Celebrating our Care Partners; Cynthia’s story

Written by Cynthia Cooper for Chronic Migraine Awareness, Inc.

 I may be the unluckiest girl health wise, but damn am I blessed with my husband. He didn’t quite know what chronic illness world he was getting into when he met me. I was just shy of turning 21 when we first started dating. My now husband, Derek, knew I had migraine but had yet to be introduced to a Hemiplegic Migraine attack. Hemiplegic Migraine is migraine with stroke symptoms. The first attack was scary for him I’m sure, but he never let it show. I looked to his face, expecting to see all the emotions I received from people before; doubt, fear, panic, judgement. Instead his eyes were focused, soaking up every detail, learning. Figuring out how he can help me. From the start, he never doubted my illness. My world had always been filled with people not believing me; doctors, teachers, nurses, bosses, even friends and family. But Derek always believed me from the start. 

    I spent my early 20’s trying to hold down a job with my illness. My 20’s were filled with extreme self loathing on top of my extreme health issues. I was a wild mess, inside and out. Derek never left my side. Instead, he worked over 40 hours a week to bring in the only income for us. When I’d threaten my own life, he was there by my side, not judging me, just understanding. He would make me smile when I didn’t even want to breathe anymore. Even after he’d work every day, sometimes 12 hours, he’d come home and cook dinner too, clean as well. He had to change a lot with his life with me. He had to suddenly be aware of lights, sounds and smells that would trigger me. We were hanging by a thread but we hung on together. 

    Then in 2015, I had a stroke. I was 25. If we were playing life on hard mode before, it was on nightmare mode now. My Hemiplegic Migraine disease got way worse. An increase of severity, every day attacks, on top of the brain damage and right sided weakness I now had. I was going into physical therapy with my right side effected by stroke and my left side effected by Hemiplegic Migraine. It was an impossible time, Derek’s heart was shattered. But he kept going. Worked all day, went home to take care of the animals and shower, then came to visit me in the hospital. Every day, no matter how much I told him he didn’t have to. That’s the thing about Derek. He always takes care of me with every ounce of his soul.     

    That sentence is an understatement to the true impact he has on my life. He’s constantly researching things to make my life easier. He has a passion for food, and thankfully to my pleasure, a true talent for cooking as well. There are some weekends he will spend ALL WEEKEND in the kitchen canning food for me. Canning food, why you ask? Making food can be impossible during a Hemiplegic Migraine attack. This man will make 30 jars of chicken soup, or chili etc so I can feed myself using the least amount of energy possible. On my worst days where I’d have to spend all day on the couch, he’d set me up before he left for work in the morning. He’d put my water, phone, charger, medications, remotes all within reach. Derek even made me a couch table from scratch so I wouldn’t have to reach to the living room coffee table. His mind is always looking for ways to make my life easier. And if he can’t find a way to make it easier, he makes me happy. Be it in a small or big way, food or video games, or just a dark humored joke. For 10 years this man has not wasted one minute not loving me, truly being a partner. 

    On top of all that, he also constantly researches new migraine findings and medications. I speak a lot of past tense with all of this because my attacks aren’t as severe these days. Through all these years, he’s been annoyingly hopeful with my illness. “There will be a day when you’re better. You’ll be better and you’ll have to take care of me.” I used to get so mad at him. He was so confident and sure this day was going to come. I was lost in the dark void where my hope and dignity died, but the man was right! Derek researched of these new medications coming out that had something to do with CGRP. He spoke of a magical infusion that would last 3 months at a time. I mocked the idea, scared to hope. I only had to wait 30 years to finally find a medication that actually makes a difference in my life. I’m driving again, making money as a pet sitter/artist, and not having to drag my body to the bathroom every day.     

    I’ve heard countless stories of migraine warriors being abandoned by their spouse. Mine is stuck to me like super glue for some reason and I couldn’t be more thankful. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for him. I would be gone or still stuck in that horrible world. Life has dealt us some messed up cards. Instead of fear loosening his grip on my hand, he pulls me in tighter to protect me. He has given everything for me. More than once. And still does today. He is love and hope. He saw who I could truly be, who I truly was, and empowered me to become it. I am blessed to have him by my side.

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