I currently work part-time as a chaplain for Silverado Hospice in Houston, Texas. I am thirty-six years old, spunky on most days, and often a surprising face for my clients. (I think most people expect an older, male minister for a hospice chaplain.) I regularly wear sparkly Keds and red lipstick which is not necessarily what a family expects to see when they hear the chaplain is coming by for her first visit. Often I am asked how I got “to be a chaplain” for hospice. I smile when a client or a family member asks me this question because below the surface I sense that they do not quite understand why I am doing this work or maybe they even think I am not qualified.
In 2003, I began having daily headaches. These headaches escalated into migraines. They still do. For fourteen years I have battled chronic pain that varies in severity and regularity. I went from being an avid athlete who regularly engaged in volleyball, spinning, hiking, swimming, and running to being incapacitated by my body. I have had days where I cannot even lean over to load the dishwasher. I have had weeks where I can barely move from my bed. Rarely do I have a day without a headache or pressure in my head. This change started when when I was twenty-two years old. I have tried, what feels like, every treatment and medicine possible. Currently my headaches are managed, and I have a team of both Western medical and holistic care practitioners that help me to function in life.
Unfortunately, I am not alone. In fact, the numbers are staggering. In 2015, the U.S. National Instititute of Health reported that 25 million Americans suffer from pain every day, while 40 million face intermittent severe pain. Another survey estimated the number of chronic pain sufferers at 1.5 billion worldwide.