Marcia Cross is enjoying life, marriage, and a successful career
as an actress.
These days, she's possibly most recognizable as Bree Van De Kamp on "Desperate
Marcia is also a Migraineur. You may also have seen her in a television
commercial, encouraging you to see a doctor for diagnosis if you have "frequent
bad headaches." Last week, we took a look at her tips for
Navigating Holidays with
Migraines and a bit of her personal history with
Migraines. This morning, Marcia was kind enough to spend some time talking with
me about Migraine disease, how she handles her Migraines, and why she thinks
it's important to be properly diagnosed and treated. Since she was also kind
enough to allow me to record that conversation, I can share it with you
ROBERT: Good morning. Thank you for setting aside the time to talk with me,
CROSS: Oh, sure.
ROBERT: I also want to thank you for being willing to share your experiences
with Migraine disease. It has to be hard enough to retain your privacy given
your celebrity status, but it helps so much when well known public figures are
willing to speak out as you are.
CROSS: Youíre welcome. You know itís a good thing and hopefully itís done some
ROBERT: Something quite a few of my readers have wondered about is how
frequently you have Migraine attacks.
CROSS: Iíve been really lucky lately. I havenít had any since Iíve been
pregnant. So I probably wonít a doctor told me who actually knows a lot about
Migraines. It doesnít mean I wonít on the other end. I feel like Iíve gotten
them down to really minimal, three to four a year. So Iím really doing well,
which was not the case in the beginning. It was much more frequently, and Iím
sure it would be if I hadnít changed my lifestyle. 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.
ROBERT: Some? (both laugh) Iíve had Migraines since I was six so I sympathize
CROSS: So how are yours now?
ROBERT: Working with a Migraine specialist, Iím down to about as few as you are.
CROSS: Isnít that unbelievable?
ROBERT: Yes. Isnít it wonderful? We couldnít have this even 10 years ago.
CROSS: No, we couldnít.
ROBERT: Could not have done it. We didnít know enough.
ROBERT: 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.
ROBERT: From your holiday tips, itís really obvious that you place the
appropriately strong emphasis on trigger management.
CROSS: Well, yes, because thatís the time of year when everybody stresses.
Needlessly, I might add, because itís really not the point of the holiday. You
know, if you donít have the perfect present or if the turkeyís a little
ROBERT: No, of course, itís not. Thank you!
CROSS: Itís not worth getting a Migraine over as far as Iím concerned.
ROBERT: Absolutely. Your family wants you, and what good are you with a
CROSS: None. Youíre not there.
ROBERT: What are your triggers, Marcia?
CROSS: Oh, gosh. Red wine, chocolate, cheddar cheese, oranges. Those are my
mainstays that I just really donít touch. Things can happen too if Ė I donít
really drink much, but if I do drink a little too much of anything, alcoholís
not good in general. And then being stressed out can definitelyÖ I work really
hard now that I donít stress the way that I used to. Iím not as internally
tightly wound as I used to be. (laugh)
ROBERT: Donít 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 forgetting all about it,
and I wasnít taking care of myself. And after it was all over was when Iíd get
just a searing Migraine. It would kind of wait until the stress peaked, and then
when I let go, Iíd get the Migraine. And Iíd be like, gosh, I didnít even
realize that Iíd been stressing so badly. Now I donít let that happen.
ROBERT: Did you do an elimination diet to identify food triggers or were they so
obvious that you didnít 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 didnít do that for a long while, which I wish Iíd
started earlier, but itís that kind of thing where youíre just kind of a victim
to something and then you sort of say, ďNow Iíve gotta do whatever I can to be
my own health advocate and change this.Ē I think thatís one of the reasons itís
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. Iíd be
like, ďItís too late! Go to the doctor. This happens every two months.Ē Itís
just kind of things go along and they think theyíre not going to have another or
they donít even know theyíre having them (Migraines). Everybodyís busy. I donít
know what it is, but it was like it was not quite bad enough to take care of it,
where like for you and I, we had to.
ROBERT: Right. I think part of it is that people donít want to look at Migraine
as a disease whereas they wouldnít hesitate to do something if they had thyroid
disease or diabetes. So you wonder why is it that they hesitate to do something
about Migraine disease.
CROSS: I think itís because they get confused that itís just a headache, a
really bad headache. I think you really donít understand how it happens and that
itís not; itís something different. I think when people get that in their heads,
they can say, ďOh, itís a bad headache.Ē Thatís my guess. You know?
ROBERT: Maybe partly itís because itís an episodic disease. It doesnít 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.
ROBERT: Other than avoiding your triggers, what lifestyle methods do you use to
minimize their impact?
CROSS: I really think that having done a lot of work on my inside has really
helped too just because as you get older, you sort of take life with a little
more ease. So, any sort of work you do just kind of be at peace with your own
day and your own situation is helpful. Having that threat around really keeps
things modulated because is it really worth it when you start getting tense or
uptight about something? I think that really has made a difference. Yoga, I love
to hike, just let things go. Keep things in perspective. A lot of it has to do
with how we view whateverís going on with us. One can work oneself up into that
amount of stress. Nobody is really doing it to you. You can look at a situation
in a completely different way that takes that out of the picture.
ROBERT: I know youíre involved in a campaign encouraging people with ďfrequent
bad headachesĒ to see their doctors for diagnosis. In your own words, why is
this so important?
CROSS: Gosh, I just thinkÖ I guess because itís been so awful for me, it was so
terrible.. I wouldnít say that anymoreÖ Itís been such a painful journey,
especially in the beginning when I didnít know what was happening, and I would
have those early symptoms of my fingers tingling or that weird peripheral vision
thing. I remember not being able to remember my friendsí names or phone numbers
when I was with them. Itís absolutely terrifying. You feel like youíre having a
stroke or something. I think finding out about it, getting medication, learning
to take care of myself -- it puts you in an entirely different place from being
a victim of something thatís happening to you. That would be why. Because I feel
thereís something you can do about it.
ROBERT: I love so much of what youíre saying because we no longer have to be
controlled by this disease. We can control it instead of it controlling us.
Thereís so much more we can do for Migraine than we could do for some other
ROBERT: As weíve learned more about Migraine as a disease, and as we in general
have learned so much over the last few years, have you found that attitudes
people around have about Migraines are changing?
CROSS: I hope so. I hope people are getting much more educated today about the
difference between a Migraine and a headache and the fact that there are things
you can do. Certainly when I was younger, I didnít know what it was. I didnít
know anything about it. I didnít know to get diagnosed. I didnít know there was
anything I could do about it. Hopefully, just the information getting out there
and people taking care of it sooner, then that will help.
ROBERT: Then I read about the colleague you worked with on ďMelrose PlaceĒ who
told you about the abortive medications?
CROSS: Yes, she had the Imitrex shot, and it was right after that I went to the
doctor, and I started taking the pills. So that was a life changer. You really
want to try to not even get to that point because itís just better not to.
ROBERT: Iíve read that your husband is really understanding, that you told him
about your Migraines early on, and heís super hubby. Heís supportive and takes
care of you.
CROSS: He said to me, ďWhat does a headache feel like?Ē because heís never had a
headache. Forget about a Migraine, heís never had a headache.
ROBERT: It also sounds like youíve had fairly good luck with doctors, with them
taking you seriously?
CROSS: Yes, but it took me a long time to get to one. Yes, but I also have a
very classic case with Migraines with the aura, so it was easily diagnosed.
ROBERT: Do you actually go ahead and start your treatment when you notice the
aura instead of waiting for the headache?
CROSS: Absolutely immediately, yes.
ROBERT: If you were to speak directly to my readers, is there anything else you
would say to them?
CROSS: I would just say not to be a victim and to be your own health advocate,
and to take it into your own hands. You actually can affect the number of
Migraines you have and your quality of life, and itís worth the effort. It will
increase your entire healthy lifestyle and reduce your Migraines, so itís
a win-win situation, I think.
ROBERT: What is the worst symptom of the Migraine for you? Is it the headache?
CROSS: Well, certainly thatís the most painful, but the most frightening really
used to be the loss of my short-term memory or the ability to think. They donít
start that severely any more. They just start with the aura, but it used to be
that would just terrify me. Itís a different kind of pain, and thereís the fear
and that terror that youíre losing your mind. So there are two extremes (the
headache and effects on thinking), but neither pleasant.
ROBERT: Thank you again for your time and being so open with us.
CROSS: Oh, youíre welcome.
As Marcia mentioned, getting a diagnosis for
your "headaches" is essential. Along with other information on our site, you can
also go to www.headachequiz.com to
take a quiz and get more information to help you when talking with your doctor.
Note: Marcia Cross is a paid spokeswoman for
Published November 13, 2006
© Teri Robert