Pathetic, drug-seeker, drama queen — these are just a few of the names Melissa Dwyer was called while desperately seeking relief for migraine, the invisible disease that stole her life.
Dwyer’s family had dealt with migraine for generations, but she had the most severe forms of the disease, meaning she never experienced a day without pain and debilitating symptoms, including vomiting, numbness, and paralysis.
Before being plagued by migraine, Dwyer could light up a room with her smile and her laugh. She was popular and excelled in school. In high school, a neurologist worked with her for two years before referring her to the Mayo Clinic. There, after a week of testing and numerous doctors, Melissa was told to do their six-week outpatient pain clinic to learn to live with the pain as they had no new suggestions.
Just 20 minutes after arriving home from the Mayo Clinic, Dwyer’s mother, Becky, found Melissa taking handfuls of pills. She had to be put on a ventilator for six days. In the previous year, she had 82 emergency room visits and spent 72 days in the hospital trying to break her migraine attacks.
After reading her chart and all the treatments she had tried, four more doctors told her they couldn’t take her case because she was “too complicated.” She lost her smile and once bubbly personality, and shut herself away from the world.
On June 7, 2013, Dwyer committed suicide; the lack of effective treatment and the isolation made her lose all hope of ever living a normal, pain-free life.
“I want to see effective treatments and a cure in my lifetime,” Becky Dwyer said. “We have lost so many in the migraine community and others are still hanging on by a thread.”
Despite the new medications available, millions of people are still living with this debilitating disease. For some, even new medications aren’t effective, while others can be difficult for doctors and insurance companies to access.
The more we advocate for research and new treatments the better chance people have to get their lives back.