What Are You Thankful For? BOTOX!!!!

Nov 23 2010 Published by under Naming Experience, Some Good News For A Change

As Scicurious has noted, American Thanksgiving is fast approaching this week.  So some of us Scientopians (and other bloggers who want to play) are contemplating

1) AN ITEM: what item in your scientific career are you most thankful for, which has made your life immeasurably easier? Pubmed? The rapid cycling PCR machine?

2) A PERSON: Who in your field (or out of it) has really influenced your career as it is today, made you what you are and your career what it is?

3) AN IDEA: what idea are you especially thankful for? Did a big idea change your field entirely? Did it call into question everything you thought you knew?

I'm not currently a working scientist, so I'm going to focus on things from the perspective of a patient.  And the item, so to speak, I am giving thanks for today, is Botox.  No, not Botox treatments for stars and star wannabes who desire an eternally youthful appearance.  Botox treatments for those of us with chronic migraine, for whom all other options have been exhausted.  Seven years ago I suffered a stroke caused by a migraine.  A somewhat ironic consequence of the stroke was increased severity and frequency of migraines. Triptan drugs, miracle migraine cures to so many, were forbidden to me because of their vasoconstrictive action.  I slowly worked my way through the available pharmacopia of migraine preventatives and putative migraine pain relievers, only to find that the side effects of the meds were intolerable, and my migraines continued to worsen in frequency and severity.  I developed new sensitivities to foods I'd never had before.  I couldn't eat bananas, peanut butter, yoghurt, chocolate, or anything with even a trace of onion - even a teaspoon of ketchup would set off a migraine, because it contained onion powder.  It became pointless to go to restaurants or try to order takeout. I lost thirty pounds.  People complimented me on my weight loss and asked me for my diet tips. Strong scents were often triggering, bright lights as well. Eventually I arrived at the point where more than thirty minutes not spent lying flat on my back in bed meant intolerable throbbing pain so bad it made me cry. I was a regular visitor at emergency rooms to abate the very worst of the migraines.  My world collapsed to my home, and then to my bedroom.  People expressed envy about how wonderful it must be to not have to work and get to stay home all the time.

And then I had my first botox treatment.

Within minutes of that treatment, I began to experience relief.  Within half an hour, the pain was gone.  Completely gone.

I was a new person.  Or, a reasonable approximation of the person I used to be.

I made an appointment to get my hair cut, and was able to keep the appointment.  My sister came to visit, and I was able to go with her to an arts and crafts festival and enjoy myself.

That was six years ago.

Since then, regular botox treatments have kept me from imprisonment in the bedroom.  Botox can't completely eliminate my migraines, but the regular treatments have drastically reduced their severity.  I haven't set foot inside an emergency room in years. I no longer use narcotics like demerol, dilaudid, or fentanyl to treat my migraine pain - and so I'm not at risk of becoming addicted to them, either.

I fought for months to get my insurance company to pay for my botox treatments, given my high risk medical history, lack of alternatives, and ongoing chronic, severe, refractory migraines.  Given all that, and the world of good that botox has done for me, imagine how I rejoiced when I learned that the FDA had finally approved botox for treatment of chronic migraine.

And imagine how insulted I felt at this flippant tag line the New York Times used to close their article announcing this great good news to migraine sufferers throughout the U.S.:

But neurologists point to a more welcome side effect for some — fewer wrinkles.

Hahaha!  That's so funny!  A welcome side effect!  Fewer wrinkles!  That is TOTALLY why I go for the botox!

People, I would not care if botox turned my forehead green with purple splotches.  I am so tired of people saying to me "hey, bonus, you'll never have wrinkles!"  The bonus is that I have a life.  I can make appointments and have a reasonable expectation (not 100% chance, just reasonable expectation) that I'll be able to keep them.  I can go outside on a nice sunny day and rake leaves in my back yard, because I feel good enough to do it and the sun doesn't bother me.  I can eat chocolate again.  I can eat chocolate again!  Did you hear that?  I can eat chocolate again!  I can eat things with cooked onion in them again.  I can eat yoghurt and bananas and peanut butter.

Those are the welcome side effects of botox.  That, and the hope that I will live long enough, and healthily enough, to be an old, happy, wrinkled Zuska.

For all of that, and more, I am thankful for botox treatments for chronic migraine.

9 responses so far

  • skeptifem says:

    I had a patient who was an engineer for medical products. I asked him what he was proudest of, and he talked about a chemical that mimics botox (without the toxin and risk of problems associated with that). Its still being tested. I thought of ya.

    Also: I hate thanksgiving. Why is it a holiday? Why is columbus day a holiday, for that matter?

  • Pharm Sci Grad says:

    Today, I too am thankful for Botox. Anything that can give hope to someone who's lost it is a medical miracle in my book. I'm so glad that it has made your life livable, as we in this society need a variety of voices to make it better. Enjoy!

  • Afsaneh says:

    My dear suz, the day I read about approval of Botox for chronic migraine, I thought of you and I was happy.

    Happy Thanksgiving. I always remember thanksgiving in your home with the members of the postdoctoral club of fccc.


  • [...] Zuska is thankful for Botox. Read her post, and you will be too. [...]

  • Estraven says:

    I'm a rare commenter, but like Afsaneh, when I read of the approval of Botox for migraine I thought of you and was happy. Sometimes science is really great.

  • Warren says:

    I had no idea Botox could actually be used for something medically serious. So I'm grateful to you, Zuska, for posting about it. The next time I find myself in conversation with a migraine sufferer (I know a couple of them), I'll ask if they've heard of this application.

    • Zuska says:

      The caveat is that botox will not work for every migraine sufferer, and that FDA approval does not mean it will be available to every person with migraine. At least initially, it will probably only be available to people with chronic migraine and/or with migraine episode frequency of approx. 15 days per month. By available, I mean, getting your insurance to pay for it. Even then, there will probably be hefty copays. It is not cheap. My insurance has been paying for the past five years prior to FDA approval because I was considered a special case without alternatives for treatment, and because I fought hard, and basically submitted a mini-clinical study report on myself, and because I had prior data showing efficacy of botox in my case. Even so, they recently denied my coverage DESPITE having agreed that I had no alternatives and was a high risk patient, and DESPITE the FDA approval have declined to reverse their denial. I am still fighting them, but could wait no longer for treatment. By the time you pay for the Botox and the doctor's fee, you are out of pocket $1200. I will be writing a post about how insurance companies are evil spawn of Satan, but didn't want to do that in my Thankful post.

  • skeptifem says:

    Hey Zuska- do you know if the grouping/number/location of injections is the same for migranes and wrinkle treatment?

    • Zuska says:

      I can't imagine that it would be, since some of the injections I get are in the following locations: top of the scalp; several points in a line behind the temples; back of the head; base of the skull; back of neck, on the sides; tops of the shoulders; all of that in addition to a few spots in the forehead and just above the eyebrows. The forehead/eyebrow injections are not, I would guess, in the same place that one would desire for wrinkle reduction. The other locations can't possibly have anything to do with wrinkles, unless one is terribly worried about having a wrinkly base of the skull.