Supporting the community so no one has to suffer needlessly.
At 52 years old, Tammy Price-Hummel has been living with pain for nearly four decades. Sadly, she was also forced to deal with the pain mainly alone for nearly three of those decades. Not wanting anyone else to have to suffer needlessly without proper care is why she has become a passionate advocate. Tammy is on a mission to use her experiences to help others.
Tammy was just 15 when she fell off a swing and could not move. Her hips had locked, and terrifyingly, she had to wait until they relaxed before seeking help. She saw her doctor who informed her that she not only had bursitis in both hips but also in her shoulders.
The news was devastating. “I never thought little things kids do like bouncing down the stairs was harmful,” she explains. “How was I supposed to know at that age that childish antics could hurt my body and cause bursitis?”
Just the beginning
Her health continued to decline. Tammy quickly began to experience daily pain—typically lasting a few hours at a time, but sometimes days on end. Yet no one seemed to listen to her. “My doctors did nothing for me at 15,” Tammy laments. “In fact, I didn’t get proper treatment until 43 when my primary care doctor realized vicodin was not helping or working.” At her husband Mark’s insistence, she was finally referred to a rheumatologist.
“From the moment I saw the rheumatologist, I felt vindicated and validated,” gushes Tammy. She was diagnosed with scoliosis, Sjogren’s syndrome, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. The care she received was like night and day: “I had answers, a supportive doctor, and a treatment plan that gave me hope again.”
Tammy has tried a multitude of therapies since that first visit. She has been on over-the-counter medications, opioids, and pharmaceutical medications. She has had lumbar punctures and nerve blocks. (When they missed the position and her buttocks went numb instead, she never did nerve blocks again.) Physical therapy was a love-hate relationship for her.
“The therapist was sweet, which I loved,” chuckles Tammy. “But I hated the therapy. PT seemed to irritate my osteoarthritis and then I found myself at war with my body for lengthy bouts of time.”
Tammy tried a diabetic and a low-sodium diet as well, but didn’t see any improvements. And she doesn’t exercise much. For her, exercise consists of walking to the mailbox and back; but even that requires her to stop a few times due to the pain.
She describes the pain as episodic, meaning the intensity and sensations constantly change. There are times when she feels irritation that could be described as a bee sting; then there are the more extreme sensations like being stabbed by a knife or natural childbirth. Tammy also suffers from upset stomach and gastrointestinal issues, memory loss, and severe fatigue.
When the pain flares, no medication or therapy can stop or even decrease it. In the beginning, she would have warnings that a flare was coming. But without adequate treatment for so many decades and an acceleration in her health deterioration, these flares come and go with no warning now. What used to last a few horrific minutes has also progressed to days without reprieve.
Currently, Tammy is battling for use of her legs and has horrendous pain in her spine near L2-L5. Doctors explain she has bad arthritis in the area as well as discs breaking down.
Finding relief in naturopathic therapies
Tammy has done away with most of her medications (including opioids) to focus on natural healing. She explained that being very religious (she is an ordained minister), she would rather deal with a more holistic, God-given approach to medicine than taking pharmaceuticals.
“Please don’t misunderstand me,” Tammy says. “I do not shy away from Western medicine. Doctors are needed and so are medications that I have used in the past or currently take. But I would much rather use herbs and natural medicine to treat myself.”
From the Bible, she understands that God gave us many different oils, spices, and natural medicine (like cannabis, which she has not tried but wishes there was more research on) to use to heal.
Tammy uses doTerra essential oils and has seen drastic improvements to not only her physical pain, but also her mental and emotional well-being. Her pain is now tolerable; at night, she is able to relax and sleeps soundly. “It has been an amazing transformation,” she shares enthusiastically. “God sent me an angel when Tito entered my life and told me about doTerra. I can’t even explain the difference in my body from using oils. They are working wonders.”
Determined to do things right
While Tammy will never know how her life might have been different had she received proper care early on, she does know there is a purpose for her. Realizing she is stronger than the pain and can beat it, she blogs, participates in a secret online support led by Deborah Allen and Carla Moessner (a group that has been there for her during the darkest of times), and started an in-person support group. She created the Open Door Ministry because she knew people in her community had chronic pain and no place to go to talk about their journeys. “It is a small, but mighty group of three,” she explains. “We meet every Thursday at the local McDonald’s since they have a free conference room we can use.”
Regardless of how Tammy is feeling, if it is Thursday, she will push through any flare and show up. “You never know what day someone may be having, or who may come in desperate need of help,” she states, “so I have to be there.”
As a pain warrior, she wants to do things right for the pain community. The work is personal and important to her. “I am here to help someone catch that pain before they have to go through what I have been through my entire life. I never want another soul to experience the pain, isolation, and deep despair that I endured for decades.”
Witnessing a lot, Tammy has come to learn some important truths.
- Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real, or that we are lazy and faking it. These unfair judgements and false assessments hurt us mentally when we are already physically hurting so much.
- Help does exist but you have to learn how to ask and where to find it. (Two online resources beneficial to Tammy are U.S. Pain Foundation and MyChronicPainTeam.com.)
- Do your own research. If you aren’t getting the care you need, seek another practitioner; if you don’t feel a certain treatment course is right, trust your instincts.
- Try natural remedies.
Strength from love
Tammy has been lucky when it comes to support. Her grown children (Amanda and Tyler, and their spouses, Chad and Tasha), stepchildren (Courtney, Ashley, Logan, and Jordan), their spouses, and grandchildren, all have played an important role in her journey. Her kids were her main support during those early years when she did not have medical support she needed and deserved. Her stepkids have been right by her side since entering her life, especially Ashley. “Each step along the road, they have had their hand in helping me through some part of this journey,” she notes.
Then there is Mark: her rock. Her husband gets the good and the bad. Mark advocates for her when she is unable to do so for herself. As long as Tammy sees his “big ole grin,” she knows things will be all right.
Pain has been a limiting factor for Tammy’s whole life. It kept her homebound and isolated. She had to learn the hard way that life doesn’t stop because of suffering. Because of these experiences, Tammy Price-Hummel is dedicated to helping others avoid that same fate. With kindness and compassion, she is doing her part to make an impact in the lives of others with pain.
“With my faith and amazing support system, pain has not slowed me down. I keep moving forward while doing my best to ensure others don’t have to go down my path: that they find the medical care they need immediately and a community of outreach and support. Pain should never cripple a life to such an extent.”
Open Door Ministry: facebook.com/opendoorministry2014
should we identify Tito? a friend?