When Jennifer Latson began having migraines at 12, she wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. She just knew she felt terrible.
“I would be out sick for a day or two each month,” she said. “It was intense pain, and it made me puke constantly.”
Her parents and physicians were also dumbfounded. They considered food poisoning, allergies or the flu. The headaches were so overpowering that she had to lie down and wait for them to pass. One doctor thought the constant vomiting could be attributed to an eating disorder.
The frequency of Latson’s migraines only increased with time, and she worried that the stress from high school wasn’t helping. She was a high achiever, pushing herself academically while also participating in cross country, sports and drama.
Latson headed to Yale University in her native Connecticut, where she majored in English. While in college, her symptoms worsened. “The problem was that I couldn’t keep anything down,” she said. “At the end of three days, I would get so dehydrated, I would have to go to the ER.”
Finally, a neurologist diagnosed her with migraines, but there were no real treatments to help her. She started using triptans, a migraine treatment medication. Still, she was only able to use the pill once her migraine started — and even then, only a few times each month.
Latson wanted to pursue her dream of becoming a reporter. After college, she worked at papers in Washington state, then Virginia and eventually at the Houston Chronicle in 2008.
All the while, she suffered. She typically counted about 12 migraines a month.
In her mid-20s, Latson enrolled in clinical trials for new treatments. “I was pretty desperate,” she said “But none of the medications were working. I felt like I had to keep trying things.”
She also tried Botox and steroids to paralyze nerves. Still, the migraines persisted. After about five years participating in trials, she gave up.
“I felt like I had to shape my life around this thing,” she said.
Latson realized that the daily deadlines of reporting for a newspaper did not work with her migraines.