Lidocaine Nasal Drops for Migraine Treatment

migraine treatment

Earlier this year I wrote about intranasal nerve blocks for migraine treatment, a newly-FDA-approved treatment.  At a recent appointment with my neurologist, I asked about it.  My doctor doesn’t recommend it for me, but he does recommend a lower tech version (one I referenced in my initial post).  Instead of lidocaine applied via camera-guided catheter to a bundle of nerves deep in the sinuses, he prescribed me a 4% lidocaine solution and gave me a nasal dropper.  When I get a migraine, I am supposed to lie down on my back, on my bed, with my head hanging off the end.  Then I dispense several drops of lidocaine – the angle of my head will allow the lidocaine to flow back and anesthetize the ganglion block.

My neurologist expects that these nasal drops will significantly improve my migraine pain, although he’s not sure whether they’ll be effective on my other symptoms, like nausea and photosensitivity.  But I have my drops waiting by my bedside table now, waiting for my next migraine to hit.  I hope this works!

Have you ever asked about a treatment and had a lower tech or less invasive version recommended, either for medical reasons or because insurance wouldn’t cover the more involved treatment?  Have any LL readers tried lidocaine treatments for their migraines?  While I wait to see how these drops work for me, I’d love to hear how they’ve worked for you.

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Partnering With Friends To Maintain Motivation

how to maintain motivation

According to my neurologist, migraines respond well to structure.  That means I’m supposed to keep a regular sleeping and eating schedule, and also exercise daily.  The latter is particularly unappealing on my bad days, which is why I enlisted some friends as exercise buddies.  They hold me accountable, making sure I get out for a jog or a brisk walk every day, without fail.  If I miss a day, I’ll end up with two furry black monsters bouncing off the walls.

While not everyone has, or wants, a pair of rambunctious dogs, the general principle of making a joint commitment with a friend is a great way to increase your motivation and accountability.  When you cancel a workout or a study date, you’re not just canceling on yourself (which is often easy, especially when dealing with fatigue and/or pain), but you’re letting someone else down.  That external force can help keep you on track.

In addition to my canine exercise buddies, I have friends with whom I regularly schedule work sessions and chore days.  It feels a little silly at times, but it definitely helps, so I do it!

Have you ever used this method?  Did it work for you? How to maintain motivation is always challenging.  How do you do it? 

Gluten-Free Berry Lemon Cake

gluten-free recipes

There aren’t any gluten-free (GF) bakeries in my area, which means I am on my own when it comes to GF cakes, pies, and scones.  Fortunately, the internet is full of good gluten-free recipes.  I recently found a recipe from the UK for a raspberry polenta cake; I converted the measurements and adapted it to be nut-free.  The result is delicious – rich without being too heavy, and sweet without being overly so.  I used raspberries when I made it, but I think it would be just as wonderful with any berry (I think I’ll try blueberry next).


Do you have any favorite gluten-free recipes?  Share them in the comments!

Gluten-free berry lemon cake, adapted from Stevie Parle’s gluten-free raspberry and polenta cake recipe from The Telegraph.

8oz unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup white rice flour

1/2 cup corn meal

1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp lemon extract

6 oz fresh raspberries

1 Tbs confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 10-inch springform pan.

Beat the butter and sugar until creamy and pale, then beat in eggs one at a time.  Stir in rice flour, corn meal, baking powder, salt, and lemon extract.

Pour half of the batter into the pan, and sprinkle the raspberries evenly on top.  Add the rest of the batter and smooth it over the raspberries, covering them completely.

Bake for 50–60 minutes until golden on top and firm in the middle.  Cool in the pan.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving, if desired.

Does your long term illness require a gluten-free diet?  What gluten-free recipes do you enjoy?

Lidocaine Nerve Blocks For Migraines

new migraine treatment

Staying on top of the latest and greatest treatments for young adult cancer and chronic illness can sometimes be overwhelming.  Staying specific to whatever condition you or your loved one is suffering from can help narrow down the search.  Today we’re bringing you something new on the forefront of migraine treatment.

Last month several major news outlets, including TIME magazine, reported on a new migraine treatment called “image-guided, intranasal sphenopalatine ganglion block”.  The name is a mouthful, but the principle is straightforward: using a catheter inserted through the nose, lidocaine (a local anesthetic) was applied to a the sphenopalatine ganglion, a bundle of nerves behind the nose that is linked to migraines.  The lidocaine numbs the nerves and relieves some of the pain associated with migraines.

Using lidocaine (a local anesthetic) to treat migraines is nothing new, but using an image-guided catheter to target the sphenopalatine ganglion seems novel; the previous treatments I know about use IV drips, injections, nasal drops, or nasal sprays.  And the treatment is promising, significantly reducing migraine severity in patients the following day, with effects still evident thirty days later.

I have had a nerve block, one targeting the greater occipital nerve; I had positive, although not overwhelming, results from it.  If my neurologist offers this newer treatment, I’d like to compare the two.

Have you had any experience with nerve blocks?  Would you consider this treatment?

How Can You Help Someone With A Serious Or Chronic Illness?

If you have a friend or family member with a serious illness, you may want to help them out, but be at a loss for the best way.  I can’t speak for everyone dealing with health problems, but these are the things people have done for me that have helped me most, and made me feel loved and encouraged.

Asking for help is hard, but accepting help is much easier.  So instead of saying “Let me know if you need anything.” I recommend making a specific offer.

Last spring was especially difficult for me, so when a friend offered to cook dinner, I was incredibly grateful, and that feeling was compounded when I saw how much effort she put into it.  She asked for a list of my food restrictions and preferences, and put together an amazing meal – main course, side dishes, and dessert.  And she made lots of everything, so I had leftovers to enjoy as well.  Trying to cook a healthy meal while dealing with fatigue is a big challenge (there’s a strong temptation to have a bowl of cereal and call it a day), so having that burden lifted for a few days was a wonderful gift.  Not a cook?  Consider bringing by take-out or a restaurant gift card.

Shopping for groceries is also intimidating when just getting through the day seems impossible.  I have friends who call to ask if they can pick up anything for me when they go to the grocery store or the drug store.  Knowing that a dozen eggs and some apples, or some much-needed tissues, are going to appear at my doorstep can be a remarkable relief on some days.

If a trip to the grocery store seems daunting, imagine how shoveling snow looks!  During one of the big snows last winter, my boyfriend was out of town.  I was on my own as far as shoveling the driveway went, until a neighbor came over with his snowblower, and cleared my driveway and sidewalk in just a few minutes, without even asking.  I almost cried.  Mowing grass or raking leaves will inspire the same deep gratitude (as will indoor chores like cleaning and doing laundry).

Some chores can be put off for a while – cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming the living room, doing the dishes.  But dogs have to go out a few times a day, every day.  If your friend has dogs, offer to walk them – not only will your friend be thankful, the dogs will be, too.

While I don’t have children, I know from my experiences as a babysitter and an aunt how tiring it can be to take care of them.  Taking on childcare tasks can give your friend a much-needed rest, and their children some time to be normal kids, away from the ever-present atmosphere of illness.  My friends with kids recommend a trip outside the house – to a park, a museum, a movie.  And interactive gifts for the children, to help keep them occupied at home, are also high on the list; consider bringing over art supplies or building toys.

The above are all practical suggestions, but sometimes a social visit can be equally heartening.  A serious or chronic illness is very isolating – people with them often have scaled back their social lives and their work lives, and it can get lonely.  So go for a visit.  Talk if your friend needs to be distracted, listen if they need to vent.  If you’re not nearby, you can call, email, or write.  Just knowing that I’m in someone’s thoughts makes me feel less lonely.

Have suggestions for other ways to help?  Leave them in the comments!

More Things To Do With All This Time

If you read my last post, you might think I have an “all work and no play” attitude, even when I’m sick.  But that’s not the case – I spend plenty of time on non-intellectual pursuits as well!  I especially love movies, TV series, radio series, and podcasts.  They keep my mind occupied without overtaxing it, which is perfect for when I’m feeling bad enough to stay in bed, but not quite bad enough to sleep (or try to).

One-off movies and programs are great, and I have enjoyed many, but I especially like series, so I can be engaged in the same story over a long period of time.  Here are some of my favorites.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, seasons one and two (radio program).  Classic absurdist science fiction comedy.  There have been a few film and TV versions of HHGTTG, but I don’t think they compare to the brilliance of the original radio program.  I listen to this every few years, and it always cracks me up.  Seasons three, four, and five were produced after Douglas Adams’s death; I haven’t heard them yet, but they’re on my list.

Firefly (TV series) and Serenity (movie sequel to the series).  This show has a hug cult following, and it’s not hard to see why – the television series is imaginative, strongly character-driven, well-written, and well-acted.   It only ran for one season, with a movie following a few years later.  I suggest giving this a try even if you don’t like science fiction; it’s made a lot of converts.

Indiana Jones (movies).  I love the slightly campy side to these movies, and the subtle nods to adventure films of the 1930s and 1940s.  There’s nothing especially deep in any of the films, but there is a great deal of charm, and they stand up well to multiple viewings.

Pride and Prejudice (BBC miniseries).  I know it is a bit of a cliche for an American woman to love this series, but I don’t care.  It gets everything right – the humor in Jane Austen’s most famous book, the romance, and the social commentary.  The casting, acting, and dialogue are all stellar.  As an aside, this is an especially wonderful series to watch with friends.

Sherlock (BBC series).  Another great BBC production, Sherlock has a marvelous premise: that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, is living and solving extraordinary cases in modern-day London.  It’s very clever, and absolutely intriguing – the kind of show you have to talk about after seeing.  Each episode is about ninety minutes long, as long as a shorter movie, so there’s enough time with each one to get completely sucked in.

Do you have any favorite series that have helped you through tough times?  Share them in the comments!

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What To Do With All This Time?

When I stopped working because of my migraines, I was having five to seven every week.  My headaches were pretty severe, and even when I didn’t have one I still felt poorly from the side effects of my medicines (and no doubt from stress as well).  I spent as much time as I could resting.  Having migraines was a full-time job, and I worked plenty of overtime.

These days my migraines have improved on all all fronts.  I have fewer (generally three to five per week), they are less severe, and in between headaches I often feel pretty good.  I spend less time sleeping (although still more than the average person, I’m sure) and I have more time to do things.  Of course this is all excellent – I have no desire to go back to daily migraines and complete debilitation.  But it means that while I am not well enough to go back to work (and the unpredictably of my illness certainly contributes to that) I am also frustrated sitting at home with little to do.   Adorable cat videos can only go so far, so here are my favorite internet resources for fun, productive, and interesting time-fillers.

  • Project Gutenberg – An online collection of ebooks, all in the public domain, over 46,000 of them.  You can read them online, or download them onto your computer or an ereader.  They also offer audiobooks (some through a partnership with Librivox), and have lots of at-home volunteer opportunities, including proofreading and promoting the site.
  • Librivox – A great companion to Project Gutenberg, this is an online repository of free, public domain literary works in audiobook form.  They are all recorded and contributed by volunteers, so the quality can vary, but overall I love this site, and I’ve listened to so many good books.  I’ve never recorded a book for them, but it is on my to-do list!
  • TED Talks – TED talks are recorded talks from TED conferences, and cover all sorts of subjects – design, sociology, politics, science, education, policy, technological innovation, history, business, medicine (including cancer), etc.  They are all accessible to a general audience (you won’t need a PhD to understand them) and are almost invariably extremely interesting.  I like using TED Talks as a way to stay engaged on a deeper level with all sorts of current issues and developments.  I’m not out having discussions with colleagues about the latest advances in biotechnology, but this is a good alternative.  One of my personal favorites is Jane McGonigal’s talk on her game SuperBetter.
  • MOOCs – a MOOC is a “massive open online course”, basically, an online class that is provided for free and is available to unlimited numbers of students.  Many colleges and universities offer MOOCs, either through their own systems or in conjunction with MOOC platforms like Coursera, Udacity, and edX.  While you won’t get college credit for the MOOCs you take, you’ll still gain the knowledge.  I’m taking courses to improve and expand my technical skill set so that when I go back to work I’ll have moved forward, instead of fallen behind.  I also take them for fun.  If anyone is interested in learning how to build Android apps, sign up for this course and we can learn together (with over 17,000 other students, too)!
  • Duolingo – this is free online language instruction based on crowd-sourced information.  I use this to keep my French sharp, but it is also great for learning languages you’ve never studied before.  Lessons are short and quick, so you can progress while putting in just a few minutes at a time.

These resources help me stay busy and productive despite my migraines, and I feel good knowing that my time isn’t wasted.  Figuring out what to do when sick isn’t easy!  Do you have other online activities that keep you occupied when your illness keeps you housebound?  Let us know in the comments!

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Favorite products, gluten-free edition

Going gluten-free means cutting a lot of foods out of my diet (goodbye, croissants!), but there are some things I’d rather not give up unless I have to.  So while wheat bread is definitely out of the question, not all bread is off the list.

Twenty years ago, gluten-free breads, cookies, and crackers were hard to find, but now there are decent options in most grocery stores.  Sometimes, though, you don’t want a decent option, you want a great one.  Here are some of the winners I’ve found in my year of living gluten-free.

  • GlutenWize cookies and granola (pictured).  My mom knows the owners of GlutenWize, which is lucky, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have heard of them.  I’ve had a lot of gluten-free cookies in the last year, and theirs are, hands-down, the best.  Their soft and chewy granola is dangerously addictive, too.  My top picks are the oatmeal raisin cookies and the maple granola.
  • Gorilla Munch cereal from Nature’s Path.  Crispy, corny, sweet goodness.  It’s on the expensive side, though, so my go-to cereals are Chex and GF Rice Krispies.
  • Schar gluten-free breads.  Bread products are some of the hardest to get right, and I’d had some really bad attempts, but Schar has good pre-made breads and also a nice boxed mix.
  • Bob’s Red Mill‘s gluten-free All Purpose Flour.  For when you just have to bake something.  I substitute this one-for-one for wheat flour in my recipes, and it always turns out well.
  • King Arthur Flour‘s gluten-free Pancake Mix.  This makes light, fluffy, classic pancakes; they’re easy to cook and very tasty.  They can be made into waffles, also, but I’ve never tried that.

I am still on a quest to find some amazing gluten-free pasta, pizza, and bagels, and I’m open to suggestions!  What are your favorite gluten-free products?

Automating Daily Tasks

You know how when you are exhausted, nauseous, and headachy, all you want to do is make an emergency run to the grocery store for some toilet paper? Yeah, me either. Having and treating a chronic illness takes up a lot of energy, and makes everyday tasks and errands more daunting and more draining. I try automating daily tasks as much as possible, so I have fewer things on my to-do list.  Here are some things I’m glad not to worry about:

  • Going to the bank to check my account balance.  I access my accounts online (but not from public computers – a secure machine is a must!).
  • Pulling out my checkbook and stamps to pay bills.  Every month I get an email from my cell phone company – they tell me what I owe, and that they’ll take it out of my linked account in two days time.  This lets me review my bill in case any weird charges show up, but means that I don’t have to lift a finger beyond that.  Some of my other bills I also pay online, although sadly not via an automatic process.
  • Shopping for dog food.  Rather than going to the grocery store to sling around heavy bags of kibble, I have dog food delivered on a monthly basis.  This type of subscription delivery service is useful for anything you use at a steady rate (vitamins, snacks, tissues, shampoo, etc.).

Most of these are small tasks, but they add up.  I definitely recommend seeing if your bank/utility providers/online retailers of choice offer these kinds of services.

Do you have any other tips for automating daily tasks or cutting down on time-consuming errands?  Is there anything else you put on automatic pilot?

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Purple For A Purpose

I am not really a girly girl – I don’t paint my nails or accessorize my outfits or style my hair or wear makeup. Usually, that is. But recently I saw a campaign to show support for lung cancer patients that involves painting ones toenails purple.  So I borrowed some nail polish from a friend, and did this to my toes:   It’s a message for anyone dealing with a serious illness – I support you.

I know this is a small gesture, and it’s purely symbolic.  But small things can matter, and if this matters to someone, then I’m glad to do it.

How do you support those you love with cancer?

I can't believe I am putting a photo of my toes online
I can’t believe I am putting a photo of my toes online 🙂