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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Migraines and Alert Dogs

Some of you have inquired about my migraines. I decided to stop writing about them very much because they were taking over my life, and I imagined that my posts must be repetitive. Indeed, I had about 15 separate migraines in March and, so far, I've had 7 separate events in April. Each one affects me for at least a full day and usually multiple days.

I'm scared to write that I might be on the right track because I always get a migraine right after writing that optimistic view. But, I now have a neurologist who is very sharp and caring, and I'm on preventative supplements and medications. The medications do make me feel sleepy but that's better than having migraines.

I'm also working hard at learning to moderate my lifestyle a bit. Every afternoon, I meditate and I also wear my Cefaly TENS headband (just approved by the FDA). It's hard to know what part of my routine is helping the most because I'm doing multiple things at once. However, just the other day, a bad headache was starting, and a round of treatment with my headband stopped it. So, the headband might be playing an important role.

I've read several articles about "migraine-alert dogs". These dogs sense that a person is going to get a migraine before the bad symptoms hit. They alert the person, who can then take measures to reduce the severity of the oncoming migraine. I truly hope that I never need such a dog (because I'd prefer not to get lots of migraines) but I am going to watch Shyla closely to see if she naturally gives me subtle signals that a migraine is sneaking up on me. She is the most sensitive dog I've known so it seems possible that she can play this role.
In the midst of it all, I try to consistently do the things that make me happy, even when I'm not feeling well. I love mountain bike rides and hikes with the dogs. As you know, Shyla and I are out in the morning every day, even if my head is throbbing.
We like the sunny days the most, like this morning (as long as I wear my dark glasses - bright light seems to be one of my most consistent migraine triggers).
Shyla amazes me with her athleticism almost every day. By watching her and playing with her, I forget everything else - the perfect therapy for me.
I love watching our dogs sampling the scents in the air that I don't even know are there.
I wonder whether it's scent or behavioral changes that forewarn a migraine-alert dog of an imminent episode. I plan to read more about it - the uncanny abilities of our dogs never cease to astound me.


  1. Glad to hear you are starting to get relief for the migraines. I wouldn't be surprised to find out Shyla senses your episodes coming.

  2. How we hope the new plan will bring you much needed relief from the pain of migraines. I always remember my daughter's neurologist told me when she was very young that no one can truly appreciate the pain of a migraine until one has had one. Prayers coming your way.

  3. I think I am very lucky. My mother had disabling migraines and my daughter has them several times a month. I also had migraines but without a headache. I lost partial vision in my left eye. The new headbands appear to offer a good result. I do hope they work for you.

  4. I hope the plan works for you!

  5. really glad to hear the headband may be helping! and that you have a good doc, too.

  6. Welll you know how I feel about dogs and their abilities. So imagining you and Shyla working towards an alert dog team seems like a perfect plan. I dont know if you knew how Goose lets Michelle know when she is about to have an attack. With your search and rescue background you will know how to watch Shyla for the alerting signals. I am a beliver that it is a change in teh human scent that is the warning system but subtle behaivoral changes makes sense too. Boy did I go off on a writing binge here. Keep us posted.

  7. They must be so traumatizing to have so many in a row. I can't begin to imagine.

    I have no doubt that Shyla senses the migraines when they come on. My dogs always give me warnings when my PTSD comes on and are right there to help me through.

    Glad you are finding some relief. We'll be praying for you.

  8. We hope you don't have any more migraines either BUT it will be interesting if Shyla picks up on them. You can have your headband in place early.

    XXXOOO Bella & Roxy

  9. We just want you to feel good, and not have headaches! We know that you find things to make you happy- you search for happiness everyday,, and you don't have to search far0- because its right in front of you!

  10. The new Doc and headband, supplements all sound SO positive, I am excited for the future for you.

    I only have very rare garden variety headaches, but my mother had disabling migraines so I have seen them in action.

    Always wishing you the best,

    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  11. I bet Shyla could pick up on your upcoming bouts of migraines no problem. She'd just have to be trained to do so. But you're right, I hope you never need a migraine alert dog, either!

  12. Sounds like things are looking up!

  13. Hopes that headbands and all other new systems help. Bright light, does flickering light also trigger a headache? I wonder if when you bike in the mornings, sunlight flickers through those wonderful trees? Lovely photos, I'm sure they are both very aware of you and how you are every moment. Hugs, jean.

  14. I hope you get more relief from the migraines, but I'm glad you're still able to get out and get some joy from life. I'm so glad you decided to get Shyla!

  15. Your strength in the face of such tests of life always amazes me! I hope the treatments help and that Shyla is your 'warning' dog.

  16. Is Shyla really keen to use her nose? I ask because that seems to be one of the things that dogs who do alerts for things like seizures seem to be able to do their job. The theory would be that your scent would change as the electricity in your body changes. I hope that you do have a handle on it and you cat them under control!

  17. Beautiful pictures. Mom gets migraines too. Recently for one whole week. They are not fun
    Lily & Edward

  18. I bet Shyla will help you. My angel aunt Kaitlin used to warn Grandma when a seizure was coming on, with no training or anything!

  19. Dogs are so sensitive, especially when you have a close bond with them.

  20. I'm so sorry these migraines have become a fixture in your live. You continually amaze me with how you just power through all the pain. Most people go curl up in a dark room to hide from the light and sounds. I hope Shyla can come to your aid.

  21. Why not?? Maybe Shyla reacts when the migraine starts but you maybe not noticed.
    Hope you will be better and that the head band helps.

  22. It would not be a surprise at al if Shyla did figure out when a migraine was coming your way...

  23. I think Shyla knows lots, she just isn't saying. I am glad you are managing to manage things.

  24. You know I know how you feel! I have a tens unit that I used to use on my jaw (I also have TMJD). I was never sure it helped much, but I used it anyway. This is something I would definately look into! I, too, am on preventive meds and they are helping too. My dream is to try the Botox injections to the scalp. VERY expensive though, and only last 3 months.
    Anyhu ~ Sure am glad you're finding some relief and I would be very interested to see if Shyla alerts to them!
    Keep us informed!
    Ruby (and Mom)

  25. Here's to hoping Shyla is indeed alerted in advance and able to tip you off before the pain becomes severe. What an amazing relationship potential God has built into the animals He has given us! (I've read cats can have similar sensitive abilities.)

    I was offered a TENS unit a couple of years ago for my back, but I opted for physical therapy instead. Now you have me wondering if perhaps the TENS unit might help on cloudy and high humidity days when nothing else does...

  26. I had to checkout the Cefaly headband. Interesting if it works instead of medications, which make me too drowsy and make my throat burn.

    I'm wondering what kind of meditation you do. I've been trying to meditate in the morning but am finding I'm too antsy and that may be a better time to write. I'm going to see if meditation after work is better timing and can work to de-stress me.

    I read a book about dogs used to help people with anxiety attacks, OCD and issues where someone might become confused and lost. It was really amazing how the dogs could change a person's life, allowing them to live a more normal life. Amazing creatures, dogs.

  27. I'm glad you have found a doctor who is helping. I was hoping we hadn't heard about the migraines because they had stopped, but it's good news that although they continue the situation is improving. Two things you do are admirable: continuing to enjoy life to the fullest, and taking action yourself to improve your health.
    It would be interesting to study migraine, epilepsy, and diabetes dogs to learn exactly which signals they are receiving.

  28. I'm so sorry you suffer from Migraines, they are truly awful. I use Xanax when I feel a migraine coming on and typically if I lay down (quiet and dark only please) and doze the Xanax is enough to limit or ward off the migraine.

    A comment you made here about Shyla really resonated with me. "Shyla amazes me with her athleticism almost every day." That is how I feel about Delilah. She can jump large piles of brush, run strait up rocks or flat out run and she makes it look so effortless. If I have one regret for Delilah it's not finding a sport/job where she can really shine.

  29. I have a friend who is plagued with migraines as well and living along the ocean with changing weather constantly and bright lights she just plugs along. She has a lovely German Shepherd, I just wonder if she has noticed any canine interest in this connection. I see her soon and I'll ask her!
    Fist high for you for getting out there when the migraines just cripple you.
    Love your doggy pics today!
    Take care!

  30. I am so happy to read that your migraines are occurring less frequently - between the new doctor and how proactive you are about preventing them, I just know this trend will continue! And, of course, dog therapy probably helps the most :)


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