With awareness, many are able to manage better and sometimes even get off narcotics by "putting a container around the pain," she said.
Even though it sounds counterintuitive, gently bringing attention to a painful part of the body can help, according to Dr. Marvin Belzer, associate director of UCLA's Mindfulness Awareness Research Center.
"Instead of fighting, we simply notice what is happening, then we find somewhere that is not painful and somewhat pleasant, and a home base for our attention," he said. "We use our breath, unless its close to the pain, to gently go back and forth modeling a pendulum."
The method, mindful meditation, was developed in 1979 by University of Massachusetts scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn.
"We can reduce the intensity of pain," said Belzer. "We manage it better."
The mental response to pain can often "trigger intense suffering," Belzer said.
As for Buckley, she decided to use pain to help others after an empathic nurse responded to her after the accident.
"All she did was touch my forearm," said Buckley. "I didn't have hearing aids then, and I saw in her face: 'Are you alright honey? Can I get you anything?'"
"That was the spark of life for me and got me to move," she said. "Someone cares."
Buckley eventually became a massage therapist, using humor to heal. But comedy would be her future. In 1988, on a dare from a friend, she entered a contest -- "Stand Up Comic Take a Stand."
While on stage, she couldn't even hear the audience, only the vibration of their laughter from the stage floor, and she won.
Later, after being treated for cervical cancer, Buckley said she started to take control of her pain.
"Someone hit the up side of my head," she said. "Who is living this life, you or the doctor?"
She decided to take charge of her health through diet and exercise.
"Your body is supposed to be your best friend, not your worst enemy," said Buckley. "We work together."
Now she performs on behalf of nonprofit and educational organizations and serves as the national spokesperson for No Limits, a non-profit organization, theater group and school for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
"It's not something I want to go back to," she said of the pain, "Most of the fear was not so much the pain, but knowing how to get back to where you once were. You have to change your mindset."