Chappaqua resident Lisa Jacobson knows migraines. As a chronic sufferer for the past 30 years, she has endured more than 9,000 migraines, tried more than 120 treatments and seen countless doctors. But she is also an entrepreneur who decided years ago that she wanted to use her business skills to help solve a formidable health issue that is often stigmatized.
“I wanted to help people somehow, and I realized the one thing that I was really expert at was migraines,” she said. And so began The Daily Migraine, a website (www.thedailymigraine.com) and community forum dedicated to helping other migraine sufferers. Founded in 2014, The Daily Migraine now has more than half a million followers on its website, Facebook and Instagram pages.
Jacobson was not new to entrepreneurship. In 1983, when she was 24, she founded Inspirica, a test preparation and academic tutoring company that now has more than 100 employees worldwide. She used the skills she honed there to build The Daily Migraine. She now devotes 40 hours a week to researching, creating content and monitoring the site and another 40 hours a week at Inspirica.
Creating Community for Migraineurs
The Daily Migraine is chock-full of information and tools for migraineurs (people who suffer from migraines) to use to help navigate their disease. Visitors to the site can download forms to help track their migraines, speak to their doctors, and write down any treatment ideas they think of. But most importantly, it offers a community that migraine sufferers can connect with.
“People who suffer from migraines don’t feel alone anymore,” she said. “When I first started getting daily migraines after neck surgery, I only found one other person in Chappaqua who also suffered from them.” Since this was before the onset of social media, it was very difficult to find a support system. Now, the website brings migraineurs together from all corners of the world, including Iraq, Nepal and of course the United States. This sense of community is a comfort to many people.”
A Stigmatized Illness
Additionally, there is often a stigma associated with migraines, as many people think that having migraines is just like having a bad headache. But according to Jacobson, migraines are actually one of the most debilitating diseases in the world.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people that their bosses or spouses think they are just shirking their responsibilities when they have migraines,” she said. But migraine sufferers experience much more than head pain. Extreme sensitivity to light and sound, throbbing headaches and nausea are also common symptoms. Others experience stroke-like symptoms and are not able to function for days.
Providing a Patient Perspective
Since founding the site, Jacobson has become the top migraine patient advocate in the world. She has spoken at conferences internationally, including the American Migraine Foundation and the International Headache Symposium, providing doctors with a much-needed patient’s perspective.
“Some of these organizations have been around a long time but never had patients involved before,” she said. “I recognized a need for more information for the migraine community,” which the website provides.
There is no cure for migraines, and figuring out what treatment works best can often take years. Most migraine sufferers try different preventive medicines for three months at a time. But there is not one migraine medication that works for everyone. In fact, according to Jacobson, most medications are ‘borrowed’ from other diseases. For instance, many people found that Botox relieved their migraine symptoms, but Botox was not created for this specific use. It is also an undertreated illness; there is only one accredited migraine specialist for every 40,000 migraine sufferers.
Raising Funds for Migraine Research
Jacobson’s goal now is to raise money and awareness for migraine research. She has partnered with Chappaqua resident Scott Boilen, President of Allstar Products Group, to create the Migraine Hat. The hat, which costs $29 and can be ordered directly from the site, contains an ice pack to help soothe the pain. All of Jacobson’s profits from the hat will fund migraine research.
“People have said that the Migraine Hat is revolutionary,” said Jacobson. Since cold soothes the pain, “if you have the hat on, you can function. It takes a migraine that has a pain scale of 8 down to a 6, which can be the difference between lying in bed all day or putting your kids on the bus.”
Luckily for Jacobson, she has finally found a treatment plan that works for her. “I started The Daily Migraine when my migraines were at their worst,” she said. But after trying many different combinations of traditional medicine, stress-release tactics, and lifestyle changes, her migraines started to dissipate. Being pain-free has enabled her to focus on the site and help others.
“It’s like I have my life back again,” she said. Her success with alleviating migraine symptoms after so many years is also inspiring to The Daily Migraine’s many followers. As she said, “Now, I can also offer hope.”