December 24, 2018
It happened! After yearning for the new “miracle” migraine drug, I was
finally approved for monthly injections. So, that’s the good news. The bad
news is that it took three trial-and-error rounds and two months of 14+
migraines to get to this point. But I’m here!
For those following this year’s migraine medication breakthroughs, more treatments are hitting the market. You may be familiar with Aimovig, which was the first migraine drug approved early this year. The FDA approval was a major win for migraineurs, as this injection is the first-ever to treat solely migraine.
In the past decade, I have been put on six meds to try to manage my disease. None of these meds were created for migraine, so in order to try to regulate my pain, I’ve had to go on antidepressants, seizure meds, barbiturates and more, being told by doctors over and over that these meds’ side effects are good for migraine management.
They’re not, and because of one careless doctor who continuously upped my narcotics prescription – before I fully understood their dangers – I developed an addiction in 2013. (I came out OK and have learned to better advocate for myself and do intense research.) Unfortunately, my experience is all too common not just with migraine meds, but with pain management overall. This is one small example of how ignoring migraine medicine can be extremely dangerous for migraineurs.
Not anymore, hopefully. Since Aimovig was released, more treatments have been developed. As of December, three drugs have hit the market: Aimovig, Emgality and Ajovy. What these drugs do differently is target a molecule that’s produced in the brain and spinal cord’s nerve cells. From what I understand, this molecule manages pain and inflammation in the brain and spinal cord – two areas where a migraine attack is most likely to develop.
For people with migraine, there is now hope. But since the developments are so new, getting a prescription is a headache in itself. Here’s how I fought for my own health and life quality.
What many people with migraine find is that they are often treated by a general neurologist. While neurology is important, it doesn’t address migraine the way a headache specialist does. If you couldn’t already tell, headaches are complicated and many doctors still have trouble fully understanding them. Hell, we are just now getting migraine-specific medications.
I had my first appointment with my migraine specialist in September. I asked about the new medications, but we had to prove that three other methods did not work on me before we could look into the injections. My amitriptyline dosage was upped, I received nerve block in my neck and was prescribed Naproxen to help manage my menstrual migraines. They didn’t work.
My next appointment was in December, but November was such a terrible migraine month that I called and begged to move up my appointment. I got in right after Thanksgiving and came into my doctor’s office in absolute desperation. We went through my experiences with the increased dosage (no change), the nerve block (great for about four days) and the Naproxen (literally did not feel anything).
My doctor thought for a fraction of a second and said “Let’s get you on that injection.” I was immediately filled with insurmountable joy and hope and didn’t even mind waiting an hour to get the prescription processed.
All the way back on the train, I held my injection box tightly, cradling it like a damn baby. I kept flipping through the informational booklet with excitement and awe, looking at the clinical statistics. For people experiencing cases like mine, their monthly migraines went down 75 percent.
If I could go from 12-14 headache days a month to two, I would be filled with joy.
I kept thinking of how much my life could change because of this injection. I’ve missed so much this year and my mind raced with all the possibilities available in the event this really worked out. I’d have more time to strengthen my relationships with friends, spend more time with my husband, read more, draw more and no longer live in fear of the next attack.
The first thing I did when I got home was stick those needles right into my hip. Stabbing myself is something that’s never enjoyable, but I’ve gotten used to it from my sumatriptan injections. It’s a necessary evil that helps me in the long run, so I’ve accepted it as a regular part of my life. The directions were simple and the injection itself was way easier than what I’ve been used to.
After I gave myself the medication and cleaned up, I went back to the pamphlet and just stared at the stats with awe and excitement.
It’s been exactly one month since I’ve had my first dose and I already see a big difference.
Since Nov 28, I have only gotten two migraines. On average, I would get two or three-days-long migraines three times a month. Once the injections started, my two migraines only lasted one day. I haven’t had that in years.
Holiday stress, house-buying stress and work stressed could have made December one of those 14-migraine-days months, but it didn’t. In fact, I went 20 days without one migraine or headache. That’s the longest I’ve gone in two years. The second migraine happened 11 days later, which is still positive progress for me. While no migraines is my ideal goal, I will take this as a huge win for me and my health.
This year has been a difficult one. I’ve invested a lot of money into my health, even when I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Now I do and I’m hopeful for 2019 to be the year that all my work and self-advocation pay off.
To a hopeful and healthy new year!
The Monthly Migraine is a series dedicated to migraine awareness and support. If you suffer from chronic migraines, you are not alone and we hope to amplify your voice through these pieces. Lindsay Patton-Carson can be reached on Twitter @LindsayPatton.