mother daughter

Strong As A Mother: Melissa Piercey Fights For Better Care and More Compassion For Her Daughter

AMD knows moms are strong. Through a series of verbal and written interviews, Melissa Piercey shares her migraine story, showcasing why she is Strong As A Mother. 

While migraine disease runs in her family, Melissa’s migraine story did not begin until her now 19-year-old-daughter, Ava, suffered a head injury in the ninth grade. Becoming frustrated with care, lack of effective treatment, and a lack of general migraine awareness within their health care system, the Piercey family fought for answers, diagnostic tests, and treatment. Through their fight, they found help and hope. While Ava’s condition continues to deteriorate, and she lives in constant pain, Melissa stays strong to help her daughter battle through and find a little joy every day. Melissa Piercey works with several migraine organizations including The Danielle Byron Henry Migraine Foundation and CHAMP. She is a migraine educator and advocate. 

In one or two words, how would you describe being the parent of someone who has migraine?



Very sad. It just makes me sad. 

Limiting. It is extremely limiting. One of the most frustrating things about it is the amount of limitations. But it also gives us opportunities to be so excited when we have moments where we can go do something really great. I think it gives us more appreciation for things.

What is it like to be the mom of someone with migraine?

What I would say honestly is, it’s just mom on steroids. It’s not just me though,  it’s all of us, as a family. I just set the tone. We’re all careful about loudness, light, and things in the car when we go places. I’ve even gotten to the point where I have to cook differently because the smell of garlic and onion, two of Ava’s favorite things, are triggering. I will have to take my pasta sauce outside the back door, open the lid there, hurry and stir. I basically spend half of my time cooking the meal outside to keep the smell out of the house. It is just mom on steroids. It’s the little things you do– I really feel like I’m the same, just different.

Besides the cooking, how has your life, or your family’s life changed because of migraine?

It is interesting how our family simply adapted to Ava’s sensitivities. We don’t usually shout when we want to reach someone in another room, we only watch TV or have music on in areas that will not bother her. We have spaces in our home where she can have less light instead of being limited to her bedroom and even made a sitting area on our porch where it is shady most of the day.

It is difficult to plan anything that might involve Ava. Activities, classes, appointments, family gatherings, etc. We never know how Ava will be feeling and if it will be a day that she can handle it.  

I also feel like I might appear flakey to some. I schedule things and sometimes I am unable to go depending on Ava’s situation that day. Even though I explain that canceling is a possibility, many people do not understand that she cannot simply power through.

How has migraine impacted your life?

Migraine has definitely reshaped my life in a lot of really good ways. I think I’m a more compassionate Mom, I think I’m more compassionate to other people who are struggling.

I realized a while back that I never listen to music in the car. I always put the shades down and never open my sunroof. I try to remember to do those things when I am alone because I realized how much I enjoy it.

The theme of our Research Is Hope campaign is Strong As A Mother. Moms are incredibly strong in so many ways. How have you had to be strong for your daughter?

I have mixed feelings about this because she is the strong one. When I see her going through a rough patch, she is the one who takes it in stride, rarely complains, asks me how I am doing, and she remains pleasant even though she is feeling her worst. She is the strong one!

I would like to believe that I have been strong for Ava through all the work I’m doing with schools. I have tried to show her that she can do anything with the limitations she has, it might look a bit different from her original plan. I have the determination to help her reach her goals. I can take care of the minutia, keep her on track, organized, and help her communicate when she can’t find the words.

I think the only strength that I really have above Ava, is that I am able to put on a brave or happy face. Meaning, I can’t look disturbed when I feel like we’re running out of options or I can’t show that I don’t know how we’re going to get her through this day when she is really struggling. 

Our campaign is called Research Is Hope. What does that phrase mean to you?

Oh my gosh, it means everything. This phrase is TRUE!  The phrase itself is exactly what it is giving us hope. There is a huge need for further research. As a mother caring for Ava, there is one word I need in my life. It is hope. I have hope for more understanding about migraine, more awareness, less stigma, more treatments, and more hope for living life without constant pain. Hope is all we have right now.

*Verbal and written answers have been slightly altered and edited for clarity.


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Molly O'Brien

Molly O’Brien is a freelance journalist originally hailing from Seattle, Washington. After graduating summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Molly traveled coast to coast working in television and media. She’s worked on-air and behind the scenes for many television stations including KVEW, KBMT, WJAR, WPRI, KNXV, and ESPN. Her dedication to community, positive attitude and hard work have been recognized by viewers and her peers through community awards.  

Molly began fighting episodic migraine before the age of four, turning chronic in her mid-twenties. She continues to try and balance migraine, a career, and everyday life. In 2017, Molly saw how her values aligned with AMD and their mission to educate others about migraine disease. She began doing occasional media and event work with the non-profit. Meshing her love of journalism and devotion to educating others about migraine disease, Molly’s role expanded to hosting the Spotlight On Migraine Podcast and moderating part of the AMD symposium. She developed and now produces and anchors the Migraine Minute News Update. As Public Relations Coordinator, Molly also works on several of the organization’s programs, including Shades for Migraine and the Research Is Hope fundraising campaign.

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