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I must be insane.
Why in the world would I agree to yet another blogging challenge after just finishing the biggest month of the year for migraine advocates?
I should be taking a vacation, right?
Well…work-a-holism breeds irrational behavior.
Plus, I really meant what I said yesterday. Migraine and Headache Awareness Month shouldn’t be treated like a holiday. We’ll never make any progress doing that. Do you remember when the Susan G. Komen Foundation started raising breast cancer awareness and money for research? There were pink ribbons and shouts of “Save the ta-tas!” everywhere. Talk of saving boobs and lives was everywhere. Advocates were sometimes “in your face” and it worked.
Patients often protest against such advocacy by saying,
“If you’ve never had a migraine, you can’t understand.”
That’s true of breast cancer, too. But that didn’t stop people from fighting for acceptance, empathy, and research dollars for better treatments and a search for the cure.
So why should it stop us?
If you’re just joining the conversation, you may be a little lost. Allow me to help you get caught up. In 2012, The National Headache Foundation in collaboration with The American Headache Society and several other key headache disorders organizations designated PURPLE as the awareness color for migraine and other headache disorders. June was established as our “awareness month” and started that same year. Most of the efforts have been focused on social media with blogging challenges, Twitter challenges, and images for avatars and cover photos. Yesterday’s post was a summary of that history and my assessment of where we go next.
The social media focus has been a success at helping people understand what migraine is, how it is treated, and how it affects the daily lives of millions. We’re also starting to see an interest in private donations to help fund research. Perhaps you remember the news last December when the Goldberg family donated $10 million to UCLA. $8 million of that donation was designated for migraine research. Migraine advocates were blowing up social media and dancing for joy. Many of us sent personal notes of thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg.
When you’ve lived your life in secret darkness, that kind of compassion really means a lot. It gave many hope that a cure might actually be found in our lifetime. People don’t think that migraine can kill, but if you talk to people with migraine they will tell you that it kills their hopes, dreams, aspirations, careers, families…and sometimes it even kills the body. Depression and suicide are not uncommon. Impaired driving during a migraine can also kill. If that wasn’t bad enough, people with migraine have an increased risk for Parkinson’s and stroke. We are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease, too.
All that from a headache?
Yes, and no. Almost everyone is familiar with the excruciating headaches that can be one symptom of migraine. But did you know that migraine attacks can occur without any pain at all? Sometimes the pain is in the abdomen and not the head. Some people even have symptoms that resemble a stroke. The really scary part is that over 36 million people have migraine, but many never talk to their doctor about it. Less than HALF of those living with migraine have ever been diagnosed or treated. Early intervention is crucial to good out comes. We need to get the word out so that people will know there are treatment options. We need to spread hope.
So, yes, I’ve taken on another blogging challenge in order to keep the momentum going.
There’s still a lot more to be said about migraine and other headache disorders. One month a year just isn’t enough. My hope is that by participating in this challenge, my words will reach people who aren’t affected by migraine. Perhaps healthy people will learn why migraine is such a serious disease so we can start breaking down the myth that it is “just a bad headache.” We need healthy allies in this fight. So stick with me, ask questions, and share your experiences. We might just change the world.