Imagine being in debilitating head pain for months on end.
What would you try for relief?
- Over the counter medications?
- Prescription meds?
- Voodoo rituals?
- Being shot in the head 31 times?
By the time I received 31 Botox injections in my face, neck, and shoulders at a hospital pain clinic, I had had a constant headache for two months straight. I may have paid some guy on the street to shoot me in the head. At least that wouldn’t have required insurance authorization.
I didn’t have my first migraine until I was 41. (See also: bunions, bifocals, and shingles) I asked my family, “Are you all seeing these crazy zig-zag lines on the t.v.?”
No, they weren’t. It was my own private psychedelic light show. Then bam! The worst headache ever.
My regular doctor prescribed Topamax and the migraines went away. Over the years I went through cycles of weaning off of the Topamax and being fine for a while, then the migraines would return. I’d go back on it and be good, so I’d stop again. I had a baby in there somewhere, too.
In September of 2016, the migraines returned with a vengeance.
They went from monthly to every other week to weekly to twice a week. Worst of all, the Topamax wasn’t working.
No, worst of all, a migraine was one factor that led to a disappointing finishing time in my first marathon. (The heat, humidity, pouring rain and plain old newbie mistakes were other factors. It was still an awesome day!)
Of course, what do you do when you have a medical condition? You Google it! That’s how I learned that Botox could be helpful. Botox? Look, I used to watch Desperate Housewives. I remember the talk about Marcia Cross’s frozen face.
But now I was a desperate housewife. My neurologist said that my insurance company wouldn’t cover Botox injections until I failed another migraine med, so he prescribed Elavil.
Let me go off on a little tangent here…
Being a 46 year old woman approaching doctors with the intent of getting my insurance company to cover Botox feels like I’m being viewed as an addict going to the ER for “back pain”.
“Sure you’re having migraines, lady. You’re 46? You want Botox? It’s expensive, isn’t it, honey?”
It just made so much sense for me.
I carry a lot of tension in my face, neck, and shoulders. When I had a series of surgeries a couple of years ago I would glance in a mirror and recoil because I had developed a resting pain face.
I furrow my brow and arch my forehead… the very things that Botox prevents.
So while we waited the months it would take to get insurance authorization, I decided to pay for a little Botox myself.
In December of 2016 I went to a plastic surgeon’s office and had a total of 40 units injected into my forehead and glabellar area (between the eyebrows). They were running a special, so instead of costing $500 it “only” cost $350.
Some of you will read that and think, “Eh, that’s not so bad.” Others will read it and think, “That is SO not an option!” I fall somewhere in between. It’s no small thing. It pained me to pay that kind of money. But we could if we had to.
Even though it wasn’t the entire migraine regimen, it worked!
Sweet, glorious relief… it worked!!!
Just as magically, it eased my winter depression. That was the best $350 I ever spent!
These first two pictures were taken the day of the Botox injections. They are not retouched, except for the lighting. As you can see, I have a fair amount of muscle movement in my forehead and brows.
The next two pics are two weeks later. I can not wrinkle my forehead at all and can furrow my brow less. Ideally I would get a bit more Botox between the brows because my glabellar muscles are particularly strong.
I don’t think that I have that frozen face look. I may look a little stoned. The main take away here is that I do not know how to take a selfie. I always cut off my head. Short arms, y’all.
The only downside is that it wore off in eight weeks and not the 12 that the literature indicated. Another Google search revealed (and my neurologist confirmed) that heavy exercisers metabolize Botox more quickly than normal people. (Come on, you know distance runners are not normal.)
So from mid-February to late April of 2017 I had a constant headache and an ever worsening depression. It was months of failed medications, doctor’s appointments, and insurance company issues.
I lost those months of my life. My Strava account for January shows daily runs with only Sundays off for rest. I felt fantastic!
In contrast, on March 31st I had to drag myself to the gym because if you went ten times that month you got a shirt. That was my 10th workout all month.
Finally the great day arrived when the insurance company had approved my treatments and I had an appointment to get the full Botox migraine regimen… 31 injections of 155 units total. I went back into the exam room all ready to go and…
They said I had to leave.
Oh, the tears. It turns out, you have to have another adult with you in case you have a reaction. It would have been nice to have been told that ahead of time.
After griping about how I’ve had Botox before and didn’t have a reaction, I went back the next day with my husband. And you know what? Thirty-one injections is a lot harder to take than just a few. I did get a little light headed. It was not a pleasant experience.
For the next few days the injection sites in my neck and shoulders hurt a great deal.
(I wrote the above sentence yesterday. In re-reading it I’m thinking, “Geez, Jen. That’s an understatement. I think if Vicodin was involved, maybe you should have tossed in some exclamation points!!! and a curse word*#% or something.)
Then for the next couple of weeks my neck and shoulder muscles hurt. It was as if by paralyzing some of the muscles, other ones had to compensate. As a result, they were overworked and sore. (!!! #*@%)
The good news is that my headaches are so much better.
Of course, I can’t help but notice that my headaches got better with only a few facial injections that didn’t impact my neck and shoulders.
As it is, we will be changing insurance companies in June and our new plan has a high deductible. We’ll pay less in monthly fees but our medical expenses are all on us until we reach something like $10,000.
Guess how much migraine Botox costs per year? Almost $10,000!!! I about had a heart attack when I figured that out (which undoubtedly would cost more than $10,000). I told my husband, “We could winter in Florida for less than that!!”.
I am not paying $10,000 a year for Botox. It gave me my life back, yes. I had been in constant pain and clinically depressed and just barely functioning.
But mercifully, it didn’t take 155-200 units to work. Forty worked, too. That’s still going to be costly and it won’t count towards our deductible because it will be considered “cosmetic”.
So, hey, if you know a skilled practitioner in the SE Michigan region who charges less than $12.50 a unit, let me know!