LAS VEGAS — Sandra Moncayo carries the pain with her everywhere she goes.
It starts in her head — a constant throbbing that feels as if her head is giving birth to her brain – and works its way down her spine, tying her neck, shoulders and back muscles into knots. Insomnia sets in, then nausea, and then anger.
The retired Navy chief petty officer suffers from a tumor in her brain. While radiology removed most of the tumor in 2007, an inoperable section remains wrapped around an artery in the brain. It is the source behind the pain — her constant companion.
She tried medication, but the pills made her a zombie. She tried to live with it, but the pain was too excruciating. Her faith told her there was a reason she was still alive, but she wondered how she would ever be able to function again in life and as a middle-aged mother to her six children.
Then her doctor recommended acupuncture. Moncayo leapt at the opportunity, desperate to try anything. When the first needles went in her ear, relief was instantaneous. She passed out in exhaustion. She became hooked.
Now Moncayo sits in a patient’s room for her regular acupuncture treatment at Mike O’Callaghan Federal Medical Center situated on Nellis Air Force Base on a mid-May morning. The military hospital has become an unlikely center where Eastern and Western medicine collide. It’s a place where military doctors combine the holistic practice of acupuncture with their medical expertise to treat pain for countless airmen and veterans — a practice that has become more commonplace in the military over the past eight years.
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