Kathy's Story

Brain & Spine Care
“I can’t say enough about Dr. Thronaum’s team — they are fantastic. They paid attention to what I was saying. That made a difference.”

“My mom and grandmother both suffered from severe headaches. My headaches started after my first child was born and I’ve had them for more than 40 years,” said Kathy Tomczik of St. Cloud. “I can’t tell you how many brain scans and MRIs I’ve had trying to see what was causing the headaches.”

On occasion, Kathy’s migraines appeared as stroke-like symptoms. “I’d see an aura, my vision got blurry and my fingers went numb. I tried to talk but couldn’t. I had an ear ache and toothache,” Kathy said. “The first time I had these symptoms, I went to the emergency room thinking it was a stroke --- it was a migraine headache.”

It wasn’t uncommon for Kathy to have 20 headaches a month, with many attributed to barometric changes. The headaches compounded problems both with jobs and family life. There was even a time so dark, that the headaches and the impact they had on her life made Kathy question if life was still worth living.

“Through the years I missed out on so many things with my kids,” she said. “I’d get sent home from work because I was throwing up and couldn’t stay. I just about lost my job several times and I tried to go into business twice but wasn’t successful because of my headaches. With all the medication you take, there is always side effects so you’re not only dealing with the headaches but the side effects too. I’ve literally tried everything to find relief from headaches — prescription medication, over-the-counter pills, acupuncture, sleeping, hypnosis and more.”

Recently, the advanced practice provider that Kathy was seeing at CentraCare referred her to a new neurologist, Leah Thronaum, DO, who specializes in headache care. Kathy met with Dr. Thronaum in spring 2018 and decided to try Botox, in addition to medication adjustment and steroid injections. “That month, I had so many fewer headaches, it was unbelievable,” Kathy said. “Last month I only had three or four headaches.”

Together, Kathy and her care team have found a combination of treatments to help manage her headaches and reduce severity of migraines. “I can’t say enough about Dr. Thronaum’s team — they are fantastic,” Kathy said. “They paid attention to what I was saying. That made a difference.”

Kathy recently retired but fills her time with her grandkids and many hobbies, such as her family deer farm, gardening, essential oils, jewelry making, scrapbooking and felting with yak hair. “Now I have time to be bored because I don’t have a headache!” Kathy said. “I’m finally, in my senior years, getting to live.”

Living with the chronic pain of migraines affects more than the individual sufferer. “You’re not the only one who is a victim of it, your family has to live with it too,” Kathy said. “You either choose to be a victim or survivor. I’ve always been a survivor.”