It started with a stye back in 2016. It’s going to be a loooooooooooong story.
I do not know how I got it but I did. I went to my eye doctor to get a prescription because apparently, even if your eyes are red and swollen because of a stye, the pharmacies won’t sell you any medicine. The doctor prescribed an ointment to put in my left eye a couple of times a day. I was on an out-of-town assignment in Tarlac at that time and that meant doing audit with one eye closed.
One day though, I was so damn sleepy for no reason and the eye that had a stye kept on closing shut. It was weird because I was not putting on any ointment anymore because the stye was gone the day before. But my eye had other plans. It kept wanting to remain close. The next day, a terrible headache followed.
After one week of having terrible headaches as soon as I woke up, I knew something was wrong. My left eye won’t stay open for more than a few minutes (with blinking, of course) and the headache became worse when I try to stop it from shutting close. My head felt like it was being sliced in half and I would cry in the middle of work because it was just so painful. At times, it would feel like there were mini electric shocks going through my head or a hundred mini stabs in a matter of seconds. I also saw splotches of color floating around.
So, I searched for a neurologist (let’s call him Dr. V.) from the hospital closest to my work. The first thing he asked me was if my family had a history of aneurysm. It scared me because I had an aunt (mother side) and a cousin (father side) who both died from aneurysm. He took my blood pressure and it was a soaring 140/80! He ordered me to get a brain MRI and MRA right away. And Lord, was it expensive!
The hospital staff involved in my MRI and MRA scan were all pretty awesome people. They made sure I was not worrying too much and assured me that all was going to be well when I go through the process.
I think I had to wait going 2 to 3 days before the results came out. It felt too long for me. Finally, I got to know my results were ready and so I rushed from work to the hospital to get them. My hands were shaking at that point because I was worried about what I was going to read. Still, I opened the envelope and read the results. My world came crashing down. It read “2mm outpouching arising from the A2 segment of the left ACA. Possible small aneurysm.” It instructed to go see my doctor immediately.
At that point, I was already imagining about my head being split open and my blood getting everywhere. I was so damn scared. But, after reading the results, Dr. V. just said, “It’s just 2mm. It might be nothing. Let’s try a CT-scan with contrast.” He reassured me that aneurysms that small should not make me think of the worst possible scenarios just yet because they aren’t usually very alarming.
Another scan. This time, it was much more expensive than the first. I maxed out my HMO coverage already and had to pay with my own money. I did not know anymore if my excruciating headaches were from whatever medical condition I had or from the stress of having to pay for medical bills.
The CT scan experience was not as smooth as the previous procedure. For one, the staff who had to test whether my vein from my right arm could take the amount of dye they had to inject managed to burst it. All because she would not listen to me to use my left arm instead. The next staff to take her place used my left arm, confirming that there’s no difference if they used my left instead of my right arm. Anyway, the dye felt very warm and I even thought I peed and wet myself during the procedure. I was so conscious about it but I couldn’t do anything about it because I had to stay still. Thankfully, it was just the dye that made me feel that way.
Another three days later, I got the results. It negated the results from the MRI and MRA. I was aneurysm-free! Dr. V. ruled it as a migraine with aura. I was told to stay away from a lot of stuff like caffeine, red wine, MSG and cheese. Cheese! Well, aged cheese. He told me mozzarella was okay. Whew! And, he did tell me to stay away from Chicken Joy (Jollibee’s signature fried chicken). Humph!
The medicines that were prescribed to me were topiramate and orphenadrine citrate paracetamol. However, the headaches still kept on coming at the most inconvenient times. It hurt worse and getting up to go to work was extremely difficult. To top it off, my boss could not understand how painful a migraine was.
A week or two later, I had go to Surigao and Cebu for audits and was away from home for around 2 months. At that point, Dr. V. has already added pregabalin in the mix of meds I had to take.
Because the headaches were becoming worse while I was still in Cebu, I had my mom go to Dr. V’s clinic to try if we can talk over the phone and get him to prescribe me something else. At that time, I have also started throwing up. I was also worried I might get addicted to pregabalin because I read that some patients get dependent on it. Dr. V. was laughing and teasing me that if I got addicted to it, I’ll be the first person in the history of that drug. He increased my pregabalin dosage and told me not to worry about dependency issues. It should not be a problem.
The problem was, the higher pregabalin dosage was knocking me asleep. I could not work properly and it was a very stressful period in our work. My team leader and I would stay up until 3 in the morning because we had to juggle three types of audit all at the same time. And so, as painful as it was, I had to stop taking pregabalin.
When I got back to Manila, I went to see Dr. V. again. He changed pregabalin to gabapentin. He did warn me that it will take me around four days to get used to gabapentin. That same night, after taking gabapentin, I had a crazy dream that I was a medical student and Dr. V. was my professor/superior. He was throwing all his medical books at me because he was so angry that I forgot to check on a patient. So, that patient ended up in coma. I was crying and told him it was his fault for prescribing me a medicine that would make me lose focus and that he should be understanding because I was having daily migraine attacks. So much for my dream of being a doctor. At least Dr. V. got a laugh at it when I told him about it.
The combination of topiramate, gabapentin and orphenadrine citrate paracetamol seemed to be the perfect mix for me. I noticed a huge improvement although I would still get terrible headaches from time to time that lasted for hours. The mini stabs and mini electric shocks in my head dramatically reduced.
It took me eight months before the daily headaches stopped. At one point, I woke up to realize I could not see anything from my right eye. Granted that it was dark in the room at night, my left eye could still make out some images but my right eye could only see pitch black. I thought I was going blind. Turns out, it was still related to my migraine.
It was a difficult eight months for me and my pocket. My medicines were crazily expensive even if I only bought the generic kind. Check-ups were also costly. Still, I was glad I had a doctor who was kind and patient towards me.
To date, I still get an attack from time to time but it does not last for more than two days anymore. I can enjoy my caffeine fixes again but some Chinese foods that are packed with MSG still give me migraines. I guess it’s going to be a lifetime of making sure I stay healthy and staying away from my other migraine triggers.
Migraines are not just simple headaches. Some people just take it lightly (take my former boss for example) and think you’re just acting up or making excuses. So, the next time someone says they have a migraine attack, please think first before making a curt remark that might make it harder to the person to feel better. You might not be able to imagine the pain they are in.