There is a side effect called avastin headaches, which I had hoped not to experience. But they seem to be here. I think they arrive from many directions. Some people get them because of the soaring blood pressure that results from the drug. Others get them, a very small number, because something so terrible is happening in the brain that I chose not to write about it. Others, like me (I hope) get them because the sinuses are so backed up.
I started having frequent migraines when I was 12. In my late 20’s they became more full body, spreading out the pain in ways I found more tolerable. By my forties they were acceptable companions even if a three-day cycle (my norm) left me wrung out. With cancer and the removal of my ovaries, migraines lifted, touching down with rarity – a small silver lining in the new medical onslaught. But appreciated.
Nonetheless, it is always true that if my system gets thrown off kilter, a migraine is likely to pop up. Decades ago, I gave up on prescription relief; it might work once but rarely more often than that and so as ‘they’ arrive, I hunker down. When they visited with greater regularity I kept a list of work and home tasks to pull out for migraine periods, allowing me to stay productive in my more sorrowful state. My theory always was and stays, it’s not like I would feel better in bed.
Migraines also complicated my ability to separate out the symptoms of arriving ovarian cancer from my life with migraines. Bloating, nausea, gas are my life long norms. They are also what they say to look for if you have ovarian cancer but how could I notice. Maybe I could have been diagnosed at stage 3 vs. stage 4 but really with ovarian cancer, the horse seems to have left the barn at either stage.
When I first started on avastin a year and a half ago, I fast accelerated into major nose activity. It led to a pain I could only compare to what I would imagine of some junky overusing the nose. I was on the extreme end of that batch of symptoms. Every morning I would need hours to compose myself from the neck up. We should have bought shares in some Kleenex operation. My nose became a painful 3rd party in my life. It was 24/7 pain. By the end I was conversing with my nose, trying to ease its pain that then so violated my comfort. Then came the 45-day break from avastin as I transitioned to the Philly trial and when I started back up with the drug I waited for the nose problems. Weeks went by. Even with my new dose level higher, I just didn’t have the congestion chaos and the internal pain.
No matchbox machinery seemed to be at work in my upper nose. I started relaxing. I told everyone of my little miracle. It was great.
Then the headaches started, modest little sinus ones but often enough to report them as I am told I must report everything. Last visit my doc listened to me and said, “Ahhhh.” She had actually listened to all my complaints this long summer of visits and decided that instead of having an avastin miracle, my avastin woes had just been backing up, silently but to deleterious ends. She recommended a neti pot as my best bet. The other night, dullwitted by a tiresome round of sinus headaches leading to migraines and back, I made a 9:30 pm trek to Walgreens and returned home with my new blue genie pot. Within minutes of bending over the sink to allow gravity to pull the fluid from the one nostril to the next, I felt relief.
I continue to walk the path of head pain but I have hope that my daily use of the neti pot is healing and counterbalancing the avastin woes. I cross my fingers that my chemo this next Wednesday might be my last with avastin – it’s a long shot but a nice possibility.