I was born long before smartphones, Google searches, and the age of social media. My parents relied on personal experience and our family doctor for medical information. As a toddler, I began having migraine headaches along with nausea and vomiting. So off to the doctor I went. My episodes were sporadic and brushed aside by the doctor as probably an allergy.
Try as she might, Mom couldn’t figure out my allergy trigger. She did, however, uncover a correlation between “Tammy’s headaches” and changes in my eating habits. Mom knew this discovery couldn’t be classified as an allergy, but she was certain it was important.
My episodes often happened at holiday gatherings with my dad’s large family. Mealtime was non-negotiable. Fortunately, the events were potlucks. Mom didn’t care what anybody thought about her filling a plate for me before anyone else got to eat. She discovered my first known migraine trigger before we even knew “Tammy’s headaches” had a real name. She saw a problem and found a solution. Limiting exposure to known triggers was, and still is, an important tactic in my migraine management.
The years proceeded with little change, other than figuring out that a dark, quiet room was an effective treatment for my headaches. A couple of hours to sleep it off would usually do the trick.
And then it happened: Puberty. Hormonal changes equaled migraine changes. Maybe I was “allergic” to puberty. My migraines increased, and that didn’t mix well with extracurricular activities and school administrators.
I was captain of the pompom squad, and I remember I had an episode on game day. I knew what I needed to do. I called Mom to come pick me up. I needed to put my life on hold for a few hours in a quiet, dark room to solve the problem and resume my life in time for the halftime performance.
But the high school principal didn’t understand my illness. If I was too sick for class, then I was too sick for after-school activities. He also didn’t appreciate that I was telling him what I was going to do instead of asking him for permission. He grudgingly allowed me to carry out my treatment plan. After all, I was a straight-A student who typically played by the rules, and Mom was waiting outside in the car. It also wasn’t smart to come between a mom and her cub.
Growing up with migraines was even more difficult because of my lack of knowledge. I found that if you identify this illness, study its every move, and share this information with fellow migraine sufferers, you’ll have powerful weapons to live a normal life.
Knowledge gave me the power to outsmart my illness. Mom gave me the courage to do what I need to do. I am well-armed as the battle rages on, from growing up to growing old with migraines.
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