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What’s Your Carrot?

Why are you seeking treatment for your migraine or headache disorder? Obviously, you  want to reduce the pain, but what else motivates you to find relief? Wanting to be pain free is certainly important, but it’s not enough.

The patients whose treatments are most successful are the ones who are working for more than to become pain-free, but also to have a better life, according to Dr. Rob Cowan, the director of Stanford’s headache clinic. In his words, “It’s very hard to help someone who doesn’t have a carrot.” Dr. Cowan said this at the American Headache & Migraine Association conference in November and, of everything I learned that day, this statement is the one that most firmly lodged itself in my mind.

We all need a carrot (or even a bunch of carrots). What’s your carrot? What would you do with your life if you had no health concerns to hold you back?

While it can be emotionally painful to ponder such goals when it seems like you’ll never achieve them, keeping them in mind provides motivation in the face of failed treatments. Last May, I wrote about my firsthand experience with this in Goals, Dreams and Chronic Migraine:

My goals were sitting on a shelf, put aside when getting out of bed and feeding myself were all I could manage in a day. They did not inspire me, but filled me with despair over all I had already failed to accomplish and everything it seemed I would never be able to do. Even though I felt better than I had in at least five years, I was still so sick. Goals did not feel like inspiration, but a reminder of defeat. What was the point in having goals, I wondered, when migraine demanded all my energy and attention?

Try as I might to pretend I had no dreams beyond finding an effective migraine treatment, my ambitions cannot be sublimated. As frustrating as it was to believe my dreams would never be fulfilled, it was even worse to imagine that my only role in the world was sitting on the couch in pain. The sentiment of that headache specialist whose name I cannot remember in the article whose location I cannot find were so true. Having goals keeps me believing that migraine will not forever dominate my life and that, even if I am, I will somehow contribute meaningfully to society. When my life feels unbearably small and worthless, these aspirations give me a reason to strive, even if getting out of bed will be my biggest accomplishment of a day (or week or month).

Eight months later, I’m pretty sure I’m on the cusp of significant migraine relief (more on that in a couple days) and am wondering which goal I should pursue first. Whatever I decide, it is sure to be one tasty carrot.

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The Current Silence

Between the excellent American Headache Society symposium, the American Headache and Migraine Association patient conference, and some exciting new discoveries about my health, I have a ton I want to share with you. Unfortunately, one of the complications of my current regimen is an extreme susceptibility to medication side effects. In particular, Wellbutrin (which is definitely helping my depression) is making me dizzy and the dizziness is exacerbated by looking at screens. It’s a short-term issue, but one that’s keeping me from writing about all these topics I’m so eager to tell you about.

I’ve received worried messages from readers, so I wanted to let you know that I haven’t been overtaken by horrendous migraines or depression. I’m actually in good spirits and feel like I’m on the verge of uncovering a new course of treatment, but getting to that point requires traversing a very bumpy road. I’ll be writing as much as I can as soon as I can.

I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season and doing as well as possible. xoxo

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Restaurants, Sightseeing & Shopping for AHMA Patient Conference-Goers

Wondering what to do in Phoenix/Scottsdale while you’re here for the American Headache & Migraine Association patient conference? Here are some highlights within a free shuttle ride from the Hampton Inn.

Food (listed in order of where I’d eat if I were visiting)

  • Pizzeria Bianco — This wood-fired pizza place has received rave reviews nationwide, including from Martha Stewart and Oprah. The original location boasts at least two-hour waits, but the new Town & Country restaurant often has no wait, even on weekends. It’s not cheap and the service gets spotty reviews on Yelp – and it’s so delicious that I still recommend it. (And you can walk here from the Hampton Inn.)
  • Beckett’s Table — My favorite restaurant in town. On the expensive side (for Phoenix), but well worth the price for perfectly prepared American and comfort food made with local, seasonal ingredients. Dessert offerings include s’mores with chocolate-covered bacon.
  • America’s Taco Shop — Excellent, relatively inexpensive Mexican street tacos (and burritos, tostadas and tortas). The meat’s the star here, though I’ve heard the vegetarian burritos are good, too. A casual, order-at-the-counter spot.
  • Los Dos Molinos — New Mexican food. Spicy and delicious.
  • Chelsea’s Kitchen — With old-growth trees, climbing bougainvillea, and a huge outdoor fireplace, this is one of the best patios in town. Good food, though pricey (part of what you pay for is organic and/or grass-fed meat). Only worth the cost if you can sit outside, IMHO, and the indoor dining space is loud.
  • Oregano’s — Calls itself “your neighborhood pizza joint,” but has a variety of pasta dishes, salads, and sandwiches. The decor is quirky and the food is tasty, it’s also fairly loud and there’s usually a wait.
  • La Grande Orange — Serves food all day, but breakfast is the best, particularly the housemade English muffins and sticky bran muffin.
  • Ajo Al’s — Typical Tex-Mex, fairly heavy and usually cheese-laden. And yummy.

Shopping

  • If you’re a bargain clothes and accessories shopper, check out Nordstrom’s Last Chance. It’s the final clearance shop for Nordstrom and the prices are dirt cheap. Be forewarned: it’s often crowded with long lines.
  • Camelback Colonnade, where Last Chance is located, also has a smattering of discount chain stores, including Old Navy and a nice Marshall’s.
  • Biltmore Fashion Park is mostly high-end stores and boutiques. It’s a fun place to wander around and has a ton of restaurants to choose from.

Architecture

  • Arizona Biltmore Hotel — Designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, this beautiful hotel was built in 1929. You can wander the grounds, take a guided tour, eat at one of the restaurants, or even visit the “secret” Sunday speakeasy (password required, find it on Twitter @Arizona Biltmore).

If you have a car…

  • Desert Botanical Garden — This is a stunning botanical garden that showcases the diversity of desert plants. Even better, there’s currently a Chihuly glass exhibit. Chihuly’s work is always spectacular, but it’s extra-special with desert as the backdrop.
  • Hiking — Only a short drive from the hotel, Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak/Dreamy Draw, and Papago Park are beautiful places to experience desert landscapes without leaving town. South Mountain is farther, but also a little more isolated and nature-y.

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Book Your AHMA Conference Hotel Room Today; Rates Increase Sunday

Planning on attending the American Headache & Migraine Association patient conference in Scottsdale, AZ on Nov. 24 and haven’t booked your hotel room yet? The Hampton Inn’s special rate of $85 (plus tax) per night is only available through tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 2. Rooms include two double beds, a refrigerator and microwave, plus complimentary breakfast, a free shuttle within a three-mile radius, and transportation to and from the conference on Sunday.

This is a great rate for a nice hotel in a convenient part of town — tons of great restaurants and shopping are nearby, and there are even a few grocery stores within walking distance. Be sure to book today (or tomorrow) to secure this rate.

Looking to share a room with other conference attendees? Check the members-only AHMA forum to find roommates. Members are also planning outings while in Arizona, like a trip to the Grand Canyon — check the forum to join up.

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AHMA Patient Conference Travel Scholarships Available

The American Headache & Migraine Association’s first patient conference is just a month away, on Sunday, Nov. 24, in beautiful Scottsdale, AZ. Attendees will hear presentations from top headache specialists, learn about treatments and coping methods, and meet other patients and advocates. If you’d like to attend, but can’t afford the travel costs, AHMA is offering eight $500 scholarships to help cover transportation, lodging, and meals. Hurry, though — this Friday, Oct. 25 is the scholarship application deadline!

Wondering how to make $500 stretch to cover your costs? The hotel’s group rate is $85 a night for a room with two double beds and there’s a thread on the AHMA forum to arrange for room-sharing. In addition to providing a free breakfast, the hotel has refrigerators and microwaves in each room so you can store snacks procured at the nearby Trader Joe’s, Fry’s grocery, or Whole Foods. Lunch is included in the $25 conference registration fee. The hotel also offers a free shuttle within a 3-mile radius, free transportation to and from the conference, and an airport shuttle for $10 per room. Other than airfare, it’s possible to make this trip on a shoestring and still have a great time!

Learn more about the conference and the scholarships on AHMA’s website: