You feel like you got hit in the back of the head with a crowbar or had a nail jabbed through your forehead. If you have been lucky to escape migraine headaches, sufferers say, you cannot imagine how excruciatingly painful they can be.
Cindy McCain, who has suffered from migraines for more than 20 years, launched the 36 Million Migraine Campaign on TODAY Thursday, an effort by the American Migraine Foundation to raise $1 for each of the 36 million American migraine sufferers.
“To me it was like a vise or nail in my forehead,” McCain told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie of her painful migraines. “It’s indescribable to those who have never suffered.”
The campaign seeks to increase awareness about the debilitating disorder and raise funding for new treatments, said McCain, wife of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain.
The foundation estimates that migraine headaches are three times more common in women than in men, and that one in four American households has a migraine sufferer. The National Institutes of Health receives about $16 million a year for migraine research, “a pittance,” the foundation says, urging an annual amount of $260 million.
“Sixteen million for something that affects 12 percent of the population,” McCain lamented. “It affects our economy. It affects our daily life. It affects our school children. Everything is involved in this.”
McCain said she suffered headaches during her husband’s 2008 presidential bid, as evidenced by the sunglasses she was often photographed wearing. “That’s when it was happening, big time,” she said. “That was the sign.”
The pain of migraine is hardest on family members, McCain said, who often don’t get just how bad it feels. “They want so much for you to feel well and they don’t understand it,” she said.
The disorder still carries a stigma, with sufferers often not wanting to discuss the problem.
“People are afraid to talk about it,” McCain told Guthrie. “If they do, they’re misdiagnosed. Their coworkers think they’re faking it. Th