Headaches…we all get them, but this one was different. I woke up in March 2011 with a strange burning headache over my left eyebrow. When the pain did not go away, I visited the doctor. I was put on antibiotics for a supposed sinus infection. Instead of getting better, the pain quickly escalated to a 9-10 level and spread to other areas of my head and face.
Over the next year I had a full sinus surgery and went to various neurologists to try and stop this pain, but nothing was working. I was finally diagnosed with Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia (ATN). This is a disease often referred to as the “suicide disease”, since the pain is so terrible and unrelenting. ATN is facial nerve pain. I feel constant burning pain and pressure on my forehead, cheekbones and nose. Imagine living with an ice cream headache 24/7. This is what it feels like.
I have been in pain before, but never in desperation for some relief. When you are experiencing this type of life-altering pain, you will risk your life to find a solution. Life stops. All your brain can think about it how to get relief. You are unable to work, think and function as you did before the pain started. This is my story. Since 2011, I have endured a lot. I have tried dozens of medications that gave me terrible side effects (nausea, fatigue, dizziness, severe and permanent memory loss) and did not help the pain. I became so debilitated that I underwent brain surgery in 2013 to try and relieve a pinched nerve, thought to be causing the pain. I have tried blocks, Botox, lidocaine infusions, IVs, and most recently, I had a peripheral nerve stimulator implant put in my face to try and control the pain. Only minor and temporary relief has occurred.
I am now a chronic pain patient that has run out of options. The only relief I get is from opioid use, and this is minor and short-lived. Many days, even these meds do not touch the pain. My doctors have told me that there is nothing more they can do for me. Each time I take an opioid, I am reminded that I am dependent on them just to function, and should this prescription be taken away (which is a possibility due to the DEA’s opioid crackdown), I would be unable to function at all. I also know that long term use of opioids will cause future health problems, but what option do I have? Medical cannabis offers me hope now that traditional medicine has failed. ATN patients living in medical cannabis legal states have experienced life-changing reduction in daily pain levels. This is why I am advocating for this cause. I want to enjoy life again! I want to exercise! I want to work! I have so much to offer the world, but pain is holding me back.
“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.” George Bernard Shaw