I wake up every day thinking of migraine disease and the people it affects. I spend my days writing, researching, educating, and coaching. It’s solitary work — most of which goes unnoticed — but I don’t do for attention. I do it for the millions of courageous men and women just like you who face each day with migraine. Some days I wonder if all my hard work is even making a dent.
Once in while I get a chance to be part of something bigger. That’s when I realize all those daily invisible efforts do make a difference. I recently joined other patient advocates and physicians at Headache on the Hill. At this yearly event, advocates from all over the country gather on Capitol Hill to petition Congress to take action on issues that impact people living with migraine and other headache disorders. It’s a full day of back-to-back meetings in congressional offices. Each volunteer is paired with other advocates and scheduled to meet with lawmakers from their own state.
A new partnership forms
Still relatively new to national advocacy, I had no idea what to expect. I had no frame of reference from which to truly appreciate the enormity of what we were about to do. Then I met my partner for the day, a headache specialist from Utah, Dr. Kathleen Digre. Teaming up with an experienced advocate instantly put me at ease. It helped that we became instant friends. A perfect fit, we seamlessly complemented each other’s strengths with mutual respect. Dr. Digre and I stood united in the fight for people living with migraine, cluster headache, and other painful headache disorders.Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, we worked for a common goal that was far bigger than either one of us. It was busy day of watching the clock, rushing from one office to another, and trying not to get lost. Despite the tight schedule, we shared an unspoken reverence for the mission. That feeling flowed from one appointment to the next, connecting each team in an invisible web woven throughout the Hill. In over a hundred congressional offices that day, migraine doctors and patients all spoke with one voice.
Making a real difference
I still get choked up thinking about it. Then I get excited. Doctors and patients representing migraine and other headache disorders joined together to exercise our constitutional right to petition our government. We don’t always agree. Yet for one day, we put all our differences aside and worked together. Our common goal this year was convincing Congress to appropriate more money to fund research that will help us all. That’s the beauty of advocacy. The welcoming smiles, firm handshakes, and hugs exchanged among doctors and patients was beautiful and priceless.
We have allies
Our spirit of cooperation was met with equal enthusiasm by politicians of all persuasions. Everyone is beginning to realize that migraine and headache disorders are society’s problem. It’s a health care crisis that has far-reaching impact on every community in the country. At Headache on the Hill, I had the privilege of speaking to influential people who can help make a difference. They listened. They asked questions. They promised to fight for us and asked us to rally patients to support their efforts. I’ve never felt more hopeful about the future of migraine and headache treatment. So, the next time you’re tempted to say, “The government should do more to help us,” remember Headache on the Hill. Our government has heard our request for help. In that complicated world of competing political agendas, we have allies who are championing our cause.
More helpful information:
Headache disorders counselor and advocate Tammy Rome maintains a private practice specializing in treating clients with Migraine and other headache disorders. She also volunteers as vice chair of the American Headache and Migraine Association and as president of The Cluster Headache Support Group. You can read more of Tammy’s work on her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.