Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Migraineur Of The Month: Miss January!

I have, for you, the MOST fabulous and feisty migraineur to kick off the new year. The lovely Kayla is a relatively newbie (or nOOb as she likes to say) to life with migraines but by gum has she got a better handle on the condition and done more advocacy than most of us do after 14 years. Go Kayla! Having been in nursing school Kayla has a really interesting insight into the medical process and some great ideas for TV ads for migraine. Read on and enjoy! 


The fabulous Canadian Kayla

Can you remember & describe your first migraine?

I can remember very vividly the very first vicious migraine because it was the worst surprise of my life. My usual methods to deal with normal headaches was to take a Tylenol and fall asleep for nap, and then by the time I woke up I would be pain-free. So one day I begin to get a headache. Naturally, I take my Tylenol and my nap. However, instead of waking up pain-free, the pain had intensified to a blinding 10/10. Surprise! I couldn’t move, I was covering my ears, and I didn’t dare open my eyes because every single sensation would send waves of hot pain through my brain and down my neck and spine.

What followed is exactly what you would expect. A trip to the emergency room and crying. Lots and lots of crying. Imagine the face of someone giving birth, but you don’t get cute little offspring at the end.

Best migraine top tip anyone’s ever given you?

“Breathe.” – Mum.

Worst Trigger?

Dehydration, hands down. Even mild dehydration can trigger a migraine for me, so I am constantly carrying around a bottle of water. It seems to me that the attacks that are triggered by dehydration also seem to be the most painful and long lasting, and when I have to get an IV it ends up being really difficult for the RNs because the veins in my hands and arms become so tiny! It seriously took 4 nurses and 9 tries to get an IV in once. The next attempt was going to be in my foot. *shudder*

Favourite migraine comfort?

I call it my “blanket burrito”. I wrap myself up in my favourite blanket with my laptop, my phone, strategically placed heat and ice packs, my TENS unit, snacks, water, and my bag of meds. I’m like a bear; I can hibernate in there for days at a time if I have to.

What’s the worst assumption that’s been made about you and your migraines.

It really upsets me when people assume that my migraines can’t be that bad, so they suggest that they can be fixed with pseudoscience or just a glass of water and a nap*. I think what perpetuates this “it’s not that bad” idea in society is the commercials for the over-the-counter medication. Usually along the lines of a waitress who suddenly furrows her brow, then she takes the magic Advil/Excedrin “migraine” tablet and she’s back to waitressing with a smile plastered on her face in no time!

Just once I would like to see a more honest face of migraine disease on television. Someone who, despite an armada of over-the-counter and prescription medications, is left intermittently partially blind, completely overwhelmed by all of their senses being ramped up for days on end, so dehydrated from nausea and vomiting and in so much pain that they need to be taken to the hospital and be put on an IV. So weak and dizzy that they have to be pushed in a wheelchair to brain scans and blood tests, so the emergency doctor can see if they’re having a stroke, even though they’re only 23 years old.

Pleasant to watch? No. But then maybe when I say “I have chronic migraine” people will actually take a moment to listen and learn about this horrifying neurological disease rather than instantly dismissing it as just a bad common headache that can be fixed by a kale smoothie* or getting glasses*.

* Actual real life cure suggestions given to me. I wish I was joking.

What are you most proud of doing despite living with migraines?

Unmedicated, my migraines are very severe and caused me to leave nursing school and a job that I enjoyed. It was very turbulent for a while, but I am very fortunate to have found some medications that manage to keep the worst symptoms at bay, which has allowed me to achieve some pretty awesome things within the past 8 months:

·      Spent 2 months travelling through England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy and managed my migraines effectively on the go. (Only 22 days after diagnosis, was I crazy or stupid? Maybe both.)
·      Started chronic illness blogging on Tumblr ( www.whatshouldwecallmigraine.tumblr.com ) and Wordpress ( www.diaryofamigraineur.com ).
·      Got published in a magazine for youth and young adults with chronic illnesses called The Pillow Fort ( www.thepillowfort.co.uk/magazine ).

The first one is a personal victory, and the last two I am proud of because I am able to help others who are in the same crummy situation as me. “We’re all in this together…” *cue fabulously corny High School Musical dance number*






If you could be the Prime Minister for a Year what would you do!?

It’s hard to get a lot done in a year in politics, so to be the most effective I would probably want to focus all my efforts on only one thing. I have always cared very deeply about equality and health care, even before I got sick. Ideally I would spend my year improving accessibility to health care. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Canada is big. Like, really big. Most of us do live in the cities where it is easy to see a specialist, but there are still a lot of people who don’t. The population with the greatest need for improvement to access to health care is the Indigenous population, who also disproportionately suffer from chronic illnesses, including migraines and other chronic pain diseases. It would take a long time to ask, listen to, and then meet the needs of each unique community, but it would really be worth it. No one should have to cope with a chronic pain disease, or any disease for that matter, without specialist care.


My name is Kayla, I live in Vancouver, Canada, and I’m a migraine n00b with 1 and ½ years under my belt. I’m also a 23 year old blogger, writer of amusing things, clinical secretary, and all around layabout. I try to make migraineurs laugh at www.whatshouldwecallmigraine.tumblr.com , and I share how I manage my life of migraine in my own quirky way at www.diaryofamigraineur.com. You can follow me on twitter @doamigraineur if you wanna see more of whatever “this” is and to follow me on my eternal quest for a furbaby.


Kayla, thank you for kicking off the year with such a great piece! Everyone, check out her blogs and various sites. Kayla uses humour brilliantly to explore and explain the mysterious condition that is migraine. And her determination to beat it, and help others, is inspiring. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Victoria, for introducing this amazing young woman. She seems destined to be a great migraine advocate.

    ReplyDelete

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