Oh My Aching Head

Stacy Matson | Celebrity Health
Oh My Aching Head

image by: Public Domain

Women are three times more likely to have migraines than men and 50% are more likely to be misdiagnosed. Cindy McCain decided to open up about her migraines because of the stigma attached to them, especially for women

I’ve always thought there was something really odd about Cindy McCain. She looks irritated at all times, has a strained expression plastered on her face, and a smile that never quite meets her eyes. And those eyes! Steely, piercing, and icy.

Last but not least, she’s always wearing sunglasses! Indoors and out! In case you don’t remember, McCain wore sunglasses religiously throughout her husband’s Presidential campaign; I really have a hard time trusting a person that looks like they’re hiding behind sunglasses. Plus, she strikes me as aloof and cold, never in the moment.

However, it seems there is a reason for her cool demeanor...McCain is one of an estimated 30 million Americans who suffer from migraines. In a recent interview with People magazine, Cindy McCain revealed her “secret” struggle with migraines.  She says “secret” because she hid her pain from her family for years not wanting to burden them, especially her husband - Senator John McCain. She felt the pain she suffered was trivial compared to that which her husband suffered during his five years as a prisoner of war. 

McCain says, "There were times when I felt a little bit inadequate with my pain problem.  But I had to get over that because I didn't live in John's shoes and he didn't live in mine.  He doesn't always understand [my migraines] but he knows they are real". She uses the word “torture” to describe the pain and isolation she feels while suffering through a migraine. 

McCain believes her migraines are the result of a sudden drop in hormones after a hysterectomy she had 15 years ago.  She says her migraines have increased in frequency over the years and she now experiences two or three a week and often winds up in the emergency room.  Migraines are typically characterized by a painful throbbing in the head, sensitivity to lights, and nausea. 

Most Migraines are “triggered” by an outside force and McCain’s triggers are pretty typical:  changes in barometric pressure, strong scents, and bright lights.  (Now I understand the sunglasses!) McCain explains, "Whenever I had those huge dark glasses on, that was always a sign", she says. "Sunglasses are a migraine sufferer's best friend". She says she also experiences auras, ringing in her ears, nausea and blindness in her left eye.   

Being misdiagnosed for years and the frustration she endured while searching for a diagnosis was "demeaning". She relates the story of one doctor telling her, “You have four children; you’re stressed, you need to go home, take an aspirin, and sleep it off". Unfortunately, similar comments are not uncommon for migraine sufferers to hear. 

McCain has taken her pain and frustration and is using it to help all migraine sufferers. She's eager to raise awareness about migraines so people understand that it is a very real physical condition. McCain will be the keynote speaker at the International Headache Society Congress, hosted by the American Headache Society. “Migraine is a real disease", McCain says in a news release, “I am one of the lucky ones who have been diagnosed but still I struggle with the pain and tremendous debilitation of this disease”. 

She is expected to ask Congress for more research dollars to be spent on migraine studies and she'll urge doctors to work more closely with patients.  The next step for McCain is a public awareness campaign that will advocate for the millions who suffer from this mysterious condition.

You know what? She’s suddenly a lot more likeable and human.

Stacy Matson is a health enthusiast from Southern California and regularly blogs Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of the Best.

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