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Erica Rigby’s Advocacy Story

Erica Rigby’s advocacy story is written and told by Erica Rigby and edited by Miles for Migraine team.  Miles for Migraine’s Advocacy Stories highlights the many different ways that health advocacy shows up as individuals advocate for themselves and others. This project is not limited to migraine and other headache disorders, nor is it limited to individuals that personally experience a health condition.

Erica Rigby’s Advocacy Story

I started working as a full-time public middle school Spanish teacher in a suburb of Boston in 2016. One morning in the summer of 2018, I woke up with sudden head, chest, and back pain. I went to the ER and was in the hospital for five days. The doctors performed some tests. The source of my pain was a severe kidney infection. I got treated for a kidney infection and went home. Unfortunately, I never got rid of all of the pain. I have had a 24/7, 365-day headache ever since. I am lucky enough to be able to continue to work full-time despite my chronic migraine.

During my tenure as a middle school Spanish teacher, I have taught over five hundred students. I have been a mentor to them in challenging times. I have helped kids facing home issues, bullying, mental health crises- everything under the sun. I’ve seen kids crying out for help in a myriad of ways, some of which were very subtle. Little did I know that one day I would notice a kid in need of help, and that my headache journey would help me advocate for them in a way that I never knew possible.

Erica Rigby Made a Difference

One day we were finishing a lesson on Mexican culture when I noticed a student who was holding her head in her hands. “Tired?” I asked. “No,” she said. “I have a headache.”

Before my headache journey, I would have not known what to say beyond “I hope you feel better.” But on that day, I was able to look back at what I’d learned during my journey and be an advocate for someone in need. I asked her how often she has headaches when they started, and if she has seen a doctor about them. She said they started a few months prior, that they occurred every day, and that she had not seen a doctor about them. I asked her if she had found anything helpful to relieve them. “Advil helps a little,” she said. I was worried about her and felt sad seeing her in pain.

How Erica Found Hope

After school, I went home and emailed her parents, sharing with them what she had reported. I said I was concerned about her headaches becoming chronic, and recommended that they have her visit a pediatric neurologist or headache specialist. The next day, the parents responded. They were so appreciative that I was looking out for their child. They wrote that they were going to call their doctor for an appointment about the headaches that day.

I felt hopeful that day. I thought that if a little bit of advocacy- in this case, sending a quick email-could potentially change someone else’s health for the better, perhaps I was given chronic head pain on this Earth for a reason. Then, I reached a new level of acceptance of my condition. I looked forward to the next time I could help someone out who was struggling with pain.

Tell your Advocacy Story

Do you have an advocacy story to tell like Erica Rigby’s advocacy win? What is one of the most memorable advocacy experiences in your headache disease journey/daily life? Try to recall a time when you practiced advocacy. Perhaps you shared your story, posted on social media, or attended an advocacy event such as Headache on the Hill or a Miles for Migraine event.

Looking back on that experience, what did you notice? Did you experience a negative moment such as shame, stigma, or a positive moment such as joy, hope, or relief? If there was conflict, did you resolve it or was it a conflict that still affects you today? If the outcome was positive, how did that make you feel? Did the outcome cause you to advocate again for yourself? How has your most memorable story shaped you today? There is no right or wrong way to share your story.

Donate

Are you inspired by these advocacy stories and want to donate to  Miles for Migraine? All or part of your donation may be tax-deductible as a charitable contribution. Please consult with your tax advisor. Funds raised help with our operational costs so that we can continue to produce races and youth camp events. Money raised through donations and race registrations goes directly to medical organizations researching migraine.

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