Migranes: Controlling My Life?

Last weekend I had an attack of migraines. I woke up on Friday at 6:30am with a migraine. I had to lecture that day as well as finish writing a CHI madness video, finish writing a lecture, and do other work. Basically I had a full day of work. I left the house at 9:30am (after getting up at 8am, trying to sleep off the migraine) and got home at 7:45pm. In between I also went to a concert of the North Central ACDA convention because I couldn’t bear to not see the the St. Olaf Choir and the tail end of the Luther Norsemen. So I took excedrin. Because it was too late for the imitrex, the ibuprofin wasn’t working, and I didn’t have the time or energy for the urgent care.

Excedrin works not because it’s tylenol and asprin, but because it has caffeine. BUT caffeine is also a trigger. In the short term, caffeine constricts blood vessels. However because it’s a trigger this for me means that two days later, I get another migraine. So I took three excedrin to make it through Friday. Then I took a benedryl to be able to sleep that night. I knew I was taking a risk and I’d likely get another migraine on Sunday.

Sunday I woke up and felt a migraine coming on. I took one excedrin, ibuprofin, imitrex, and omdansetron. Then I went to choir. I was feeling dizzy, and had mild nausea. I also was overheated and couldn’t concentrate…basically all the neurological non-pain migraine symptoms that I get. But thankfully, not the pain. So I went home and took a one hour nap. Only it lasted for four hours, because my body was that exhausted.

My brains felt kindof like these dehydrated apple chips (even after my nap)

When I woke up I had to write a lecture, a lab, and a homework assignment. But my brains were still a little scrambled from the medicine. So it was rough. This got me thinking though. This is the first time since I’ve gotten headaches that I have been in control and have gotten out of control because of my life. That is, my medicines work well. I haven’t had an “urgent care” migraine in months. I’m doing well overall. But I had to give my lecture. I had to write my assignment. I couldn’t get out of it. I can’t turn my teaching work in late. I can’t work from home, aka take a day off and sleep my migraine off anymore. Even on the days I don’t teach, I’m frantically keeping up with my research, going to meetings, or the like. So what do I do? I take pills that give me migraines. Because I can’t think of any other alternatives.

So that Sunday I ended up calling my parents. They’re quite worried about my headaches, rightfully so. And at the end of the conversation my dad said, “Maybe you need to start thinking about different sorts of jobs.” Sure I could work in academia, but what is the potential cost. I’ve been planning this my entire life, but the more I think about it the more it scares me. Well, I guess the right way of wording it is that multiple things scare me. First and foremost, I am scared by the fact that migraines could control me to the point where they could change my career trajectory. I’m still not sure how I feel about that. It kindof feels like if I were to change it would be because of the headaches and then I’d be letting the headaches win and that would be like letting the terrorists win, which would be bad. Second, I wonder if perhaps the healthy and responsible thing to do would be to change career paths. Not drastically, but perhaps think more about industry than academia. or more about less-teaching intensive academia than I was planning.

Until this point I’ve been planning to apply for jobs at teaching colleges, colleges where the teaching load will likely be 5 or 6 courses (or more?) a year. With that type of course load, I can’t imagine trying to a) get through migraines or b) managing the rebounds that are inevitable if a) works. There are some other factors as well, but this is the sort of thing I’ve been thinking of. It’s also interesting, because I don’t really think much about my headaches as a hinderance, 99% of the time.

I was talking to a colleague a week ago and he was impressed that I managed to get so much quality work done with headaches pervading through my life. Granted most of them aren’t migraines and they are less frequent than in the past, but they are still there. This year I have my headaches under much better control than in the past (believe it or not) but part of the reason for that is topiramate. A side effect of the medicine is tingling, like pins and needles, in my feet. It comes and goes at any time, sitting, walking, whenever, but there is nothing I can do to make it go away. But still, this colleague being impressed surprised me, because I think of myself as normal. I don’t want to make adjustments or lower my standards because of my headaches.

So what will I do? I don’t know. Hopefully this spell will pass and things will continue to improve like they have been. But I think that my headaches will always be in the back of my mind, even if they aren’t pulling the puppet strings.

Outrage followed by childish grins

So there’s a news story in the Minnesota papers that’s made it to national news. I first noticed it last week before it was such a big deal.

The basis of the story is this. There’s a 13 year old boy in a town called Sleepy Eye, MN who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His story was in the paper last week because he and his family are refusing chemotherapy. Chemo which would rid him of cancer with 85-90% liklihood. Without it, his doctors predict he will die within five years. Last week the court decided it was medical negligence and ruled that yesterday he get a chest x-ray. He got it and the cancer is back to the level it was before he got his single chemo treatment. Today they had a court hearing to determine what to do. BUT…he didn’t show up. And he and his mom are missing. (Which is why this is a national case now…)

From the Star Tribune article: “Anthony Hauser said he last spoke to his wife about 4 p.m. Monday as he milked cows at the family farm near Sleepy Eye. He said his wife told him she was going to leave and “That’s all you need to know.””

So now there’s a warrant for the mom’s arrest in any state and the prosecuter is working to see if he can get the dad put in jail until the child is found. The judge also found the mom in contempt of court and has ordered the boy to be put into a foster home as soon as he’s found where he will get medical treatment. “County officials had “kind of suspected this would happen,””

I read some of the court transcripts last week which fascinated me in a way. The boy is one of eight children in a Catholic household, but his family also subscribes to the belief that natural medicine will cure all.

This wouldn’t be quite so bad if it seemed like the boy was educated to the point where he would seem to understand the decision he’s making…BUT that is not the fact. Unfortunately he’s one of the people that gives “home-schooling” a bad name. From a Star Tribune opinion piece: “When tested by his teacher for entrance into a charter school, according to court documents, Daniel, who had been home-schooled, could not identify the following word: “The.” “

More info from the Star Tribune.

So hopefully the boy will be found and he’ll get his treatment and learn to make decisions for himself.

BUT I want to end this on a happy note, so I’ll send you off to watch this clip of a incredibly functional family. Matthew Amster-Burton is a fun food writer who became a stay at home dad when his daughter Iris was born. He has a new book out called “Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater.” The book is fun, fast, and full of stories and recipes. Matthew and Iris were on CBS’ Early Show this morning. Check out the clip on his blog.

The Magical Interwebs

So the internet is this cool thing. You can talk to people online, or as my mom would say “talk” to people online, and write letters, and download music, and record the minutiae of your life. Pretty fast and advanced and you can save shipping costs on purchases, right?

Wrong. I decided to buy the Eric Whitacre Concert Download. It’s an online download. I didn’t buy it on Friday or Sunday cause I hadn’t decided if I wanted to buy it yet. It’s $15, I’m a soon-to-be-poor grad student. I went online yesterday to buy it and noticed something strange. The price was listed as $15 plus shipping and handling. That’s odd, I thought to myself, why would they charge shipping on an online download.

The total cost for me will be $18.98. $3 shipping and $.98 tax. So. There are people that will address an envelope (at my church) and then mail it to me with a card in it. The card will have a code that I have to go type in on a website to get my download.

I told this to Ben and he came up with a good analogy: “It’s like I respond to an email with a paper letter, that I mail, and then they respond via email.” WHAT? Bizarre. I think I’ll call them tomorrow and see if I can stop by the office with $16 in hand in exchange for a magic code…

Dear man in the red convertible

Dear Man in the Red Convertible Leaving Taco Bell at 8:20 Tonight

Perhaps it was my fault.
I wasn’t wearing a bright yellow reflective jumpsuit
Or perhaps it was because I stayed late at work to watch the convention
Or because I was planning another blog post as I rode home.

Or perhaps it was because I wasn’t wearing full body armor
and I didn’t stop when the light turned yellow as I was going down the hill at 20 miles per hour 5 minutes earlier.
Or maybe it was because I’m not an aggressive driver and I don’t have an airhorn on my bike, just a bell.
Or perhaps it was because I was going 10 miles per hour, not 5 as you think proper
Or because there was another bicyclist outside Taco Bell, locking his bike up.

Perhaps it was because I was in the bike lane,
and I wear a helmet,
I use turn signals,
and I come to a full stop at stop signs, despite it breaking my rhythm.
Or because there are so many bikers in this area that we are all invisible and would be better off driving cars.

Yes, perhaps it was my fault, man in a red convertible, that you almost ran me over tonight as you turned left leaving the Taco Bell drive through.
You obviously were busy, what with the driving, the eating, and the cell phone being used illegally without a handsfree set.
So busy, I guess, that you did not see me.
With my reflective arm band and gloves, my blinking white and red lights, my helmet.
I suppose the street lights didn’t help illuminate me either.
You didn’t see me.
That is, you didn’t see me until you heard me.

I clanged my bell, squealed my brakes (a feat at less than 10 mph on a bike) and flew to a stop 5 feet from your car.
Then you saw me.
And you stopped, briefly, to let me by.
Very kind, given that you were completely blocking my lane by now and had almost run me over.
So I let you by instead and you pulled to the shoulder on the other side of the road and kept talking.
The other bicyclist yelled at you for being on your phone.
And then I biked the rest of the way home, shaken, but not scarred.

Yes, perhaps it was my fault, man in the red convertible.
But on the other hand, I think
Maybe
Just Maybe
It was your fault.

Deep depths of despair

Why is it that I can’t work a reception desk bell? (Other than reid’s answer that I am a bad ta…)