Migraine Publicity

There’s no better way to raise awareness of an illness than for famous people to have it. Until recently, famous migraineurs have been identified posthumously or, worse in the public eye, after their celebrity status has fallen to B- or C-list. Things are looking up. In addition to Marcia Cross being the spokesperson for Imitrex, actor Ben Affleck and football (aka soccer) player Fredrik Ljungberg have recently been identified as migraineurs.

While I admire Marcia Cross for being public about her illness, it’s easy to imagine a beautiful, dainty woman with a migraine. It’s totally different to think of strong, masculine men curled up in pain and vomiting. For convincing the general public of the severity of migraine, the men have the advantage of contradicting stereotypes.

Ben Affleck is a household name in the US. Whether or not you agree that he’s masculine, he is a Hollywood star, makes gobs of money and has a beautiful wife. That is, he’s living some version of the American dream. But fame and money can’t keep the stomach-wrenching and horrendous pain of a migraine at bay. (Although it probably does get him painkillers in the ER.)

More powerful is the stark contrast between Fredrik Ljungberg as a rugged, aggressive athlete and as a migraineur. As the World Cup approaches, fear of an attack is ever-present for the football star. One migraine and it’s aftermath, which he says lasts about 10 days, could take him — and his team — out of the tournament. Even a terrific athlete’s physical strength isn’t enough; he can’t “tough it out.”