THE BLOG
10/24/2014 12:20 pm ET Updated Dec 24, 2014

A Silent Struggle

By E.T.

There I was -- a grown woman, filled with frustration and tremendous pain, crying to my doctor, hoping for answers and an end to the suffering that had become a daily part of my life. I had been struggling with debilitating migraines for years with no relief in sight, my life virtually turned upside down. But it wasn't always that way.

When I was in my 30s, I had a handful of severe migraines -- but I didn't even know what I was experiencing. In my early 40s, I felt sick much of the time. There were a slew of symptoms -- dizziness, vertigo, nausea, motion sickness, and sometimes overwhelming fatigue, but little to no head pain. I saw many doctors, but no one diagnosed migraine -- at least not until my late 40s when trips to the local emergency room became fairly routine.

In my mind, I went from being a "normal," healthy person who was typically busy from early in the morning to late at night -- to someone who had to reconcile that I was living with a chronic, neurological illness that put the brakes on all that activity I had taken for granted. And, I had to figure out a way to handle the effects of migraine on my relationships -- at home and at work.

Of course I had no problem discussing the havoc migraine was wreaking with my headache specialist. That said, I did have a problem wrapping my head around the fact that I am just one of about 38 million Americans who suffer from migraine -- and there is no cure on the horizon.

How is this even possible in the 21st century? I asked Dr. C. if anyone was doing work to find a cure. She told me about Cathy Glaser, a lawyer who co-founded The Migraine Research Foundation after watching her daughter suffer migraines since she was just 3 years old.

I called MRF right away. Cathy spoke to me on the phone multiple times, and I learned just how complex an illness migraine is, as well as the dire need for research.

Migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world, with three times as many women suffering as men. And children are not immune. In fact, childhood migraine is very common -- about 10 percent of school-age children suffer and they're absent from school twice as often as kids who don't suffer from migraine. As for adult sufferers -- a whopping 90 percent are unable to go to work or function during their migraine attacks.

The economy suffers, too. Health care and lost productivity costs associated with migraine are estimated to be about $36 billion dollars a year in the U.S. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health only spends some $19 million a year on headache research -- barely a drop in the bucket!

That's where MRF comes in. Every dollar raised by the non-profit goes directly to research, as all operating costs are covered. MRF has been funding incredibly innovative research around the globe. 41 grants have been awarded since 2006. All projects are designed to unlock the mystery of migraine, discover better treatments and ultimately, find a cure.

Research is the ONLY way migraine sufferers will get their answers -- and an end to their pain. That's why, as I continue to work with Dr. C. to get my migraines under control, I also continue to support the Migraine Research Foundation's work toward a cure for this debilitating disease.

To donate to the Migraine Research Foundation

To visit MRF's website