A darkly witty account of Kamen’s long search for a cure for her headache, melded with a report on medicine’s failure to solve the mystery of headaches and society’s reluctance to take them seriously—especially when it’s a woman who has them.
Kamen (Feminist Fatale, 1991), a contributor to Salon, Ms., the Chicago Tribune, and other newspapers, suffers from chronic daily headache, or CDH, a neurological disorder that she has had since the age of twenty-four. While the personal story of Kamen the patient makes up a large portion of this report, Kamen the journalist attended medical meetings, interviewed other patients about their experiences, and researched the literature to create a clear picture of the poor state of pain care today. Her aim is to increase social awareness of chronic pain as a women’s issue and to respond to the dismissive accusation that “It’s all in your head.” She takes the reader on a long and bumpy trail leading to a host of doctors and clinics, both traditional and alternative: general practitioners, neurologists, osteopaths, psychiatrists, ear-nose-throat specialists, physical therapists, and body-work and massage therapists, acupuncturists, a neuro-ophthalmologist, a brain surgeon, even a shaman. She tries countless pain medications that balloon her body, leave her groggy, and give her worse problems than her original headache. She even undergoes surgery, which only increases her headache pain. Throughout, sidebars provide pertinent facts, statistics, history, and droll commentary. There’s solid information in the text, too, as Kamen explores current views of pain as psychosomatic, explains the differences between causes of pain and triggers of pain, and reports on what new research through brain scans is revealing. She concludes with counsel for fellow sufferers and a tart, no-nonsense checklist informing doctors, the government, pharmaceuticals, insurance companies, and others what they can do to improve the lives of those with chronic pain.
Sharp, entertaining, informative, and blessedly free of poor-me-see-how-I-suffered-ism.