A Break from the Pain

Debilitating migraines have forced Tammy Rome to miss out on many events in her life, including spending Christmas opening presents and enjoying a festive dinner with her family.

Although she has been living with migraines for more than 35 years, she was officially diagnosed two years ago with chronic migraine — meaning she experiences migraines and headaches 15 or more days per month.

In December, Rome, 42, got a second chance to relive a lost holiday. As one of 15 winners of the national “Rewrite Your Day” contest, Rome and her family were treated to a celebration created by celebrity event planner Mindy Weiss at Deer Creek Golf Club in Overland Park.

Allergan Inc., the National Headache Foundation, and HealthyWomen partnered with Weiss for the “Rewrite Your Day” campaign to raise awareness of the disabling symptoms and burden of chronic migraine. The 15 winners, who were able to relive a special moment they lost, symbolize the number of headache days.

Mindy Weiss & Tammy Rome
Celebrity event planner Mindy Weiss recreated a lost family celebration for chronic migraine sufferer Tammy Rome and her family at Deer Creek Golf Club in Overland Park.

At her worst, Rome says she had more than 25 migraines in a single month and realized she had a 50 percent chance of missing out on any given day. She is currently working with a headache specialist who is helping her better manage her condition.

“I do have acute treatment options to use when an attack starts and a variety of preventive options to reduce my migraine’s impact on my life,” Rome says. “My family has learned to be prepared with contingency plans should I experience a debilitating migraine at any time. Sometimes nothing I do will stop an attack. My chronic migraine has brought so much disappointment to our lives.”

Rome, a licensed professional counselor, is active in several online migraine support communities, which is how she came across the “Rewrite Your Day” contest. She says she just wanted to share her story and never expected to win.

“With over 3 million people in the U.S. suffering from chronic migraine, I figured my entry would just get lost in the mix,” says Rome. “It never was about winning. It was about letting my voice be heard.”

Chronic migraine is a neurological condition that impacts about 3.2 million Americans, and women are three times more likely than men to experience migraines. About 80 percent of those who meet the definition of chronic migraine have not received an accurate diagnosis.

Richard Dubinsky, MD, professor and residency program director, Department of Neurology, University of Kansas Medical Center, says primary health care providers may not be fully aware of the diagnosis and treatment, and they and the patient may have a tendency to concentrate on migraines and not other types of headaches.

“A patient might report two migraine headaches a week, but unless they are asked the proper question, such as how many headache (any type of headache) days do you have each month, or how many headache-free days do you have each month, the answer is missed and the true number of headache days is not recognized,” Dubinsky says.

Learning about the statistics is what inspired event-planner Weiss to become involved with the “Rewrite Your Day” campaign.

“When I learned that people with chronic migraine live half the month or more with headaches, I was happy to re-create events they missed due to a debilitating migraine,” Weiss says. “I take family seriously and believe that spending time with loved ones is very important, especially during the holidays. It was heartbreaking to hear that Tammy wasn’t able to spend Christmas with her family because she was stuck in bed with a migraine. I was just thrilled to give her the opportunity to have a festive celebration with her family to make up for the one that she missed.”

photos: Cornerstone Photography