Actress Marcia Cross is enjoying life, marriage, and a successful career. She's probably best know for the role of Bree Van De Kamp on "Desperate Housewives."
Marcia is also a migraineur who was kind enough to spend some time talking about migraine disease, how she handles her migraines, and why she thinks it's important to be properly diagnosed and treated.
ABOUT: Thank you for being willing to share your experiences with migraine disease. How frequently do you have migraine attacks?
CROSS: Ive been really lucky lately. I havent had any since Ive been pregnant. I feel like Ive gotten them down to three to four a year. So Im really doing well, which was not the case in the beginning. I really watch stress, and my trigger foods, and all the things I need to do to stay migraine-free. I just cannot stand that pain. For me, I just have to go home and get in a dark room and wait for it to pass. But waiting for it to pass still involves some pain.
ABOUT: Have you been able to manage your migraines with trigger management and abortive medication, or do you use any over-the-counter or prescription preventives at all?
CROSS: No preventatives, but I carry medicine with me at all times.
ABOUT: From your holiday tips, its really obvious that you place a strong emphasis on trigger management.
CROSS: Well, yes, because thats the time of year when everybody stresses. Needlessly, I might add, because its really not the point of the holiday. You know, if you dont have the perfect present, or if the turkeys a little overcooked. Its not worth getting a migraine over as far as Im concerned.
ABOUT: Absolutely. Your family wants you, and what good are you with a migraine?
CROSS: None. Youre not there.
ABOUT: What are your triggers, Marcia?
CROSS: Oh, gosh. Red wine, chocolate, cheddar cheese, oranges. Those are my mainstays that I just really dont touch. And then being stressed out ... I work really hard now [so] that I dont stress the way that I used to. Im not as internally tightly wound as I used to be. (laugh)
ABOUT: Dont you think migraines teach us a lot about ourselves?
CROSS: Yeah, they do! And sometimes what would happen to me in the old days is that I would go through something incredibly stressful ... and I wasnt taking care of myself. And after it was all over was when Id get just a searing migraine. It would kind of wait until the stress peaked, and then when I let go, Id get the migraine. And Id be like, gosh, I didnt even realize that Id been stressing so badly. Now I dont let that happen.
ABOUT: Did you do an elimination diet to identify food triggers, or were they so obvious that you didnt need to do that?
CROSS: I just wrote them down, so if they were more than once, they seemed pretty obvious over time. But I didnt do that for a long while ... I wish Id started earlier, but its that kind of thing where youre just kind of a victim to something, and then you sort of say, Now Ive gotta do whatever I can to be my own health advocate and change this. I think thats one of the reasons its good to speak out, because people can do things to be healthier and feel better. Even just getting diagnosed and having medication. I have a friend who would suffer with them and then the husband would run over for my medication. Id be like, Its too late! Go to the doctor. This happens every two months.
ABOUT: Part of it is that people dont want to look at migraine as a disease, whereas they wouldnt hesitate to do something if they had thyroid disease or diabetes. So you wonder why they hesitate to do something about migraine disease.
CROSS: I think its because they get confused that its just a headache, a really bad headache. I think when people get that in their heads, they can say, Oh, its a bad headache.
ABOUT: Maybe partly its because its an episodic disease. It doesnt affect them every day.
CROSS: Right. So a little time will pass, and who wants to go to the doctor? So I think it just slips by.