The Perfect Match

Imagine this.

You spend all your life searching for “The One”. You think you find him once but then distance tears you apart in what becomes a painful, messy withdrawal. Then after two years of searching for someone new, you finally find someone else who understands you and is able to give you the support you need. . . only to find that they don’t accept insurance!

Of course, I’m talking about finding the right doctor to help treat your migraine condition.

In New York City, it is almost impossible to find a reputable doctor that accepts insurance. It seems that all good doctors come with a big fat bill attached to them. Quite frankly, that doesn’t seem fair to me. It seems they’re getting paid under the table or something, and it feels illegal. I feel people are getting cheated and deprived of services they should have the right to have access to. What is an entry-level employee to do? I know I’m already living above my means and struggling to stay afloat as it is.

An initial consultation with a neurologist is usually about $500 and each follow-up appointment runs at about $300. The follow-up appointments occur about every 2-3 months, depending on the patient’s circumstances. That ends up costing more than just a couple pretty pennies.

If you can’t pay your bill right away, you have the option to set up a payment plan or you are sent to collections. Of course, no one usually tells you this until after the balance is overdue.

So what really makes up the perfect match?

Does it matter that your doctor is the head of the headache department and has the best credentials? Or do you settle for the doctor who may have less experience but accepts your insurance?

I don’t know. I don’t have any answers. I wish it was mandatory for everyone to accept all insurance and I wish getting treated for a condition no one has any control over wasn’t so stressful. It’s certainly not helping to lessen my headaches, that’s for sure.

Trial and Error

I went to school in Pittsburgh, one of the greatest cities to live in. . . really, though it was actually voted the number one best place to live in 2011. I had the greatest 4 years there and thanks to my mom’s research and their top-notch Headache Center, I became the patient of the one and only Dr. Soso. After much trial and error, we found a regimen that worked for me and I went  from having migraines daily to only getting 2-3 per month.

. . . But then I graduated.

Everything pretty much went downhill from there. Not only did I have to deal with the debbie downer of facing the real world and finding a job. . . but I also had to find a new doctor.

It took me a little longer than expected. Having a stomach ulcer that ruptured set me back a bit. It ended up really messing with my head (no pun intended), and my migraines that I worked so hard to get under control suddenly became all out of whack.

I finally began seeing a new doctor in New York City recently and after explaining my situation to him, we decided to switch out one of my preventative medicines (taken daily to prevent a migraine) for a new one. Anytime I try a new medication I always immediately look up the side effects. I have been taking some powerful medications from a young age, and I think it’s important to educate myself with the product and how it will affect my body. There are pros and cons to each pill, and while some may reduce the effects of migraines, they could in turn end up causing other problems such as dizziness, fatigue, weight gain, dry mouth, numbness or tingling, brain zaps, mental or physical slowness, kidney stones, and the list goes on. You have to weigh the pros against the cons and decide if the juice if worth the squeeze, so to speak.

Most of the medications out there that are used to treat migraines are actually used for something else, such as depression or epilepsy. I was on Cymbalta for a long time and I constantly see their commercials, where the drug is advertised as an anti-depressant. I know you’ve all seen it too, “Depression Hurts. Cymbalta Helps.” This always made me wary of being on the drug, worrying how it effected my mood. However, it’s very commonly used to treat migraines.

Under the supervision of my new doctor, I am also trying a new triptan (medication you take immediately when you feel a migraine coming on). I have been taking Zomig nasal spray for a while and it works so well for me, but my insurance only lets me have 6 per month and lately I have been getting 10-15 migraines per month. I’m no mathematician but I know that isn’t good!

I found out I can get 12 Maxalt per month so I am trying those but so far they don’t seem to be working as fast. My doctor thinks I am a victim of Zomig’s marketing campaign, because I told him I think the nasal spray must work faster since you sniff it, and then it should go straight to the brain. Maxalt  is a pill and doesn’t look like it would work as fast, but my doctor said it really all goes into the bloodstream at the same rate. I guess I should trust him since he’s the doctor . . . but I’m not so sure. I really like my Zomig.

So you see it’s all a game of trial and error and it’s frustrating at times, especially when you have side effects also coming into play. But it is important to stay informed on the latest news in migraines and their treatments, so you know the right questions to ask your doctor and the right way to treat yourself. Remember to take it one day at a time and hopefully you will have more good days then bad.

I am going to leave you with a song that I love to listen to when I am feeling a little down. It reminds me to shake it off and keep going.

No-Brainer

As a 23-year-old living in the city I tend to face some obstacles having a migraine condition and also wanting to have a social life. I mean, can you blame a girl? This isn’t an issue that is new to me, however — I’ve been battling my inner social butterfly since I first was diagnosed with migraines in the 8th grade.

In each stage of my life my migraines have brought on different consequences. In high school I missed a lot of school because of my migraines, and surpassed the 20 days we were allowed to miss a year.

In college my hangovers lasted a whole lot longer than anyone elses. It was hard adjusting to living in such close quarters in the dorms. My roommate didn’t understand when I needed complete darkness and silence, which I couldn’t expect her to, and often took it personally, which made me feel guilty for being such a grouch.

Now as I am in my 20s it has come down to choosing between a social life and feeling well. I have come to learn that I can no longer drink. It’s just not smart for me. About a year ago, I had an ulcer in my stomach that ruptured and I was in the hospital for two weeks after having major surgery. If I had gotten to the hospital a few hours later, I might not be here today. During my recovery, my doctor informed me that I could no longer have distilled liquor — vodka, tequila, rum, gin — nothing! The only drinks allowed were wine, champagne, and beer. The funny thing is wine gives me headaches most of the time. So, really I shouldn’t be drinking at all. It has been a major adjustment for me. It seems like such a small thing but everyone my age seems to be getting less and less mature by the minute. Everyone is still in that college mindset and they don’t seem to be getting out of it anytime soon. I actually can have a pretty good time sipping on a water with lemon all night and hanging with my friends. Plus, it looks like I’m sipping on something much stronger. And with my personality, people usually end up thinking I’m drunk anyway. But the reactions and interrogations I still get about it boggles my mind. It’s like what’s more important? My health or getting wasted? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Even without drinking, I still tend to get headaches being in noisy restaurants or staying out too late after a long day. The right amount of sleep and keeping a similar routine is key, while not always practical. I still need to learn when to just go home and call it a night. I tend to have a guilty conscience though and feel that I need to stay out and spend the time with my friends. I don’t want to be labeled “that girl” who is always leaving because she has a headache. I need to learn not to worry what others are thinking about me and instead worry about that migraine that is coming on. It’s definitely a balance and you need to know your body and listen to it. It’s something I am learning and understanding more with each new day.