Pain Diaries: Thank God For Dresden

By Dana

Migraines can take center stage in our lives at any time. It happened to me fifteen years ago, during a very rough period in my personal life. On that November 16th, my father died. On that December 27th, my husband and I were in a car accident. On the following January 9th, my mother-in-law died.

Because of my mother-in-law’s illness, I didn’t focus on my own injuries. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with me that an Advil and a heating pad couldn’t fix.

After my mother-in-law’s funeral, I developed a whopping case of the flu. Once that subsided, I began having muscle spasms. My right shoulder would abruptly shoot up to my ear. Searing pains ran through my neck and the right side of my jaw.

Muscle relaxants did little to help. I visited the dentist who treated me for TMJ, and he made a small adjustment to my bite. My husband heard about an acupuncturist, so we gave that a try. The muscle spasms stopped after three sessions, but then the migraines began. I’d had migraines on and off since my teenage years, though never like this.

Our cat, Dresden, started reacting almost immediately. We have a strong bond that started when I found her at the animal shelter. Dresden always knows when something isn’t right with me.


One Friday night I had to get out of bed constantly because of nausea. After the last time, I felt too weak to stand and so I lay on the bathroom floor. My teeth and cheekbones ached, and it felt like someone was stabbing my right temple with an ice pick.

Something moist pressed against my hand, and I jumped a bit before realizing it was Dresden’s nose. She nestled against my abdomen and began to purr softly. Dresden provided exactly the bit of comfort I needed to gather myself for the trip back to bed.

My husband left me sleeping the next morning while he went out to do some errands. When he left, he closed the bedroom door to cut down on noise. He was surprised when he came home and found me still in bed.

“Dresden’s sitting outside the door,” he told me.

“Okay.” I wasn’t sure why that mattered.

“She was sitting in that same place when I left. It doesn’t look as though she’s touched her food. I think she’s waiting for you to come out.”

Shortly after all this, I began the slow journey toward diagnosis and pain management. Doctors had a tough time deciding on a course of treatment because I had so many overlapping symptoms. Finally, they identified the main problems as three slipped cervical disks and fibromyalgia.

My family and my in-laws supported each other through the first difficult cycle of birthdays and holidays. We discovered ways to remember and honor those who had passed away. This doesn’t mean we stopped missing them, only that we recognized the need to make our way forward.

Over time, I felt good enough to take up writing again. One day I checked a story by reading it aloud. I looked over and saw Dresden in the doorway, listening intently. All writers should have so appreciative an audience.

The other day, we marked the seventeenth anniversary of Dresden’s coming to stay with us. We rescued her then, and she’s rescued me a hundred times since.



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