Pam’s Story

Written by Aaron Lam

Pam Grundmann has suffered from agonizing migraines for as long as she can remember. The overpowering headaches were the norm, not the exception, for the 52-year-old from Wiarton. As a child, Pam became resigned to the fact that her migraines were just a fact of life. 

“I went to see my doctor when I was five or six years old and I was prescribed some medication,” recalls Pam. “That medication promptly made me faint, so I stopped taking it. My mom suggested I lie down with a washcloth over my forehead and visualize the headache going away. That’s how I coped with migraines growing up.” 

Every over-the-counter medication she tried was ineffective in relieving the headaches. To a certain degree, she could avoid known triggers – such as alcohol consumption and overly stressful situations – but migraines still came often. She even suffered from migraines while sleeping. 

Pam learned to simply grin and bear it – powering through the migraines and living an active life despite the distressing pain. 

In 2014, Pam’s mother-in-law suggested exploring what services were available at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) that might help with the migraines. Her discovery of the Centre for Headache was a true revelation. 

“I was excited to learn that there was a clinic at Women’s that specialized in treating migraines. It felt great knowing there were people who had the expertise to help me.” 

After being referred to WCH by her family physician, Pam began treatment with different medications to determine which ones would be most effective for her. 

“We began to track when I had migraines, the severity of them and how effective certain medications were. As we went along, they might adjust my dosage of a certain medication or have me try something different altogether. It was a matter of constantly tweaking things until they found what worked best.” 

Even though her current medication is helping to control her migraines, the medication can’t be taken every day. Ironically, the overuse of the medication can cause severe headaches. 

“Since I can take the medication only 10 times each month, I have to be mindful of what I have scheduled during the month and when stress might trigger a migraine,” says Pam. “I have to preplan and allocate when I’ll need to use the medication. If I have a migraine and I can’t take any more medication that month, I just need to suffer with it.” 

Pam’s regimen of care also includes meditation, stress-reduction exercises and dietary supplements to combat nutrient deficiencies that can result in headaches.  

Although the exact cause of migraines is a mystery, it is known that genetics play a significant role and that migraines can be inherited within families. In fact, Pam’s daughters Lauren and Meghan also suffer from migraines and they have also received care through the Centre for Headache. 

Pam (centre) with her daughters, Lauren (left), Meghan (right)

“The level of care we’ve received has been truly outstanding on every level,” she says. “Everyone is so compassionate and understanding. It feels great having a whole team behind us who truly get it.” 

As new medications become available, Pam hopes that one of them will prove successful in eliminating the migraines altogether. In the meantime, she refuses to let the migraines prevent her from living a busy and fulfilling life with her loved ones. 

“Even on the worst of days, I choose to live on the bright side. I’m not going to let the migraines slow me down. We’re given this one life, so I choose to get out there and experience all that life has to offer.” 

Learn more about Women’s College Hospital’s Centre for Headache