Professional vomit queen-navigating the migraines

Warning: Not for the squeamish. Step away if you have a weak constitution. Migraine sufferers will agree that migraines are no ordinary headaches. Unlike a broken arm, there is no visible indication that your pain level is through the roof. Taking regular pain relief for migraines (for me) is like putting a dropper full of gas in the car and thinking it will take you somewhere . Migraine relief is a much more complicated dance than that. A careful combination of prevention and treatment is my only solution. I should have known the stress of this week was going to trigger a headache, but I always naively believe that this time it will be different. (Remember the movie 50 First Dates? I am like the Drew Barrymore short term memory loss character.) I shouldn’t be surprised when they happen and the route they will take, but it always catches me off guard.  I choose to not think that it is stupidity, but rather optimism. Every migraine trail I take leads to the porcelain dumping ground. (I was going to add a vomit image, but that would just be cruel to all of us, so instead, I’ll add the movie poster) When the headache ends,  it is like a long journey completed.

50 First Dates
50 First Dates

I should be happy that I’ve only thrown up three times in January. One of the side effects I appear to be having from the Avastin treatment is sporadic migraine headaches. The first sign of the headache is a piercing high pitched frequency pain in the back of my head. (It feels like the frequency only dogs can hear that drives them crazy) Then the pain shuffles from back to front and back again.  I sit with an ice pack on my head and I speculate how long it will take till the vomit train begins. Today, I made it 45 minutes. Something about vomiting is cathartic (haha! Really! At least I made myself laugh) It’s like my body realigns and resets itself after that. The trick of getting the pain to go away lies in a careful distribution of Migraine meds, anti-nausea meds, and vomit.

Last time, it was after a fantastic meal of Baked Ziti (which I used to love…I’ve attached a recipe in case you still love it.) That time was the first time that I threw up through my nose. I had a noodle come out my nose. I guess there is a first for everything.

Baked Ziti
Baked Ziti

My sister was visiting us that time, and the next morning she asked if I had been coughing during the night. Yes, I “coughed” a lot that night. It really was good ziti, more so going in than going out. Sadly, I don’t see myself eating anymore Baked Ziti in my near future.

I have recently swapped out Imitrex for Maxalt in the quest to find more effective pain relief. I think the Imitrex works for me, but when it gets thrown up so soon, not as much. Maxalt can dissolve under your tongue and sneak up on the migraine before the vomiting begins (but dissolving pills under my tongue is slightly nausea inducing too). I always wonder at what point does the pain medication count. In other words…If you take a pill and throw it up 15 minutes later, has that pill been ingested into your system enough to work? Or, do you assume it hasn’t and does again.

Today’s headache infused my dreams and woke me with a jolt this morning. 

"Last night I dreamt somebody love me." Smiths lyrics
“Last night I dreamt somebody love me.” Smiths lyrics

The only direction this day can go is up.  

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The Musical Chairs of Cancer

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Set-up for musical chairs

Do you remember the childhood party game Musical Chairs? I used to love going to birthday parties and playing that. When the music started, you would walk around the circle casually, sometimes touching the chairs, just listening to the music playing a happy tune until some unseen hand took the needle off the record (Yes, we played that game with vinyl albums!) As the music suddenly halted,  you lunged into the nearest available chair-hoping not to be the extra child without a seat. If you were unfortunate enough to be the last one standing, you were out of the game.

I compare my current situation to that childhood game. I go along living my life, teaching classes, walking, going to church, watching movies, listening to music, and then suddenly, it’s time for a PET scan.  There is a breath holding few days where we wait for the results…Will I still be doing the daily drive to work (#hitraffic), watching Chopped on the Food Network, hiking the Aiea Loop trail, and generally being “normal” OR will I be thrown back into the grind of surgery, weekly chemotherapy, blood testing, and hospital visits. Each scan, I wait for the music to stop, and then determine if I am with or without a chair.

Last year on Valentine’s Day (incredibly bad timing), I received that call that my cancer had returned. Since March 14th, I have earned frequent flyer points at Tripler Army Medical Center. The current status is a monthly (which really means every three weeks) maintenance plan of Avastin and careful monitoring of my CA 125 levels to continue indefinitely (like in forever).  Side effects of all of this include some pretty unkind migraine headaches and fatigue, but this is small “kine” stuff compared to the radiation and frontline chemotherapy.

View from the Oceanside of Tripler Army Medical Center
View from the Oceanside of Tripler Army Medical Center

In the meantime, I am listening to the music and focusing on my One Word for 2015! That word is Strength.  Rather than making a series of New Year’s Resolutions about working out, eating less, and reading more, I am choosing to focus on a single word-focusing all my efforts towards building strength…in my body, in my mind, in my faith, and in my relationships. My plan for 2015 is not a single day event, but hopefully a series of activities that will make me stronger. Physically, I feel better now than I have felt since January of last year. I plan to run (haha-just kidding) walk in the Great Aloha Run in February. Am I ready? Absolutely not. But, the training process has begun.

Great Aloha Run Hawaii
Great Aloha Run Hawaii

I believe I’ll still have a chair in the game come next week! You are not behind. Start now. What is your One Word for 2015?