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Posted by jonny ( on September 07, 2001 at 16:41:14:

In Reply to: News site posted by DanQuim on September 07, 2001 at 13:04:51:

Monday, July 9, 2001
Cluster headache sufferers share their pain
By Kristi Palma
Eagle-Tribune Writer

Every summer, Mick Austin, 44, suffers six excruciating headaches a day for about 50 days straight.

And he calls himself "one of the lucky sufferers."

Austin, of Kingston, N.H., had his first cluster headache when he was 20 years old. Since then, he has had one cluster a year, lasting six to eight weeks. Some sufferers, like Joshua Sudikoff, 32, of Barrington, N.H., experience chronic clusters all year long.

Austin said he knows all too well how clusters can make "normal life" cease.

"I think everyone who does not suffer these have no idea of the severity of the pain and debilitation," said Austin, a sales manager. "It feels like a red hot knife is pushing slowly into my left eye, into my head, and lightening strikes all through the left side inside my brain."

He said an attack makes him feel "complete helplessness" and severe depression. He said he often is ill during the cluster, vomiting six times a day. He said he has little or no warning of when the cluster will begin, which makes it hard to prepare for it. And when it does come, the cluster period becomes a time to "watch the clock" and brace himself, since the cluster eerily happens at the same time each day.

Austin calls his cluster "The Beast" and said therapists advise sufferers to imagine the headache as something solid they can try to exorcise. He takes injections to help relieve the pain, and they don't come cheap, even with insurance. During the cluster, the medicines cost $25 a day, or $1,360 for eight weeks.

"I cannot imagine the life of a cluster victim whose periods are longer and frequencies shorter," Austin said.

For Tony R. Smolar, 31, of Methuen, cluster headaches attack every spring and fall at around daylight savings time. The most recent attack lasted two months -- from April to June. During that time, he had three headaches a day.

Smolar was diagnosed about a decade ago and says cluster headaches attack the right side of his face, often leaving him with little or no sleep for weeks. Smolar, a software engineer, said he's even gotten attacks in the middle of the day while at work. He said he slides into somewhere quiet to battle his demons alone.

Smolar has also been a migraine-sufferer since he was a child and said the two do not even compare. Richard L. Levy, a neurologist in Exeter, N.H., said clusters are much more uncommon than migraines. The migraines last for four to 72 hours while clusters last from 30 to 90 minutes an episode. Migraine sufferers like to lie down, while cluster sufferers can't sit still.

"Most of the migraines, you can live with," said Smolar. "This pain is much worse than a migraine. Sometimes it gets to a point where you would do anything to make it go away."

Smolar said he has not resorted to banging his head against the wall, like many other sufferers report doing. While some sufferers cannot go without medication, Smolar said he often does. Though he's been on medication in the past, he said he would rather attack the problem with a heating pad and special diet.

Smolar's efforts have made the condition "barely bearable" rather than unbearable. He keeps a log of what he eats and has learned to stay away from foods that trigger headaches, such as hot dogs, bacon and alcohol.

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Copyrightę 2001 Eagle-Tribune Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Contact Online editor

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