Location: Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Years with Migraines: 55
Occupation: Retired (formerly a lawyer)
How long have you had migraines?
I started getting migraines when I was 11 years old. In retrospect it seems maybe they were hormonal because that might be pre-menstrual in those days but they weren’t taken seriously by mom. I remember it was very frustrating because she thought I just wanted to get out of certain things. Nowadays I think people take that more seriously, which I think is reassuring to young people.
When do you usually get migraines?
I’ve identified a lot of triggers, all of which I try to avoid. The most distressing part is when I wake up with a migraine but I can do a pretty good job of avoiding them otherwise, with some exceptions. Insect repellent is difficult to avoid for me because I don’t always know when the neighborhood will be sprayed with an aerial repellant. If it’s a local ground spraying I can get ahead of that. Another trigger that’s beyond my control is barometric pressure, so if there’s a change, like a cold front, or humidity, or something like that it will usually trigger a migraine. In addition, I have a lot of food triggers and smell triggers. Alcohol is a big trigger and it’s in so many things, even pure vanilla extract. It’s really unpleasant to go eat with me because I have to quiz the waiter and they have to go quiz the cook. It’s pretty easy to not have a beer, the problem is all the other places they sneak alcohol into that are hard to avoid or catch. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is in so many places too and I can’t have it. I can’t have aged cheese. I can’t have peanuts. I also have issues with smells like gasoline and solvents; just filling up my car up can be a problem. If gasoline drips on my hands, I have to find a place to really quickly wash my hands.
What have you tried pre-Cefaly?
The first thing I’ve always done is to not expose myself to the migraines; I carefully avoid my triggers. I’ve also had two surgeries. One was basically the surgical equivalent of getting neurotoxin injections. The other was I got my ovaries taken out. I had heard people say that it would help but I can’t say removing my ovaries did that much. I’ve tried magnesium IVs, acupuncture herbs, cranial massage, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and neurotoxin injections. I take an anti-seizure medication as a preventive. I also take an anti-depressive daily to help with hot flashes and allow me to sleep better. Getting enough consistent sleep is important to preventing my migraines. I also take a separate tricyclic antidepressant every night for migraine prevention. When I get a migraine I’ll sometimes take take rizatriptan as a rescue medication. I used to take a different triptan but it stopped working.
What does your migraine feel like?
My migraine is just throbbing pain. I end up going to lie down. I don’t have sensitivity to light or sounds, and I don’t have an aura. Mine is a common migraine that just lasts long and can put me down. It can be hard to soldier on. In those moments, when I have a choice I don’t exercise and I don’t do some of the fun things I would do in my general life, but at least they’re generally not completely incapacitating for me. One of the problems I run into is that the insurance doesn’t cover very much of the rizatriptan. I also find it difficult to know when to take it, because I want the pills to last for when I need them but then if I wait to know for sure if I will need it, it might be too late to actually use the pill to abort the migraine. And then if I do take it, and I took it too late, it’s like I wasted a pill. It can be lose-lose.
How did you hear about Cefaly?
A friend of mine told me about it. I called my neurologist and he was happy to write a prescription.
What’s your Cefaly experience like?
At first I would say that I didn’t think it was doing anything but then after I used it for a while I thought it really was working. Now I would never miss a day. I now have the Cefaly II and I crank it up right away. I really, really, don’t want to miss a day. Cefaly really helps me keep on track. I feel like it’s not a magic bullet but it’s a tool in the tool kit. I think Cefaly is a really key tool actually, one that I wouldn’t want to be without. There’s not that many things that I think work. I think the neurotoxin injections work (but at about two months after I get them I go to a local medi-spa and get a touch up; I can’t wait a full three months), avoiding the triggers, and Cefaly — those are the three things that I think are my keys to success in trying to be migraine-free.
What made you want to share your story?
Well, like I mentioned before, at first I didn’t think Cefaly was helping and I want others to know that I kept at it and after about two to three months I thought it was really working. I’m not sure why I felt that way or why I didn’t think that at first. I’m having more headache-free days and identifying the exact reason gets all tangled up. It’s really hard to unweave all the threads of what I could possibly attribute my success to but I have three key tools and I wouldn’t want to give Cefaly up.
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