Monday, April 11, 2011

Migraine's Stink

Ugh - I have a wicked migraine today. It is almost gone thanks to Relpax. I am reluctant to take prescription drugs for these so I suffered most of the day with only Anacin before I caved. I don't know why I just didn't take Relpax hours ago as I'd be done with the migraine by now.

I have had migraines as long as I remember. I often complained about headaches as a child and my mother, whom I do love and like but who had very little patience for complainers, used to call me "George" after her father, the hypochondriac. Anyway, when I was about 15 I decided that I had to do something about the headaches so I went to the doctor (changed doctors on my own since I didn't like our family doctor). Now, I don't believe my migraines are hormone-related because I do not get them around my period. Some of my triggers are dehydration, stress, smelly perfumes, not eating frequently enough (rarely get them from this ;), Chinese food (probably from MSG), lack of sleep, and changes in the weather as well as sometimes the reason I get them are a mystery. I think today's migraine was brought to me by the weather change although today was a high pressure day not a low pressure day so who knows if that were it or not.

When I was in my late teens I went to a neurologist. I had an EEG where they stuck what looked like little push-pins attached to wires into my head. This was the pre-HIV/AIDS era because I am certain they use sticky electrodes rather than push-pin kind. I know those push-pin kind were reused too and I remember my cousin (who accompanied my to the visit as my parents were at work) was so grossed out when I came out with dozens of little bloody dots on my head. Anyway, the EEG showed normal brain movement and no signs of a tumour (whew!).

My migraines often were accompanied by visual disturbances. I recall the first time I experienced a visual disturbance before a migraine. I was a student and was working part-time in a movie theatre ticket box and I lost my peripheral vision. I only had vision right in the very centre for about 15 minutes and I was so scared that I was having a stroke. I had to hold the money people gave me out to the side to see if it were a $5, $10 or $20! As my vision came back, a crushing migraine came with it. I almost vomit ted in the ticket office! I had to run out and I threw up in the bathroom. I know exactly what my trigger was that time. My co-worker's perfume! It was called Ciara and she would douse herself in it. On top of that, she had this horrible rotten cheese body odour and to this day, if I smell Ciara I will retch.

It was a few years later I was working in a bank and I lose my centre vision and could only see out of the periphery. It was very interesting for that 20 minutes trying to check people's signatures and filling in bank forms when I had to hold the form off to the side and try to write while looking straight ahead. Again, when my vision returned, the mind-blowing pain came with it.

In the years since, I have had only a few more visual disturbances that signaled a migraine onset. Once it was like wavy lines, and another, it was like I was looking through a kaleidoscope. I have had the lost peripheral vision again too but now I know when visual disturbances happen 1) I am not having a stroke and 2) these migraines will be the worst!

I have also used different migraine medications over the years. One doctor had me on a daily medication to hopefully stop them from coming but I often forgot to take the medication. So often I would just suffer through them with a cold wash cloth on my head while lying absolutely still in a darkened room.

Then in 1992, a miracle! Imitrex was approved for use in Canada. It was the best drug ever for my migraines. I could take one tablet and within 10 minutes the pain would start to dissipate and within an hour (max!) the pain would be gone as well as the crushing pressure of the migraine. I would often get a migraine "hangover" with some slurred or thick speech and feel a little dopey. But I could actually stay at work with a migraine and the quality of my life improved.

Then in late '93, Stephen and I were married and I moved to the States. I had no medical insurance and even worse - no Imitrex! I found out that they were still doing clinical trials for Imitrex and that the tablet had not been approved for sale here yet. They did have the auto-injector though and I signed up with the manufacturer and was able to get Imitrex auto-injectors FREE. The problem was, have you ever tried to inject yourself while suffering from a migraine. I wasn't sure which was worse. The pain of the migraine or the anticipation of the pain from the injector (while it was no overly painful, the injector was definitely not pain-free!).

Anyway, finally the pill form was introduced here in the States (right about the time that I got health insurance) so I took Imitrex by tablet again although my insurance company would only prescribe 6 at a time.

I stopped taking Imitrex around the time that we decided to start a family and I will tell you that while I was pregnant, I was virtually migraine-free! This made me think for a while that the migraines could have been partially hormone-related but I think it was mostly because I was eating regularly and drinking tons of water, all the while reducing the stress in my life because I had gone into pre-term labour at 28 weeks which fortunately was stopped and I was put on bed rest.

Also, since moving to the Pacific Northwest in '99, I have had far fewer migraines. I think this is mostly to do with the weather. The oppressive, muggy, humid and suffocating summer weather in Minneapolis and Toronto were big migraine triggers for me. And in '04 when we went to Florida for a vacation, I had a migraine most of the 10 days that we were there. Ugh, who could live there?! I had to suffer without Imitrex that whole trip because I was nursing Cars and although I was told it was "safe", I refused to take it while pregnant and nursing any of my children.

A few years ago, my doctor's PA suggested that I try Relpax rather than Imitrex. It is in the same "triptan" class as Imitrex and it seems to work well for me (although not nearly as quickly). It does not give me the same feelings of heaviness and thickness in my chest and throat when I take it which I do like though so I give up one for the other.

Anyway, it has been two and a half hours since I have taken Relpax and the pain in my head is gone but I still have pressure. And I have a migraine "hangover". Stephen just texted me that his plane has landed (he went to Toronto to see his parents - his mom is going through cancer treatments) so I had better run and at least load the dishwasher from today's breakfast dishes. I might even be able to throw some dinner together for the kids (no promises at this point).

In the meantime, I am watching Dex and seeing that he is a migraine sufferer and I hurt for him because I know what it will mean for him for the rest of his life. (they do tend to run in the family - two aunts, my dad and my oldest brother all had/have them). Hopefully Dex won't have them as often or as badly as I do.

My brother posted this article to me on Facebook today:

Headaches might ease as you age

I guess I have that to look forward to.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Snow in April. Yes that is what we have. Snow in Seattle in April. Aargh! Ok, the snow did not cause any problems with traffic and fortunately school was not canceled (the school year has already been extended 4 days due to snow days). But today is COLD. And it is April and it should not be this cold. The forecast for today was originally 55F and sunny by the afternoon I do not see that happening. They are still claiming it might hit 50F today but it is already 11am, still cloudy and only 40F. Promises, promises.

Today, Jax starts his track after school. They practice everyday after school except for Wednesdays. Track actually started on Monday but he had conveniently forgotten to sign up for it. I had him get the forms from school on Monday then on Tuesday I had to take him to the doctor to have her sign the release form and since he had not been to see her since October 2009, he had to have a physical. All went well until she examined his spine. She kept telling him to bend over properly then she realized that he was and she left to get some device to measure his spine. Afterwards, she told us that kids often go through growth spurts and their spines look uneven (he is now officially taller than me, standing a whopping 5'6.75"!). His spine looks crooked she is not concerned enough to send him to a specialist yet but we do have to go back to see her in 6 months.

Of course, with my worst-case-scenario personality, I already have him in a Milwaukee brace and being made fun of in school. I remember in Grade 7 when JaniceM got a Milwaukee brace. Her pencil rolled off her desk and she got down on her knees to try to pick it up but she got stuck! She could not reach it and she could not get back up. A boy name Bruce started laughing and he could not stop. Then Janice started to cry. The rest of us in the class looked on in shock, going back and forth between Bruce and Janice. It seemed to go on forever but I am sure it was just a few seconds before the teacher intervened.

And of course there was the scene from "Sixteen Candles" where Joan Cusack's character, who is wearing the brace, tries to lean over to take a drink from the water fountain and she cannot. Also, in my high school, there were two more kids wearing that brace. One was a boy who was so very tall (and he also had braces on his teeth and very bad acne - gah!).

So, these are the kind of things I have already imagined for Jax and really at this point all we have is a "come back in six months". I want to know NOW if it is going to be a problem so I can get these images and thoughts out of my head. Jax has started getting blackheads and pimples and he is in the 95th percentile for height. OMG - exactly like that boy from my high school!

Breathe - breathe - breathe

Ok, I am calm for the moment. So, for the meantime, Jax will do track (in the snowy April weather) and work on his posture (he thinks she wants to see him again because he slouches). I'll keep the worrying to myself and research alternatives to the Milwaukee brace. And maybe get him some ProActiv.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Happy Birthday to me! Well, it was a few days ago. It was spring break so I decided that it was the perfect opportunity for the kids and I to go to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). I had never been there before and kids 12 and under were free (and Jax turns 13 next month so let's go!).

We drove through the pouring rain (we had the worse spring break weather all week!) but it had stopped by the time we got downtown. I found the SAM then circled around blocks and blocks and blocks looking for parking. Street parking downtown is very limited and what is available has a 2 hour limit so I knew we needed to find a lot. I went to my old stand-by lot which is actually very close to the aquarium and a few blocks away but there was just one skinny little space available (the cars on either side were parked on the lines) and I knew that my SUV would not fit in there.

I went back and drove around looking for a parking ramp that could accommodate the height of my vehicle. Um, there are NONE. I did see that the height at the Westlake Center was listed as 11' some inches but once I drove down the ramp, that height is for delivery trucks only and the lower levels for passenger vehicles was only 6'4" (my car is slightly over 6'5"). Nooooo! The guy had to get out of the little booth and stop the cars coming down behind me to give me room to make a very awkward 85 point turn to get around and drive back up the ramp and out onto the street. I was sweating (and swearing) at this point. Aaargh! I should have switched cars with Stephen that day.

The kids and I drove even further away and I finally found a small lot that had some available spaces. Hurray! Well, once I checked the prices I found out why there were some available. I paid $24.95 (the cost of 4+ hours up to 24 hours)! The guy told me that he'd be needing the receipt back when I left. Um, I don't think so. It was my credit card receipt and while the cc number was not printed on there, I know that he was going to re-use my ticket and give it to someone who was going to pay cash (and he'd pocket the money).

So the kids and I now had about 12 blocks to walk back to the SAM. Usually not a problem but all three chose not to dress for the weather. It was not raining but it was windy. The chose to keep their rain coats in the car and were only wearing hoodies which the wind whipped straight through. They didn't complain (since it was my birthday) but they shivered all the way there.

It really did not take as long as I figured it might to get through the exhibits. I really enjoyed looking at all of the works of art. The kids were mostly bored but they pretended not to be and did behave. The only grief I got was from Cars demanding to know why it was part noon and he had not had lunch. ~eye roll~ That kid definitely is ruled by his very picky stomach.

After we went through the museum (it is not nearly as big as I had anticipated), we headed to the restaurant which is a little fancier than I expected. Dex had a $10 gourmet hot dog (minus all of the fixings that made it gourmet, of course). Cars was the only one to order off the kids' menu(again, 12 and under so we were under a timeline for Jax but he wanted an adult-size meal). ;)

We headed back outside and hiked our way back to the car, stopping at Nordstrom so I could buy some eye make-up (happy birthday to me). I went out the back entrance of the lot so the guy could not flag me down to get the receipt (heh).

Stephen came home early from work and he grilled burgers for us and we had a vanilla cake with chocolate icing that I had made the night before. It was a very lovely evening and end to a great day spent with my kids.

School starts back from break tomorrow. I feel a little ripped off since the weather was absolutely horrible all week but it is Seattle and it is spring time. I heard a rumour that there really is a sun behind those clouds. I hope we see it soon.