Tuesday, October 22, 2019

My Life With Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 6: the Injections

My last official migraine update was 8 months ago, February!! A lot has changed in headacheland since then.

I began seeing a neurologist in Clarksville for the first time in March, and she’s great. She bumped up my nightly meds to 100 mg (and if I thought they knocked me out before...uffda! Talk about permanently sleepy...) as a last ditch effort to see if they worked before trying something different. 

I also began a 3-month long migraine study through Stanford University. Using an app, for 90 days I tracked my headaches (the length, the time of day they began, the medication I used to treat them, the symptoms that came with them, etc.). I also had to record caffeine intake/alcoholic beverages and the time I drank them, menstruation days, the times I took/forgot to take my prescribed medications, whether it was a workday/vacation day/weekend/half work day, the time I went to bed and the time I woke up. They also sent me an Apple Watch to wear to monitor my location- altitude, weather, allergens, etc. I was excited to get back the results in June, only to find there was absolutely no pattern. None. Zilch. Nada. Zero. What was causing my headaches and migraines? Stanford sure as heck couldn’t tell me.

June and July were tough months to make headache care a priority. I was busy, busy, busy and traveling what felt like all over the US (okay, only 13 states, one quarter of the US). Getting back to the neuro wasn't anywhere near the top of my to-do list. I was having daily, to every-other-day headaches. The good news was that between Excedrin and the Riz I was able to get rid of them. I maybe spent a day or two in bed waiting for severe pain to go away, but nothing near compared to two summers ago. 

Finally we headed back to school, and I headed back to the neuro. I had officially had little to no success with enough preventatives that injections were now a viable option for me to try. I was scared out of my mind to go to the neuro that August afternoon, because I knew that was what she would suggest. I didn’t know much about injections. I knew that was my next step, but I was under the impression that injection meant Botox, and Botox meant roughly 30 freakin’ needles being stuck into my neck at one time. UM NOPE. 

My neuro calmed me and said no way, that would be a last resort. A little over a year before this appointment, monthly injections were approved by the FDA for migraine prevention. In order for insurance to cover this injection, you have to have tried multiple other avenues of prevention first. Even still, it’s so new that most health insurance doesn’t quite cover them yet. I’m set up on some co-pay plan through the Aimovig company (Aimovig is the name of the injection) in which they pay the $700 for my injection each month for the first year, and eventually my insurance will pay them back. (I know there is a more technical and accurate way to explain this whole insurance thing, but that’s about what I understood from my neuro and the pharmacist).

Image result for aimovig

In normal people explanation, Aimovig releases an antibody that is suppose to wedge into these receptors in your brain and block one of the proteins released during a migraine from getting in those receptors and causing the pain.
Image result for aimovig

I get the injection mailed to me once a month from a specialty pharmacy in Nashville, and as of the writing of this post I have had three injections so far.

When I got the first box in the mail I panicked. I had read all about Aimovig as soon as the neuro sent up the prescription and I saw that people either did a 70 mg shot once a month, or 140 mg shot once a month, which was actually 2-70 mg shots given simultaneously. My box said 140 mg. My eyes bulged- I had been mentally preparing for one shot, not two!! I tore the box open to find one injection pen, hallelujah. I guess they’ve updated their drugs since release, but not whatever website I read it on.

I’m supposed to be doing the injection myself, but if you know me IRL you know that’s never going to happen. Literally, never. I thought it would look like a shot that you get at the doctor, but it’s more like an epi-pen, except less dramatic. All you have to do is press the bottom of the tube against your thigh, click the button down at the top which pushes the needle into your skin, then wait 10-15 seconds until you hear the click of the needle pop back up inside the tube. 

Did you hear that?? I said there is a NEEDLE stuck INSIDE OF ME for a whole 10-15 SECONDS!! (Imagine the 10-15 capitalized over there for dramatic effect). BLEGH.

I had our school nurse do the first two since they were given on school days. (Carlotta you da real MVP here). For the first one, my friend Josie came along to hold my hand. (She wanted to see it, I needed the moral support- Josie, you are also da real MVP). When Carlotta pushed down the button I felt NOTHING. I was so excited! It was way easier than I thought it would be- heck, I could do this myself!! Then we realized the needle hadn’t even gone in.... so we tried again. And this time it did NOT feel like nothing. I whined for the whole 15 minutes. 15 seconds, whatever. It felt like F.O.R.E.V.E.R.

Month two wasn’t as bad. I bought my hoodie to put over my face so I couldn’t see what was happening. My heart rate barely raced to over one hundred this time, versus the 115 BMP it reached during the first injection. #trypanophobiaproblems I still whined, but less, so I got a sticker.

Month three took place at the doctor because I had to get it on a Saturday and there was still no way in you-know-where that I was doing it to myself. The nurse was nice, she reminded me to breathe 28 times and kept talking about the beach to try and distract me. It didn’t hurt so bad at second one but by second 15 I was ready to rip the darn thing out. I didn’t even get a sticker outta her. Rude.

There are really no side effects to this other than  possible constiptation or a reaction/rash at the injection site. I get a small bruise a couple days after the injection, but that’s it. 

After month one I wasn’t sure it was helping. I still was getting headaches, but at least now they were almost always purely headaches instead of migraines and were treatable with a little caffeine and some Excedrin. Leading up to injection #3 I hadn’t had a headache in two weeks, so that’s good news.

They advertise Aimovig as reducing headache days by 50%. As mentioned before, this past summer had nearly daily migraines. We'll say roughly 20-25/month. In the month after injection #1 I had 8, and in the month after injection #2, I had 7. Making them go away permanently will likely never happen, and while 7-8 per month isn't ideal, its much better that 20-25/month.

This is the now. For now I get 140 mg of Aimovig injected into my thigh once a month. If we determine this isn’t working, there are similar injections I can try instead. If none of those work, that’s when Botox become an option. Let us all pray to the migraine gods that that never happens. I can hardly handle one needle, let alone 30...

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Fall Break 2019 - Gulf Shores, AL

I wasn't going to do a blog post about this trip, because it was short & sweet and for the most part, it was a lot of what I've already done and shared, but the only way to become a better writer is to write, so here I am.

Mom and dad left the now nearly-freezing weather of Minnesota to come down and visit me over my fall break. When discussing plans the week before, we still weren't entirely sure where we were going to head (Atlanta? Pensacola?) but when it came down to it, the high temps of the gulf coast lured us down.

Day 1 - Sunday, October 13, 2019

We left middle Tennessee just as the cold began to set in for the first time, which is great, because I'm cheap and refuse to pay for heat in any month besides January because I live in freakin' Tennessee and its suppose to be warm.  Exactly one week before fall break I had been sweating my tail off at an apple orchard and corn maze, trying to pretend like it was fall in nearly 90 degree weather. The temps as we woke up this morning were hovering in the 40s - it was suppose to warm up to nearly 70, but why stay in warm and nearly 70 when you can have hot and definitely 80s??

After a 7.5 hour drive (and a few stops along the way - one for Snickers Cinnabon, yum!) we made it to the beach mid-afternoon, and boy was it beautiful! Rain was predicted off  and on over the next few days, so we stayed out in the sand for as long as possible, just in case we didn't get the chance again. (This seems to be a trend when I head down to the Gulf Shores area....)

When deciding on dinner plans, I remembered a restaurant I had gone to with friends when we had been down in July. At the time, I tried the oysters, but because I was so apprehensive about the fact that I was eating something predictably slimy that came out of a seashell, I refused to acknowledge that it was good. However, when I recommended we go to this restaurant this time around, I believe my exact words when mom asked me if I liked the oysters were, "Well, they were okay. If someone else ordered them, I would try them again, but I wouldn't order them myself." Then five minutes later..."actually oysters sound really good, I vote we got to ACME." So to ACME Oyster House we went, and yes, I ordered the oysters. They were ten hundred times better than I even remembered them being, and not at all slimy. And the butter! I soaked up every last bit of it with my bread and fries. If you've never been to an ACME, I highly recommend you try it. If you have been to one, I highly recommend you go back!

Day 2 - Monday, October 14, 2019

A family of early risers, we were up, had eaten breakfast, and were at the beach by 8 AM. Again, there were storms predicted in the forecast, so we wanted to soak up as much sun as we could before the rain began to fall. And soak up sun we did. (oops! sorry skin...) The water was wonderfully warm, and it was so relaxing to be pulled back and forth, by the calming waves. The riptide warning was on yellow, but the water seemed incredibly calm to me. I guess compared to the hurricane-like waves that were here in July, it was incredibly calm!  Dad had a Moon Jellyfish brush up against him, so that was enough of being in the water for us! The jellyfish were HUGE! Nearly a foot in diameter! I looked them up later and found that their tentacles are short, and their sting not quite strong enough to cause anything more than mild irritation, but I wasn't taking any chances.

Eventually it looked like it was about to rain, so we broke for a late lunch a little after one and went to the Sunliner Diner on the strip. It was a cute little establishment with a lot of tasty menu options. I ended up getting the fish and chips, which was alright. I wanted the cereal waffles, but I had a waffle for breakfast and needed something with less sugar (<-- things I rarely say....) I was envious of the milkshakes a table near us had ordered...I would say I would go back just for a milkshake, but when The Yard Milkshake Bar is just down the strip, I'd have to go there instead.

We tried to drive down to Orange Beach, but there wasn't a whole lot to do, nor was there much for public parking, so we ended up heading back to the Gulf Shores beach. I strolled a mile and a half up and down the beach while working my way through an audiobook, and found there to be quite a few beachgoers for a Monday in October. We stayed until the sun began to set and the weather got dark and cloudy once again.

Can you spot the (dead) jellyfish??

We headed back to our hotel and showered before exploring town a little bit and grabbing a quick bite. The rain finally began, but it wasn't too terrible. It definitely seemed like it had rained more downtown than on the beach side.

Day 3 - Tuesday, October 15, 2019

In true Larson fashion, we were packed up, checked out, and out the door not too long after 7AM (which is late compared to days we spent on the road as a kid!) We were at the beach by 7:30AM, because again, it was suppose to rain and we wanted to enjoy the warm weather while we still could. We sat for a bit, then dad and I went for a mile and a half walk heading the opposite direction than we had both walked the day before. Again, there were quite a few people out on a Tuesday morning in mid-October. There were some fisherman, but mainly families with kids.

A little before noon we began to head towards home - taking the long route through Mississippi. We stopped in Meridian, MS for Cracker Barrel, because when in the south, that's where you eat! We hit some pretty hard downpour on the way, and it seemed we had left Gulf Shores at the right time (even more so now that they have a tropical storm on the way!)

We swung through Tuscaloosa to check out the University of Alabama, but it had to be a quick drive through as the rain was still coming down. We ended up staying at a hotel south of Birmingham which worked out great because it was right next to a Whataburger! (Not quite as good as In-N-Out, but also YUM!)

Day 4 - Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Honestly there is nothing really to add about this day except that we made it home after a lot of Birmingham traffic and a quick stop at McKay's!!

You can find all travel posts from Hey Dreamer Blog here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

#gretchensbooks2019 - September

Remember how I said I would do better about recapping books and post about them while they were still relevant in my mind? - well I am! Here it is, in September, and I'm actually sharing my thoughts to this empty post about books I read THIS MONTH. And I’m actually going to post it as soon as this month is over. I swear!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

Image result for 102 minutes79. 102 Minutes The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn (4/5 ★)
Hailed upon its hardcover publication as an instant classic, the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller and National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction is now available in a revised edition timed to honor the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

At 8:46 a.m. that morning, fourteen thousand people were inside the World Trade Center just starting their workdays, but over the next 102 minutes, each would become part of a drama for the ages. Of the millions of words written about this wrenching day, most were told from the outside looking in. New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn draw on hundreds of interviews with rescuers and survivors, thousands of pages of oral histories, and countless phone, e-mail, and emergency radio transcripts to tell the story of September 11 from the inside looking out.

Dwyer and Flynn have woven an epic and unforgettable account of the struggle, determination, and grace of the ordinary men and women who made 102 minutes count as never before.

I was three months short of ten years old when the Twin Towers fell. Old enough to know something terrible had happened, but too young to really understand it. 102 Minutes gave a look into the lives of those in the towers when tragedy struck. Though terrifying, it was interesting to me to learn about what in what like in the time between the first plane hitting the tower and the final collapse. I also am naive enough to think that police departments and fire departments get along, which apparently was so far from reality when 9/11 happened.

80. Gretchen by Shannon Kirk (3.5/5 ★)

The new tenants have a terrible secret. So do the landlord and his daughter…
Ever since Lucy was two, she’s been on the run alongside her mother. She’s never understood the reason for a lifetime of paranoia, aliases, and lies. All she understands are the rules: never lock eyes with strangers, never let down your guard, and always be ready to move on.
Finally, after thirteen years and eleven states, their next hideaway seems perfect. An isolated, fortresslike place in the New Hampshire woods is the new home they share with its owner, a gentlemanly pianist, and his lonely daughter, Gretchen. She’s Lucy’s age and soon becomes Lucy’s first real friend.
But Gretchen and her father have secrets of their own—and an obsession with puzzles that draws Lucy into a terrifying new game of hide-and-seek. Lucy’s dark past is about to come calling. And this time, for her and her mother in the house on the hill, it might be too late to run.

Obviously, I only read this book because of the title.  Well that, and a lot of bookstagrammers were recommending it. At first it felt kinda of slow. I kept putting it down and picking up another book. It was odd, but nothing too suspenseful. Then it got absolutely weird. Like to the point that I had to put it down at night because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to sleep if I kept reading it. The last third of the book was SO much better than the beginning.i could NOT put it down, and stayed up much too late on a school night finishing it!!

Image result for i am malala81. I am Malala by MalalaYousafzai (5/5 ★) 

Malala Yousafzai was only ten years old when the Taliban took control of her region. They said music was a crime. They said women weren't allowed to go to the market. They said girls couldn't go to school.

Raised in a once-peaceful area of Pakistan transformed by terrorism, Malala was taught to stand up for what she believes. So she fought for her right to be educated. And on October 9, 2012, she nearly lost her life for the cause: She was shot point-blank while riding the bus on her way home from school. No one expected her to survive.

Now Malala is an international symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner. In this Young Readers Edition of her bestselling memoir, which has been reimagined specifically for a younger audience and includes exclusive photos and material, we hear firsthand the remarkable story of a girl who knew from a young age that she wanted to change the world -- and did.

Malala's powerful story will open your eyes to another world and will make you believe in hope, truth, miracles and the possibility that one person -- one young person -- can inspire change in her community and beyond.

I don’t know how I made it this far past publication before reading this book. It listened to it on audio, so I finished it in a day, but it was really good! I knew of Malala, and the very basics of her story, but I really didn’t know any details. I highly recommend this for any middle grade reader, and even for adults. Though she did not narrate the audiobook, a performer with a similar accent did, which I loved. The audio also included her UN speech at the end which was intriguing to hear. I think I listened to the version meant for children, but I'm sure the storyline is the same.

82. Final Girls by Riley Sager (4/5 ★)
Image result for final girls by riley sager
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls: Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancĂ©, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit; and Sam, the second Final Girl, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

This was a good one!! I had predictions throughout, but I truly had no idea what to think about who was guilty of what until I got to the end. I’d think I knew, then something would happen and I’d think something else, then something else would happen and I’d change my mind again! Not my favorite suspense read of this year, but definitely a good one!!

Reading Challenge: 82/50 books read in 2019

You can find previous book reviews here!