LIVING WITH
MIGRAINE

Does it feel like migraines are taking over your life? Pushing you away from your friends, family and colleagues? You’re not alone.

Watch Jane’s stories to see how migraines affect her and the people who close to her.

JANE AND
ZAC’S
STORY

Jane’s a great mother, but with her migraines she can’t always be there for her son, Zac. This is their story. 

JANE AND HÉLÈNE'S
STORY

Jane has proven to her boss, Hélène, that she’s a valuable team member. But sometimes her migraines can get in the way of her professional life. This is their story.

JANE AND
CARA’S

STORY

Cara is Jane’s best friend. They love spending time together, but Cara is often left alone when Jane goes missing with migraine.

Feeling like Jane sometimes? Talk to your doctor about your migraines.

MIGRAINE WARRIOR
CORINNE SATO

Migraines have been woven into the fabric of my life since age 13. I was at camp when I had the first one. With the pain and vomiting, I couldn’t function; it was only after I lay in bed in a cool, darkened room for a couple of days that I felt fine again.

Since then, I’ve gone through periods where my migraines are relatively rare, as well as times when they come more frequently. One particularly difficult period was when I was 28, with a very stressful job. One thing that seems to trigger my attacks is weather changes and, at the time, Calgary experienced several Chinooks – warm winds that cause extreme temperature increases – in just a few hours.

Because of the weather shifts and other factors, the migraines were frequent and I missed a fair bit of work. I couldn’t get out of bed during the attacks because of my debilitating pain and extreme sensitivity to light and sounds. My relationship with my employer became strained; they were questioning whether I was “really sick” because I seemed to take days off when the weather was nice!

The stigma can be hurtful. You feel that people don’t believe you’re suffering because the disorder is invisible, and you look fine one day and are knocked out the next.

Now I’m 36 and finding new self-care strategies and new ways to empower myself. I started the Facebook group, Migraine Warriors Calgary – connecting with others also dealing with migraines. I no longer feel alone, and I’m excited about growing and strengthening the network. We’re sharing our stories, supporting each other and letting our collective voices be heard.

MIGRAINE TREATMENTS:
NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL

If you experience migraines and seek care from a family doctor or neurologist, expect them to consider a range of treatment options. Some are based on medications and others focus on behavioural change, such as self-care remedies and lifestyle changes.

“Migraine is a highly variable disease. Individuals have different symptoms, triggers, severity and responses to treatment,” says neurologist Elizabeth Leroux, headache leader of the Calgary Headache Assessment & Management Program. “A mix of medications and management of lifestyle factors and specific migraine triggers is often required – no one size fits all.”

Many individuals who get migraines use prescription and/or over-the-counter drugs to relieve their migraine headache and other associated symptoms of a migraine attack, these are known as “acute” medications. Around 90 per cent of adults with migraine in Canada take acute headache medications.

Other migraine medications are “preventive” – taken every day to help decrease migraine frequency. Population studies suggest that 25 per cent of migraine sufferers might also benefit from the use of daily preventive medications.

Migraine patients who frequently use acute drugs to deal with their pain face a risk that may sound illogical; their headaches may become worse or more frequent. Physicians recognize the importance of educating patients about this risk of medication-overuse headache.

“To effectively treat a migraine, the individual has to take their medication right at the start of the attack,” says neurologist Sian Spacey, director of the University of British Columbia Headache Clinic. However, individuals with frequent attacks who use this early treatment can get into a situation where the medication begins to worsen their headaches.

“That can lead to a vicious cycle, where the individual may take more pills, which generates more headaches,” says Dr. Spacey. “The solution may be to put them on a daily preventive medication and help them understand how much acute treatment they can take before they get into an overuse cycle.”

Neurobiologists Elizabeth Leroux of Calgary (top) and Sian Spacey of Vancouver (bottom) provide their migraine patients with treatment options suited to their individual symptoms, triggers and responses.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT
PREVENTIVE TREATMENTS.

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