Monday, December 31, 2012

Pregnancy and Migraines

Christmas ornament from my sister
I'm so happy to share some good news with you all - Jonathan and I are going to be parents! I'm 14 weeks pregnant and the due date is July 1, 2013.

This is actually a hard blog post to write. From reading some of your blogs, comments and Tweets, I know that some of you can't have kids, whether it's due to infertility, not being able to stop migraine medications for nine months, and various other reasons. Last May after my surgery I found out I have endometriosis, which can cause infertility. Soon after the surgery when I told my gyno that my husband and I were planning to start trying once I graduated in December, she warned me not to wait even that long because the best time to try is right after surgery when they clean out the endometriosis tissue. Needless to say, I was nervous about the possibility of infertility and although, looking back, it didn't take long to get pregnant, each time I got my period it was heartbreaking. That gave me just a glimpse of what some of you are going through, and I just want to say I'm praying for you and I'm so sorry if I or anyone else has ever been insensitive to you.

When I told my friends the news, many of them asked how my headaches have been...they know me well. I was hoping my head pain would have improved during the pregnancy, but it's actually been much worse. The only meds I've been able to take are Extra Strength Tylenol, Benadryl to knock me out, and Vicodin for the full-blown migraines. My doctor said I may be able to take Fioricet too, and I'm definitely going to ask for a prescription at my next appointment because I've had a lot of migraines. Just this past weekend I had a migraine for three days straight, even after caving and taking Vicodin, and it went away for a day but came back this morning. Now that I'm into my second trimester, things might improve, but I'm not going to get my hopes up.

I hope this doesn't come across as complaining. I'm SO thankful for the baby, and if I have headaches and migraines anyway, then I can handle a few more. Luckily I'm finished with school and only work at an office a few hours a week, and I'm planning to do freelance graphic design from home full time once I get enough clients. Not having to go out every day helps me deal with the pain and avoid taking medicine as much as possible. Also, I never threw up during the first trimester, I just had food aversions and nausea, so aside from the head pain, it's been a pretty good pregnancy!

I'll be sure to post updates, but War on Headaches will remain a headache/migraine blog, so I won't transform it to a pregnancy or "mommy" blog, don't worry! ;)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Review: Knock Out Headaches

Hi readers, I've missed you! Now that I've graduated and have a 2-year degree in graphic design (WOOHOO!), I've been able to catch up on reading some of your blog posts (for those of you who are also headache/migraine bloggers) from the past month, and I'm hoping to have more time to post on here. Of course, I'm also starting a freelance design company, Heather Hefner Design (shameless plug!), so no promises!

I'll do a more personal update in an upcoming post, but first I'd like to share a book review with you. This is a brand new book called Knock Out Headaches, by Gary Ruoff, MD. My review covers the good, the bad, and - unfortunately - the ugly.

The author of Knock Out Headaches, Dr. Gary Ruoff, is a founder of the Westside Family Medical Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and presently serves as Director of Clinical Research at that facility. His main research interest is pain therapy and management, including headache and acute and chronic pain. The book features a foreword by Dr. Seymour Diamond...I think we all know who he is (that sounds sarcastic, but it's not, I promise!). He's now being called the Headache Godfather.

The Good: Knock Out Headaches starts right off by acknowledging that headaches are not "curable." It's well-written and easy to read, but it also has sidebar sections that give more in-depth, scientific information. It covers types of headaches, migraine, triggers, treatments and medications, and health problems that typically accompany headaches. The back of the book includes a headache diary, anxiety rating scale, migraine disability assessment and a checklist to develop your own treatment plan. It's a good book if you have frequent headaches and/or occasional migraines and you want to read a book that doesn't contain outdated information. 

The Bad: If you've read other headache books, don't expect this book to be very different. It covers the basics and provides real-life stories. To my surprise, one of the stories didn't end with "and then we figured out that X treatment worked and the patient is now able to manage her headaches" (that's a quote from me, not the book, although it's definitely a paraphrase). I felt guilty that I was hoping for a story without a happy ending, like my own, and even more guilty that I was excited when I actually read one. This particular story doesn't have a happy ending, it just says that there's been some improvement and the doctor is optimistic. Unfortunately, the story starts by saying that it's an "extreme case." Dr. Ruoff also seems to indirectly blame the patient for not having much improvement, saying that it's like pulling teeth to get her to go to bed and get up at the same time each day or eat regular meals. Perhaps that's true, but it could be that she simply can't be helped, or it will take more time to figure out what will help, as seems to be the case for me and many of you. 

The Ugly: I do not want to write this part, but I have to be honest when I write reviews, so here goes... Near the end of the book is a section called "When Treatment Fails." Again, I was excited to find this section because it would address my situation. Near the beginning of the short section, it said, "In some cases, we will never know the answers, but through experience we have identified a few possible explanations." The first part may be true, but let me sum up the "possible explanations" to which he is referring: (1) When a lawsuit or disability claim is involved, so the patient may not get better intentionally or subconsciously. Same thing when headaches elicit sympathy or provide an excuse for not working. (2) When a patient is taking a narcotic regularly for another pain condition which causes rebound headaches that are impossible to control. (3) When headaches are part of deeper emotional or psychological issues which can interfere with treatment. These three explanations may be true in some cases, but to me they're a cop out and are insulting.

In summary, this is a good generic headache book and will be helpful to people who don't have chronic-level headaches and migraines. Knock Out Headaches is available for $15.95 on the publisher's website.

Disclosure: Spry Publishing provided me a free copy of Knock Out Headaches in exchange for me writing this review, but my review is unbiased.