migraine triggers?
For me, caffeine can be a trigger, and stress.

I know you’ve been asked a million times what was going through your head when you were on camera at the Grammys, but did “migraine” ever cross your mind?
I had no idea it could have been a migraine until my mother, who gets migraines, brought it up that next day. I was thinking it was much more serious because in my mind migraine was just a bad headache. My symptoms, including numbness on one side, were like stroke symptoms and migraine never entered my mind until my mother and doctors brought it up. I saw a variety of specialists and when my brain scan came back normal, that’s what they came up with. My mother hadn’t taken time before to talk to me about her migraines because it wasn’t considered a “serious disease.” She had them sporadically in her 30s and 40s but she has only had one since then, and that was after all this (news coverage from the February incident) happened to me.

Have you had any similar incidences since then?

Not similar, no. I’ve really been trying to watch the triggers, and I monitor my symptoms. I see a neurologist and have found a medication* that works for me. I also exercise because it helps relieve stress.

Have you had to change your workflow any because of your migraines?
I haven’t; I’ve just been very mindful about how many hours I’m working in the day and I’m trying not to say yes to everything - which can be intimidating because you want to be the hard worker and go getter who takes on everything, but you can’t.

Do people on the street recognize you from the video? If so, what reactions do you get?
Some people definitely have and it’s honestly been a very positive reaction. So many people came up to me and said “We were praying for you” and “Thank you for having the courage to speak about it.” This motivated me to open my personal health file and talk about it. People are hungry for more information, support, treatment and research. The NHF has recognized this need. It’s really important that they’re trying to raise awareness of migraines to recognize that they have an impact not just on individuals but family/children and the workplace. A lot of productivity is lost from migraines and if people take it more seriously they might be willing to talk. Had I known I was having a migraine I could have said I wasn’t feeling well. Not that we should use migraines as a crutch, but we should recognize it as a disease. I did more research on migraines recently and realized it’s one of the top five most disabling conditions in the world! The more education and support people can give to migraine sufferers the better. Letting people know it is a disease and a disabling disease is important. You are not alone, you have nothing to be ashamed about; over 30 million people suffer from migraines in the U.S.


*I asked Serene what the medication was but told her she didn’t have to say, since different treatments work for different people. She preferred not to say.

Serene is doing additional interviews this week to share her story and help raise awareness. I’m thankful that she and the NHF are doing this. It’s good to be understood.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Door to the Cure Sweepstakes

I know a lot of other migraine bloggers have already blogged about this, so consider it a friendly reminder:

The nonprofit Migraine Research Foundation has an online sweepstakes going on now through June 9. All proceeds will go directly to the foundation's research program investigating the causes and better treatments of migraine disease, according to the MRF's press release.

To enter the sweepstakes, visit I bought a ticket for the Puma gift card. :)

I admit, I typically don't give money to migraine organizations because I spend enough money on my own treatments, and plus I plan on donating a fortune to these types of organizations when I get rid of my migraines and get rich (ha! to both). But $10 is not much, and every little bit helps. By the way, upon my request, the MRF sent me documents to show that they are a valid foundation.

Friday, May 27, 2011


I'm FINALLY able to cross something off my list that has been on it a few months now:

We have wall art! :) I used an idea I found online, chose my own colors, and then my dear husband designed it in CAD so I could trace the lines and paint it. Painting is therapeutic for me; I love it! Yay for art!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Migraine Warrior Classmates

During the spring semester, I became an instant friend with a girl who was in two of my classes. We just clicked, and it didn't take us long to discover that we both suffered from migraines. She's unfortunate enough to have "classic" migraines where she has vomiting and can't function when she has's so bad that if her husband's working when she gets one he either has to leave work or her in-laws have to come and take care of her kids. Luckily, like me, she didn't have to miss a lot of class. She's putting up a good fight though; in fact, during the semester she tried Botox (at first her insurance refused to cover it, but then her neurologist reworded the request and they agreed to cover it, but I think she had to pay the deductible). It may have helped a little at first but she's still having migraines.

In one of our classes, we had a group project and of all people got teamed up with another migraine sufferer! This classmate is seeing a former neurologist of mine and I think I convinced her to fire him because he was changing her meds a LOT during the semester and she had really bad fatigue and was not happy with him. Sounds like he hasn't changed - he shoves drugs down your throat and doesn't communicate with you. She ended up missing class quite a bit, but I think she was able to stay in the class because it was for medical reasons and thank goodness the instructor and college seemed to be supportive.

I know I'm rambling, but isn't it neat how you come across fellow migraine warriors (not just online but also in person) and you just "click" and start comparing treatments and stories? Yes it's a little depressing because we're all pretty much in the same place as far as not finding treatment that works, but it was nice to go through the semester with these girls fighting alongside with me!

Monday, May 9, 2011

GelStat Migraine

My busy semester is OVER! I'm so thankful that while taking 16 credit hours, working 10 hours a week and having chronic headaches and occasional migraines, I managed to earn a 3.8 GPA and I only missed ONE class due to a migraine! I really feel that this is God's plan for me and He's giving me the strength to do it.

Thank you, readers and friends, for being patient with my lack of blog posts. This summer I'll be working more but I only have one class, so I hope to be more active here. And my husband finally fixed my browser issues so I can now leave comments on your blogs again. :)

During the semester, my headaches have remained the same, but I haven't given up the fight. Here's what I'm trying:
  • Butterbur: I tried this about 3 months and gave up because I noticed no improvements, and it was upsetting my stomach.
  • TMJ mouth guard: I'm still seeing a TMJ specialist every few months, and we gradually decreased the time I'm required to wear my mouth guard. Now I only need to have it in at night (8-10 hrs). I don't think it's impacted my headaches but I do have a lot less jaw pain.
  • Therapy: I'm still seeing a therapist about once every three weeks for stress, anxiety and pain management.
  • GelStat Migraine: A friend of mine suggested it and I noticed they have a free trial (I just had to pay $3.99 shipping), so I figured I'd give it a whirl. The first dose I tried helped, but the second didn't, probably because I didn't catch the headache soon enough. Have any of you had success with GelStat?
    Empty dose with my hand for size comparison. It actually tasted decent.

  • Ice pack: My trusty ice pack has seen better days, so I got a new one. This one is from The Container Store. When I saw it online I assumed it would fit on my entire head, but when I went to buy it I realized it was more like the size of my hand. Does anyone know where you can get a head-size ice bag? 
Cute Retro Ice Bag
  • Progesterone: My gyno upped my dose of progesterone (bioidentical hormone) and switched from the pill to cream, which I requested because I thought it might work better. It looks intimidating, but I don't inject it anywhere; instead, I put the specified dose on a tissue and rub it on my inner thighs (one of the many safe spots). The higher dose makes me really tired, but I only use it day 15 to the end of each cycle. It's still early to tell if it's helping.
Progesterone cream
  • Drugs: The only drugs I take are Aleve for really bad headaches and Butalbital (Fioricet) for migraines. I'm trying to take as few meds as possible and prevent headaches through a healthy diet and exercise. I've always had this ambition, but now that I've gone through most of the standard migraine meds, I feel a renewed desire to get more serious about exercising. I hope it lasts!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

1 Corinthians 15:57-58 (New Living Translation)

"But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless."

(my church, Millbrook United Methodist Church, Raleigh, NC)

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I've been such a lame blogger lately! Truth is, I'm buried in school work (and still working some at my old job too) so unfortunately I don't think I'll be able to blog much until I get caught up on everything. I really shouldn't have taken so many classes this semester, but too late now.

I just wanted to say if you've e-mailed me, I have five e-mail accounts and I've been completely neglecting my War on Headaches one. Please accept my apologies!

Oh and no headache update; they're the same. They just can't get enough of me. Joy.

Now I'm going to dive back into this Photoshop assignment. It's fun, but I miss you all! Until next time. :)

P.S. - check out this photo I took for my photography class. I love spring!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

And the winner is...

Before we get to that, I wanted to thank everyone who read/listened to my last post and those who read this blog in general, and a special thanks to all of you who commented and shared the wacky things you've tried to help you headaches and the no-so-helpful advice you've received from other (well-intentioned) people!

And now, thanks to, we have a winner...


Rhonda, please e-mail your address to me (waronheadaches(at)gmail(dot)com) ASAP and I'll make sure Jennette's publisher sends you a copy of her book, Chocolate & Vicodin.

If I don't hear from the lucky winner in one week, I'll randomly generate a new winner!

P.S. Totally unrelated, but I've left countless comments on other Blogger blogs, and they disappear. I've tried commenting without linking it to my account, tried linking to my account (nothing happens), and even tried linking it to a non-existing livejournal account because at least with the other options there was a pop-up box where I could enter something. Is this happening for anyone else? I use Firefox and I tried Safari and it did the same thing. It's very frustrating so if anyone can help I'd really appreciate it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review & Giveaway: Chocolate & Vicodin

When author Jennette Fulda asked me to review her latest book, Chocolate & Vicodin, I was intrigued by the title and happy to give it a read. The book arrived in the mail, and I immediately fell in love with the cover. How creative is this?!

Reading the book was like reading my own thoughts. Jennette developed a headache February 17, 2008 and has had it ever since. Chocolate & Vicodin documents her journey which is probably similar to the journeys of everyone who has chronic headaches and migraines: lots of doctors, testing, research, treatments - make that "treatments" with emphasized air quotes, depression and acceptance (I'm still working on that last one). Jennette's honesty and use of humor makes this book hard to put down and, dare I say, enjoyable. I actually found myself smiling while reading a book about a constant headache!

Jennette puts into words what I often have trouble expressing or even acknowledging. For example:
"I sat on the couch, acutely aware of how odd my life had become. The headache had invaded every aspect of my life. ... It was amazing how one simple thing, a headache, could cause a chain reaction in my life. ... It was as if someone had set off a long chain of dominoes, one failed treatment toppling over to bump into the next failed treatment. Was this the last domino in my chain? Or were we just getting started?"
I'm lucky enough to live near Jennette, so we met at a coffee shop for an interview, which she graciously volunteered to record on her digital recorder. To listen to our full interview, please click the play button below.

Jennette Fulda

This contest is now closed, but you're more than welcome to keep sharing your stories. Thanks for participating! Now for the GIVEAWAY. I have one copy of Chocolate & Vicodin to give to a lucky reader. All you have to do is comment to this post, and to make it fun, also write the strangest headache/migraine treatment you've ever tried and/or the craziest advice you've received from someone else pertaining to your headaches/migraines. (Side note: Jennette starts almost every chapter with "advice" she's received and some of it is the wackiest stuff I've ever heard! It's pretty entertaining to read.) I'll pick a winner at random on March 9 and will announce it that day on this blog. To get things started, I'll share mine:

-Strangest treatment: cupping
-Craziest advice: have more sex (yes, this was from a guy, and sadly, he was serious)

Disclosure: Jennette's publishers provided me with a free copy of this book to review.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dollars for Docs

I've been meaning to share this link for a while, but I just now got around to it (i.e. I should be studying for midterms but I'm procrastinating). If you follow this link and look in the light blue box on the right, you can enter a doctor's name and state to see if they've received money from certain pharma companies that have disclosed payments for things such as speaking engagements.

I was not surprised to find that one of my former neuros (who was not exactly my favorite), received $92,000 last year for speaking engagements at a local pharma company. This seems to be a conflict of interest, since the company makes migraine drugs which the neuro prescribes. But at the same time, if (that's a big "if") neurologists are helping to increase migraine research by giving speeches to researchers, then maybe (that's a big "maybe") it's a good thing.

All I know is that's a huge chunk of money!

Good news: This Wednesday (March 2) I'll be doing a giveaway! Check back for your chance to win a new migraine book! :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I knew as soon as I posted my last post that my head would rebel...and it has. My headaches are pretty much daily, and I'm having lots more migraines too. Ugh!

While I'm still enjoying all my classes, I'm getting behind and the stress is killing me. I've started working at my old job 8-10 hours per week at the office on top of 16 credit hours of classes. For the last week I've been in "freak-out mode" trying to get caught up on my assignments, and I've been eating takeout and haven't made it to the grocery store in a long time. So much for regular exercise and fresh, organic home-cooked meals (let's not talk about the fact that a certain darling someone lives here too and is perfectly capable of buying groceries and cooking for us both - heck, maybe even helping me clean a little...I try to remind myself that he's working full time and is letting me pursue my dream job).

I just want *calm*, and my homemade juices. And I'm counting down the days until my next therapy session.

Breathe in...breathe out...

Thanks for letting me rant.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Life Change

Photo from weheartit

As you all know, migraines change your life, both for good and bad. Mostly bad, but over the last few years I have learned to, for example, say "no", thanks to my migraines. Recently, I made a big life change which falls under the good category. 

I've worked in public relations the last four years. I have a bachelor's degree in PR and worked at a fun and energetic agency. During the last four years, however, my headaches and migraines have taken over my life to the point where I realized that my body (physical and emotional) was deteriorating, and I think a lot of it had to do with the high level of stress that goes with a PR job. I've been doing therapy for a year to help me manage this stress, but my body was not dealing with it. So, in December, I quit my job.

A change of scenery seems to be what I needed. I'm still active - in fact, I'm now a full-time graphic design student at the local community college (and I'm doing some occasional contract work for the agency). I should be able to get an associate's degree in about a year and a half. I've always been artsy, and I'm loving my classes! Two out of the five I'm taking are online, so I'm able to be at home a lot more where it's peaceful and relaxing.

Now don't get me wrong: I still have headaches and migraines. But the nearly every day of head pain has lately been every other day or so, and my anxiety and IBS have gotten better. This is a big improvement (so big, in fact, that I've been scared to blog about it because I don't want to jinx myself)! 

Also, I don't want to say definitively that quitting my job and becoming a student is the main reason for this relief because I don't know that for sure. I'm doing lots of other things that could be helping, including:
  • I still have my TMJ mouth guard, and I'm slowly cutting back the hours I have to wear it. Maybe the mouth guard and/or cutting back on the hours (down to wearing it 14 hours per day now) is helping.
  • I'm on my third cycle of taking Progesterone (bioidentical hormone) pills day 22 through the end of each cycle. I'm almost certain this is a big factor in my improvement.
  • My diet has been really good lately. Because I'm home more, I've been eating out less and cooking mostly from scratch, and mostly organic foods (especially meat and dairy because of the whole hormone thing).
  • I've been exercising more. 
  • My preacher is aware of my struggle and even used me (without naming me) as an example in a sermon after I told her I'd been questioning God about the pain and at the same time wanting to turn it into a positive to help others going through it. I firmly believe that her prayers and those of church members are helping. 
Whatever is helping, I'll take it! I'm still going to seek additional treatment; in fact, now that I have different insurance (through my wonderful husband who is supportive yet a little freaked out about me not working full time haha), I may have a better chance of getting approved for things such as Botox.

I'm so happy to be writing a positive update on here! There really is hope, as I've said all along! :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

War Veterans Health Resource Initiative

Happy New Year everybody! I received the below e-mail from an NHF rep. Since it's a resource for war veterans, I wanted to take this opportunity to THANK everyone reading this who has fought for our country and those who have family/friends/loved ones who are in the military. :)

Did you know that studies have shown veterans suffer from extreme headaches, commonly known as migraines, at more than double and as much as four times the prevalence of the general population? It’s unfortunate to see that at a rapidly increasing rate, military personnel are experiencing migraines, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other illnesses linked to traumatic brain injury. I am contacting you today on behalf of the National Headache Foundation (NHF), a volunteer non-profit organization, in order to shed light on this serious condition and introduce you and your readers to the War Veterans Health Resource Initiative.

The War Veterans Health Resource Initiative provides military personnel with comprehensive information on dealing with migraines and their associated symptoms. Details can be found at, where other free resources are readily available as well.

Thousands of veterans return home suffering from invisible wounds that result from brain injury, emotional trauma, or both. In fact, 19 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq have migraine and migraine is suspected in another 17 percent! Few people realize that these wounds can disable even the most physically fit and mentally resilient men and women who serve in our armed forces. The NHF wants to do its part in helping them find the treatment and services they need.

The NHF is also encouraging our returning veterans and their healthcare providers to attend a 2011 regional conference to help fight the battle against migraine & headache and traumatic brain injury & posttraumatic stress disorder on Saturday, March 5, 2011 in Augusta, GA. To learn more visit the NHF website at or call 1-888-NHF-5552 (M-F, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT).