Friday, January 22, 2016

Migraines, Wrinkles and Red Tape


I have headaches. All kinds of headaches. Some are dull and some are debilitating. I never know what I'm going to get. Most seem to radiate from my neck and go on up. Some feel like they're around my temples and some are in other places on my head. Anyone I've been in a long term relationship with knows this because they were subject to my frequent requests for neck, shoulder and head squeezing. I used to ask my boyfriend in high school to just "push on my head". It had to be so annoying. I know the constant asking for massage annoys B!

I don't know the exact age it started. I remember being young enough that I couldn't swallow a pill. I'm going to guess around six years old. My mom would give me liquid Panadol, which I assume was like Tylenol. Eventually I graduated to Advil because they were easy to swallow. I recall my friend once mentioning that I probably shouldn't be taking that much Advil, but I really had no choice. Some days I most likely took around eight of them. Later came Aleve, which I thought worked better. But none were like a magic cure and if I didn't catch the headache by a certain time, I'd be screwed. I could take twenty and it wouldn't matter. Nothing would help.

My mom sent me to Holy Name Hospital when I was a senior in high school to try Biofeedback. That didn't work. She also sent me to a chiropractor. That worked while I was there, sitting with heat on my shoulders for forty-five minutes, getting a little massage and an adjustment. However, I felt like I'd need to go daily if I really wanted to get rid of the headaches. Over the years, I just learned to live with the pain. I didn't consider the headaches to be migraines because I thought you had to be sensitive to light or be throwing up. Since a lot of the pain was in my neck, I just assumed a doctor would call it a tension headache and hand me a box of Excedrin.

About ten years ago, I started having really bad back pain too. I had an MRI and it turns out I have some bulging discs and degenerative disc disease. A doctor gave me oxycodone. Yes, I'm aware that many people get addicted to this, but I'm way too rigid and routined to get addicted to anything. Except jellybeans. And cake. But not pills. I need to function during the day, not napping. As much as I'd like to take to the bed, that's not an option, so I can't take that kind of thing during the day. I once took a muscle relaxer and I was like the sister in Sixteen Candles on her wedding day to the oily bohunk. 

What I started doing was taking two Excedrin and the Oxycodone for the headaches. I cut the Oxycodone into four quarters with a pill splitter, and just take a small piece at night. That's the only think I knew to at least just take the edge off the pain so I could go to sleep. Along with sleeping in this weird, head-stretching position. None of that was an answer though. That was just me cobbling together something that worked. It's also not like I had/have unlimited access to a narcotic. You feel like a junkie just asking a doctor for it. I feel like every doctor must be suspicious of anyone that asks for that. So, that couldn't be the only thing that works for me. It's just all I'd found. I'd taken all kinds of over the counter and prescription medications that were basically garbage.

I admit, I pretty much gave up on ever having a solution. I just figured I'd buy out CVS generic Excedrin gel caps and live with pain. Maybe run over to The Healthy Way for a massage when I can. Then two of my friends, within the span of a few months, both said they get Botox for migraines. This, of course, was very interesting to me. No, I know what you're thinking. Everyone knows I love Botox. And yes, I have been getting it since I was thirty for wrinkles. But this headache thing is also legit. The thought of around thirty-something needles in my head and neck that might alleviate pain along with wrinkles is a reason to get excited. I'd also seen the commercials on tv for that usage of Botox. You see the commercials for meds all the time. My assumption was then, that you ask your doctor for it, and if your doctor determines that would be a good treatment for you, you get it. I made an appointment with a neurologist my one friend sees.

I went the first week of November. I got schooled by Dr Tom (Thomas Kreibich). He says my headaches ARE migraines. There are all different kinds of migraines. And Botox is a solution to them he uses. The doctor- he's very nice, knowledgeable, and wants to help. Unfortunately, my idea of how medication and insurance works & how they really work, are two totally different things. Even if your doctor thinks a medication you saw on tv can help you, he actually can't just prescribe it, unless you want to pay an exorbitant amount of money out of pocket. Why? Because insurance is penny-wise, dollar foolish. This whole song and dance I've gone through has been the perfect illustration of it.

**Don't leave comments that it's Obama's fault. Obama is not the reason I can't just get my Botox. I don't know whose fault it is- Big pharma? Their greed? Insurance companies and their greed? Stupidity? I don't know. But it *IS* stupid, that's for sure.

 The doctor told me that it definitely sounds like Botox could help me. It makes sense. It paralyzes the muscles. If they're paralyzed, minimally, they can't spasm. Or at least, that's my understanding of how it works. That's how it works on my face. Supposedly, it can cut migraines down by half. The problem is, the insurance companies don't want to pay for it, so you have to "fail" like two other medications before they'll consider it. He has to prescribe me something then come back in a month. If what he prescribed didn't work, I have to try something else, come back in another month and THEN he could put in for approval for the Botox. This is insane. That's one hundred and twenty dollars in co-pays for me, and whatever these two medications cost them for me to just waste. Along with with my wasted time. Time patients could be without pain, just because they don't want to pay for what the doctor thinks is going to work.

The kicker is, the DOCTOR also has to not only know what will help, but what insurances are most likely to definitely not going to pay for. Again, with my understanding- He has to prescribe things he knows probably aren't going to work, just to get the "fail". So it's like in addition to being a doctor, trying to help people, these doctors have to spend their free time researching how stingy and annoying each different insurance company is about medications. There is never any linear approach and time saving. Just total waste. The frustration on both the patients and doctors has to be at an all time high since commercials on tv for medications have been allowed. People obsess about possible potential medical problems. Otherwise there wouldn't be so many sites like WebMD. It's a no-brainer that you hear these commercials about this or that magic drug and you're going to think it may help you. Only they don't tell you in the commercial, that while the drug sounds great and like everything you've been looking for, that you just might not be able to get it. Or get it in any kind of timely fashion. Unless you're a millionaire.

I had my third appointment this past week. After all that, two useless prescriptions later, the doctor was able to put in for the approval for my Botox. I only have to wait another four to eight weeks for it! I'll update in a few months on either that my Botox was denied or how it's working for me in terms of migraines. In the meantime, if you need a good neurologist in Bergen County- I have one.

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