Patient Education

Headache and Migraine Patient Conference June 29!

The second annual headache and migraine patient conference will be June 29, 2014 in Los Angeles. Last year’s conference was really informative and, while my migraine was too severe for me to be social, I still learned a ton.

Multiple sessions will be held concurrently, so you can choose what topics you want to learn about, including managing cluster headache, brain changes during migraine, sex differences in migraine treatment, and complementary and alternative therapies. There will also be a session for loved ones to talk about the challenges they face as caregivers. Some top headache specialists will be presenting, including Dr. Andrew Charles (UCLA), Dr. Rob Cowan (Stanford) and Dr. Peter Goadsby (UCSF).

Get details and register. Scholarships of up to $500 will be offered for travel expenses. The scholarship application deadline is Friday, May 30. Help for Headaches has scholarship details.

I’m still not sure if I’ll make it this year, but leave a comment if you’re going and we can be sure to meet up if I do!

Community, Coping, Treatment

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.