All posts tagged: neurological disorder

How Do I Make Sense of My Mother’s Decision to Die?

How Do I Make Sense of My Mother’s Decision to Die?

My mom could always leap into the coldest water. Every summer when we visited my grandma in upstate New York, my mom dove straight into the freezing lake, even when the temperature outdoors hit the 50s. The dogs, who usually trailed her everywhere, would whine in protest before paddling after her, and the iciness left her breathless when she surfaced. “Just jump, Lil,” she’d yell to me, laughing, before swimming off to vanish into the distance. But I never could. I didn’t think much about that difference between us, until I flew north to be with her on the day she’d chosen to die. When my mom found out in May last year that she had pancreatic cancer, the surgeon and the oncologist explained to our family that cutting out her tumor might extend her prognosis by about a year; chemotherapy could tack on another six months. A few days later, my mom asked if we could spend time together in Seattle over the summer, if we could get lemonade at the coffee shop while …

It’s the Best Time in History to Have a Migraine

It’s the Best Time in History to Have a Migraine

Here is a straightforward, clinical description of a migraine: intense throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise, lasting for hours or days. And here is a fuller, more honest picture: an intense, throbbing sense of annoyance as the pain around my eye blooms. Wondering what the trigger was this time. Popping my beloved Excedrin—a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine—and hoping it has a chance to percolate in my system before I start vomiting. There’s the drawing of the curtains, the curling up in bed, the dash to the toilet to puke my guts out. I am not a religious person, but during my worst migraines, I have whimpered at the universe, my hands jammed into the side of my skull, and begged it for relief. That probably sounds melodramatic, but listen: Migraines are miserable. They’re miserable for about 40 million Americans, most of them women, though the precise symptoms and their severity vary across sufferers. For about a quarter, myself included, the onset is sometimes preceded by an aura, a short-lived …