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.