Life’s Blessings

Despite dealing with my various issues health-wise, I am truly blessed. 

Ten years ago, if you’d of asked me if I could see myself as a mom, a student, etc. I probably would have laughed in your face. 

Ten years ago I separated from my (ex) husband. It was an easy decision, and one that I won’t dive into details on. Earlier this summer marked 8 years of legally obtaining my maiden name again. 

Today, I am blessed with a simple, yet extraordinary life.

I found love again, in a way I’d never known was possible, I became a mother of a pretty amazing little boy, had the courage to go back for a college degree, we own two nice cars and we have our own home. 

I’m very blessed.

I also found a pretty amazing family to be around as well, in my fiancé’s family. Along with my own family, I have a strong support system. 

I never imagined this life ten years ago. 

Just like I never imagined being diagnosed with Chronic Migraine. 

Life can throw giant curveballs at us, but I’ve learned that the possibility is there for it to lead us to better things. 

I count my blessings each day, and they give me strength to push on.

I know as a migraineur it can be difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel, some days nearly impossible.

But with life’s blessings, there is always Hope.

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Cooler weather and it’s affects.

  
It’s getting colder here, and the leaves are falling. It’s a pretty time of year with the leaves an array of different colors, and I love to look at the trees while outside or driving around. 

However……

This also means that it has gotten colder. Right now it is mainly in the evenings, with a scattered few days in between where it’s also cool during the day, giving a good tease, when we know that winter is looming around the corner where we will be faced with even more colder temperatures.

The cold weather does not suit my body well, or my head for that matter. I am dreading the coming months, even if it does involve curling up in my living room with a good fire going to keep our home warm. I dread the toll the cold weather takes on me. But, I will take everyday and soar thru it the best that I can, even on high-pain days. I have a little boy, and wonderful other half to come home to, and that trumps all.

I really need to focus on my blog more, I have it on my list of to-do’s. This will becoming a priority for me. I just have to learn to juggle it into my already busy schedule. The colder weather will be a great time for that, as it will keep us all inside more – especially if this winter is as cold as the last two have been. I have noticed that my hands are hurting more frequently lately, so I had to pull out a prescription I had beforehand to try for that as it helped previously for another area.

I transferred my college education to University of Phoenix, which is also allowing me a little more flexibility with my schedule as I only do one class at a time now over a short time span, versus 3-4 during a semester that last 12-15 weeks. Struggling to balance 3-4 classes a semester, plus working full time, and life in general as a mom and homeowner was so hard for me, but that’s not why I chose to make the switch. The classes I still needed I was going to be required to drive almost 1.5 hours 3-4 days a week for two different classes that were only about 1 hour long. That wasn’t going to work well for me, not as an employee outside of the home, and a mom (of a school-age child!). So far, it has been great for me and I don’t regret the decision to make the switch even if it will take me a little longer to complete things.

I’ve been off of Topamax for a little over a month now, and am on amitriptyline now as a preventative and seeing how that helps. I can attest to one thing so far, my brain fog has somewhat diminished so I am thankful for that. Still in the process of finding the right dose of amitriptyline, so time will tell. 

My biggest hope is that my migraines didn’t pass on to my son as my own have been determined genetic. He already has sinus issues that were most definitely passed on from both sides of our families & ourselves. Since starting Singulair for myself, mine have been much better though for the first time in years. I’m so thankful for my new physician, and really look forward to his opening of a Direct Primary Care office in the new year as it will mean I won’t have to always make an office visit if something minor is needed. 

Telemedicine is an amazing thing, and so convenient. 

Walking Pharmacy…nope, just a Migraineaur.

  
Filling my weekly case with meds/vitamins. This isn’t even actually all of them as I left a couple to the side to send in for refills. My at home bag houses all of these plus the ones not pictured, as well as an ice bag, an extra pill holder, the Cefaly, and a few essential oil blends. 

My “on the go” bag that I keep to take with me out of the house, houses meds I have for onset, 4head stick, “That Stuff for Pain” spray, Real Time Pain Relief, Migraine pads for application to my head if needed, my Migraine kit I bought at the AHMA conference in July, etc. 

Ten years ago I never imagined life involving all of this. I was always very anti-medication (lol, I hate taking meds!!) and would usually tough it out, as my only complaint back then was chronic sinus issues and I’d only go to the doctor if it was absolutely necessary. 

Today, I’m thankful for these things. They allow me to continue on with my life the best that I can and help me tremendously. I have tried diet eliminations, natural remedies, and so much more. Unfortunately, it seems as though I have been cursed with a diagnosis that is genetic. I only hope that I didn’t pass that on to my son. 

My diagnosis has proved difficult at times, and I’ve felt all alone at times, and so incredibly frustrated, especially when I hit a point where a medication I was on wasn’t working and I had to essentially find a new doctor who was willing to help me, and listen to me, and get me back to who I want to be. 

Thankfully, I found a new doctor, and I have a new treatment plan.

But I haven’t let how I feel at times take over everything. I have a child to look after, a home to call our own (with a great job I love, that helps to pay for said home), a wonderful significant other, and school to finish. I have to push on.

I’m also working on becoming an Ambassador for the US Pain Foundation, and I couldn’t be more excited about that journey. 

I have lots of goals, and journeys left, and I intend on fulfilling them.
  

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

  
30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know
1. The illness I live with is: Chronic migraine with Aura

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2013 was when I got the official diagnosis

3. But I had symptoms since: 2012

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: learning to balance my life with migraines. I’m a mom, college student, and I work outside the home.

5. Most people assume: Most people in my life are pretty good at understanding that a migraine is NOT just a headache. The assumption that is most difficult in my life has to do with managing my migraines versus curing them. As a migraineur and an advocate, I  do not have an expectation of a cure from any medications or treatments. All I can do is remain hopeful that they will help me manage migraines and allow me to enjoy life. 

6. The hardest part about mornings are: It is very difficult to have a regular sleep schedule with migraines, which often results in insomnia. Because I have a school aged child, and work first shift, mornings can be extremely difficult if I spent the night getting very little sleep.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: House, M.D. 

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My cell phone/iPad. Not only does it connect me to my friends, family, and my doctors, but it also connects me to Facebook where I have wonderful support groups of Migraineurs like myself. 

9. The hardest part about nights are: sleeping with a migraine isn’t the easiest thing. When I sleep I need some kind of noise (radio, TV) but with a migraine I need quiet as it makes me sensitive to sound, which makes it extremely hard to sleep coupled with the pain of the migraine.

10. Each day I take 9 pills & vitamins. That’s on a “good” day. If I have a migraine, it’s more.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: I’m a fan of anything natural. I’ll accept any help I can get to improve my quality of life with this diagnosis.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: This is not a question that I feel qualified to answer. I don’t have a visible illness so I can’t speak to how that feels. 

13. Regarding working and career: it can be extremely difficult to work and have the diagnosis I do. I’m lucky to work in a place that is very understanding. 

14. People would be surprised to know: That a headache is seldom my worst migraine symptom.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: that my migraines win – temporarily. And that it has caused strain on friendships as some just don’t truly understand and think that suffering from chronic migraine is as easy as taking a pill to stop them. 

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: finish college… But I am very close to doing that and earning my associates!

17. The commercials about my illness: Commercials are often a great source of frustration for me because I feel as though they give a very unrealistic portrayal of migraines. If Excedrin works for some people, that’s great. However, there’s a large group of the population of Migraineurs that have migraines that are not helped by Excedrin. Don’t you think that I would rather pop an Excedrin than take more prescription pills or shots, or Botox injections. There is not a cure for migraines. Excedrin, prescription meds, Botox, etc will not cure migraines. They’ll only be effective as management options, both preventative and onset. Please advertise them as such, it’s a real slap in the face to Migraineaurs to act as though migraines can be cured. 

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: leaving the house on a whim, without worrying about taking my “migraine bag” with me which houses meds for onset, and other treatment options I have available to me.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: the idea that life would ever be “normal” for me, and a part of my independence.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: I have started this blog, & I am working on connecting with other locals who have similar diagnoses. It’s important for people to understand that they’re not alone, & to know they have someone who understands and “gets it”.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: I just do my best to enjoy the good days that I have. I do my best on those days to accomplish what I can, and make the most of them. I don’t have to be/feel “normal” for my life to be okay or even wonderful, as I have adjusted to my new sense of normal and I am very blessed in my life either way.

22. My illness has taught me: I am much stronger and much more patient than I ever imagined I could be. I’ve endured more than I thought was possible in my life. Some people will desert you but the people that stay by your side are the ones you truly want around in the end, and it can be a huge shock to see who those people are because sometimes it’s not who you always expect.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “You have ANOTHER headache?” Or when they offer up “cures” for migraines. No, grape juice won’t cure them. No, sticking my feet in water and a bag of peas on my neck will not cure them either. I appreciate the thought, but sometimes it can feel rather insulting. 

24. But I love it when people: offer assistance when they know I’m fighting a migraine. The smallest gesture can mean so much when I am fighting a migraine.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” – Thich Nhat Hanh 

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Advocate for yourself. Ask for what you need. Try many different things and never, ever, ever lose hope. Don’t let the diagnosis define you or ruin you.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: Learning to advocate for myself as a patient has had a direct effect on my ability to advocate for myself and others in life who are diagnosed with migraine or chronic migraine.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: loved me despite my issues and makes sure I know I am not a burden because of my diagnosis and its affect on my life.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: Raising awareness surrounding invisible illnesses is important to me. Just because you cannot see my illness, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I have to speak up about it in order to make people aware of it. I want others to know that they are not alone.if we don’t stand up for ourselves, who will?

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Grateful. It means that maybe next time you won’t be so quick to judge what you cannot see or what you do not understand, Or maybe now  you know that you are not alone. 

Migraine Acceptance.

Let me ask you a question..

Who is your Best Friend?

I’m sure many of you answered with names, just as I will. My best friends are my fiancé Nick,  and my lifelong friend Dan, just to name a couple.

I also have one more that many of you will think I am absolutely probably insane for calling my “friend”. 

Migraine. 

Yes, you read that correctly. 

You see, we go back quite some time ago. But weren’t “formally” introduced until a few years ago. Even on my good days, it is still a part of my daily life. Leaving the house? Don’t ever forget my bag. It includes all things I can use in the case of an onset. When an onset is triggered, I’m nauseous, irritable, sensitive to sound and light, sometimes sensitive to smell, just to name a few.

I’ve tried diet elimination, old wives tales, household remedies, “you have to try this” remedies. Guess what? They didn’t work. I have switched physicians when things aren’t working. Migraines will not define me, despite all things. Even if I view them as a friend, I still want to control them. I recently just visited a new doctor, whom I loved on my first visit and actually listened to me over my concerns on the high dose of Topamax I was on, and I received a new treatment plan. Dr.’s are not the enemy for us, and can be a godsend.

Avoiding the migraine didn’t work either. Most of the time, I am “lucky” enough to know that they’re coming on, if you can consider that lucky.  But, this way I am able to prepare myself for what lies ahead. I have medicine available to me, ice, OTC topical items (such as Real Time Pain Relief) and other various options as well. And sleep if I’m able to do so.

You see, if I have to live with this diagnosis, I may as well accept it. And Embrace it. I will use it to show that I am Hillary, I am a face of migraine, but migraine does not define who I am.

Back again. 

  
Well I’ve been MIA for awhile…

It has been very busy here. My classes began again, my son started kindergarten, and work (I work outside the home.) 

I’ve also been dealing with health issues related to my migraines, and a few other issues as well.

I made the decision to switch physicians. The doctor I was seeing had been wonderful in helping me manage my migraines, but in July I asked to be taken off my daily preventative and given something else. It was no longer working, and it was causing significant weight loss (which I do not need!). Instead, it was increased. 400MG a day. The weight loss (and migraines) continued. Oh, and I can’t forget the brain fog, dizziness, and pins & needles feelings. 

I called and asked again to be taken off and given something else. I was told that I needed to be put thru a ton of tests to rule out underlying causes because he didn’t believe it was from the Topamax, and that if it wasn’t working we could increase it AGAIN. I immediately requested my records and said I’d be going elsewhere. 

I found a new doctor who is close by, and I am absolutely thrilled with him after just one visit. He spent an hour with me going over everything and coming up with a new treatment plan that we both agree on.

Unkers Salve : Lifetime Staple in my household

 

 Unker’s uses the slogan “Your medicine cabinet in a jar” for a good reason: because it has so many pain-relieving and therapeutic uses – all from the same product. For decades our customers have been using Unker’s Multi-Purpose Therapeutic products to help heal and soothe a multitude of ailments including:

Minor Cuts, minor burns, bruises, sores, scrapes, chest congestion, coughs, nail fungus, sore throat, insect bites, dry, cracked or bleeding skin, sunburn, headaches, migraines, hemorrhoids, leg and muscle cramps, minor sports injuries, exercise or workout pain, muscle and joint pain.

This salve is a multi-purpose therapeutic product that contains only high quality pure essential oils including: eucalyptus, oil of pine needle, menthol crystals, oil of camphor, and oil of wintergreen in a snow-white pharmaceutical grade petroleum base.

For years when I was growing up, Unkers Salve was a staple in my household. We literally used it on EVERYTHING. Got a boo-boo? Grab the Unkers! Got poison ivy? Grab the Unkers! Mosquito bites? You guessed it… Grab the Unkers! It was the go-to heal-all ointment in my household. We never went without a jar of Unkers in my house growing up.

Sadly, the Amish market stopped selling it, replacing it with a brand known as “Skinners”. Which was not nearly as good, and was a very disappointing replacement. We were told by the owner of the Amish market that Unkers was no longer being made. That was a very sad day! 

That’s been many years ago. 

Recently, however, we found out that Unkers was still being made! Oh Hallelujah! AND a local mom and pop grocery store sold it! 

Music to our ears.

My grandma, who also swore by the power of Unkers, was the first to buy a jar. 

On July 4th, my fiancé, son and I spent the day with her and my mom and her house as we do every year. I happened to be checking the jar out while I was there, being as the labeling has changed over the years – and refreshing myself on all of the uses it lists, etc, since it’s been so long. 

Headaches and migraines.

STOP. HOLD THE BOAT. WHAT?!?!

I squealed to my mom about this. Not that it will cure them, by any means… But this stuff was utterly amazing on everything that I remember using it for when I was younger… You mean it can potentially help me here too!?! 

Mom told me that my grandfather used it all the time for those very reasons and it always helped him.

Shut the front door!

Grandma, who had bought the largest jar they had, and joked it would last her the rest of her lifetime, offered to send some home with me. Bless that woman, love her so much. 

Last night, I felt the nagging tingling all too familiar sensation beginning in my neck – the same one that always comes on when I am about to get hit with a migraine. Remembering the conversation on Saturday, I grabbed my jar of Unkers that Grandma sent with me, slathered it across my forehead and temples, and base of my neck, decided on only setting my abortive meds beside my bed and opted for some excedrine instead, to see how I would do with the Unkers on to see how much it truly helped – and went to bed. 

While I did not wake up 100% pain free, I did not hit full blown migraine status like I normally would have!! I have to say I am impressed, yet again, by another Unkers use!!