Detour Ahead

If life is a road, health issues are the detours.

When it comes to health, everyone has a story. In fact, our health is our first battleground. It is where each of us has had an invincibility complex at one point or another: “That will never happen to me, I take vitamins…drink water…exercise…etc.”, only to be humbled later. What we don’t realize is that despite our best intentions, our health is a battleground of unpredictable provocation. It is where we will have to fight, learn, grow, overcome, and experience a myriad of emotions while potentially losing/gaining friends, relationships, jobs, and hobbies. It is where you will discover character traits you didn’t even know you could have. Patience, resolve, kindness, strength, determination, consistency, and above all else…empathy.

My only desire in sharing any of this here is to hopefully help someone through the means of my own struggle. I believe my experiences would be a waste otherwise. But, keep in mind! What works for 1 person will not necessarily work for everyone. And although you may find everyone thinks they’re an expert, you are the only one who knows your body best. Listen to it!

Now for a little back-story…

Throughout my life, I was a relatively healthy individual until a serious illness in late childhood. Although overcome, it left me with a completely altered immune system. Since then, I am incredibly susceptible to common illnesses and therefore completely phobic of people who go into public while sick. I like to say, “they don’t know what they’re doing to me if I catch that.” A common cold can quickly escalate into an upper respiratory infection or primary stages of pneumonia requiring 2-3 doctor’s visits, nebulized steroids, large-dose antibiotics, and sometimes x-rays. Besides the financial aspect; this also equates to missed classes, work, activities, and just life in general. A grand total cost if you ask me.

Now, besides normal illnesses we are all susceptible to, there are sometimes aspects of our health that we just can’t control despite our best efforts. These can come out of nowhere or be things we’re aware of because of our genetics. Example. If the female generations in your family have all struggled with some form of breast or reproductive cancer, and you were a female, you would likely take certain precautions to ensure your own health, right? I would hope so. On the other hand, something can broadside you and end up dramatically changing the way you live your life. This is what happened to me almost 4 years ago…

In 2012, I was diagnosed with hemicrania simplex or “chronic migraine without aura”. According to the World Health Organization, migraine is a genetic neurological disorder ranked as number 19 among all diseases worldwide causing disability. Now, you might think I’m talking about “really bad headaches” where a Tylenol or Advil does the trick. If so, you couldn’t be more wrong. I call those drugs “tic-tacs”. No. What I’m referring to are the type of shuddering headaches that come with nausea, vomiting, intense sensitivity to light and sound, neck pain, and minor vision changes. It is a perfect storm and not always one you can see coming.

Of course, the normal first step is to go to a doctor, so I did. I was placed on barbituates, pain killers, triptans, anti-emetics, opioids, and narcotics – each one causing me sleep for hours, fight depression, and become less and less myself. None of the pills seemed to fix anything. They were a momentary “fix” for an ongoing problem…not to mention, once your migraine causes you to throw up, those precious meds are gone, taking all your hopes of relief with them. Then come the injectables. Fun. From there, I progressed to nerve tests, CT-scans, MRI’s, blood tests, you name it. The day this same doctor told me I should just try a “NuvaRing and some pot”, I was out. I went doctor-less for about 6 months, 3 of which were spent waiting for an appointment with one of the county’s premier neurologists at Mission Hospital. During this period of waiting, I definitely still had migraines. Up to 14 per month to be exact.

Now, instead of my doctor’s office, I had to go to a local urgent care, where I would receive injections of Toradol or “banana bags” of IV fluids containing saline and B vitamins. I tried acupuncture, being “gluten-free”, exercise, drinking ungodly amounts of water, daily supplements, meditation, yoga, therapy, essential oils…all the while, still being a daughter, student, and employee. This is where it started to cost me things. I could write a whole post just on things my migraines have cost me…including a high-level graduate program, since when you can’t get to class, your GPA becomes yet another casualty of your condition. This snowballs into semesters of medical leave and a less-than-understanding faculty.

I had no idea that once I found Dr. Gee in 2014, my life would completely change again, this time for the better. Gradually, he took me off each medication I’d been prescribed. It was as if he had rescued a small animal that required a long grooming process to be what it once was. I don’t need to tell anyone, this was a horrific experience. Many of those prescriptions were habit-forming when taken in the doses I had to consume and made it so I had little with which to treat oncoming migraines at home. Once completely off any medications, Dr. Gee began the trial-and-error process of finding a better medical alternative. The stripping of medications coincided with what I like to call the “No List”: no food dyes, no perfume, no artificial sweetener, no more than 1 wheat or dairy product daily, no beer, no wine, no hard liquor, no late nights… But it worked. Although I was still having migraines, I felt better during the times I wasn’t, and that was worth absolutely everything to me. None of the things I gave up were worth a migraine or feeling the way I had for so long. Along with medication, he placed me on a specific daily Butterbur supplement (Petadolex). When severe, I would receive a series of injectables in his office that knocked me out but ultimately got rid of the migraine. Many times, I would have bruises or knots from the consistent number of these intra-muscular injections, but they were a welcome solution to my acute attacks. Dr. Gee also placed me on 125-250 units of Botox, administered to the occipital and ocular regions of my head every 3 months. He even helped me fight my insurance company to have this covered, although it still costs about $1,500 each time. Recently, I was able to be the 3rd person in Orange County to receive the Allevio SPG Nerve Block Catheter procedure, which I now receive in-office monthly.

I doubt Dr. Gee will ever truly understand what he has been able to give back to me, but I literally thank God for him. Between these 2 treatments, my migraines are relatively controlled. My numbers have gone from 14-15 per month to 1-3. I do have a rescue medication to take at home if needed, but otherwise, I am not on any type of daily medication for my migraines. None. I attend graduate school, work full-time in my field, have a fulfilling relationship, and maintain normal commitments. I am no longer depressed, not wanting to live another day in the pain of my condition. I am hopeful, resolute, and grateful for every day.