We hear such meaningful advice from every single person who appears on Uninvisible Pod. But one nugget that we hear often, and that bears repeating, is: always go with your gut. In February, two of our guests, health practitioners, talked about the importance of finding a doctor who listens to what you have to say as a patient, and who believes in the symptoms you are feeling.
These two medical practitioners, like so many practicing in the functional medicine field, came to their careers through their own diagnoses. Dr. Micah Yu is an integrative rheumatologist; his practice incorporates complementary medicine with traditional rheumatology. But he also lives with his own autoimmune disorder — the inflammatory disease, spondyloarthritis. And in a four-episode focus this month on Lyme disease, Dr. Casey Kelley, board certified in both family medicine and integrative medicine, told of her journey from Lyme patient to practice as an LLMD (Lyme Literate Medical Doctor). These docs, folks, walk the walk!
We also talked creative this month, with Black disabled artist Rana Awadallah … we talked inspiration with life coach Gena Chieco … and we talked perseverance and survival with Lyme patient, Ali Moresco. Bonus! All these great guests also had something to say about finding the right doc for you!
Her list of illnesses is long — fibromyalgia, PCOS, osteoarthritis, and possible endometriosis. Her background is one of poverty, abuse and trauma. But creativity is in her bones. Known as Rana 2.0, this talented young artist specializes in portraits, and has embarked on a therapeutic project: recording the faces of those who are so often forgotten, Black disabled lives. “I want them to feel empowered,” she says of her subjects. “I want them to be able to look at the portrait and say, ‘Oh, that’s me!’ And I want people to see them. Because they deserve to be seen.”
Here’s what Rana has to say about one of her favorite doctors: “I have a rheumatologist that I really love. She remembers things about me … she asks me how my art is, how the dog is. And she tells me to keep going, and that there are bad days and good days. I feel a connection with her. And I feel like she looks me in the eyes. She knows how to say my name. We need more of those things. And those things are so simple.”
Diagnosed with the painful and often debilitating disease of spondyloarthritis during medical school, Dr. Micah Yu’s search for options led him into integrative medicine, which is what he practices today, alongside his wife, an integrative family physician. His own disability gives him a unique perspective.
“When patients tell me they have pain, I tell them, ‘I understand your pain.’ I can empathize. I know exactly how they feel.” When patients complain that numerous other doctors they’ve seen just don’t hear them, “when they say that, there is something going on, it’s not all in their head. But it says that the doctor doesn’t understand, or that our scope of training hasn’t allowed us to find a diagnosis. There’s so much at play here … gut microbiome, environment. We need to explore all these aspects that could be contributing to the current manifestation of that patient’s problem.”
Bonus: Tune in to hear what Dr. Yu has to say about the COVID vaccines. Does he believe Spoonies should be lining up? You bet!
What does it take to be a life coach? Gena Chieco just may have the perfect formula. Armed with a law degree, she worked as a senior official in the Obama administration, focusing on immigration and environmental issues … then joined a tech startup … but came to coaching as a survivor of chronic Lyme disease. For Gena, it was all about changing mindset.
“Mind, body, heart, soul — all four quadrants need to be honored. The body piece is in eating healthy and exercising and loving my body. The mind part is in coming to a sense of peace and loving compassion with myself and being able to navigate the tough days, and then celebrating the days when I feel good. The heart part was huge; it was just so helpful to honor the full spectrum of the emotions I was experiencing. And the soul piece is honoring the deeper truths of who we are — I’m a fighter, and I’m resilient. I’ve known struggle, and I’ve gotten through it.”
Gena’s story is just plain inspiring! And is so well summed up in the Mizuta Masahide haiku that is her life mantra: “Barn’s burnt down – now I can see the moon.”
Sidelined from her successful PR career by a mysterious and rapidly debilitating illness, Ali Moresco was finally diagnosed after doing the exhausting rounds of doctor visits and gaslighting most Spoonies know all too well.
“My mom eventually asked my GP if I could get tested for Lyme disease,” she recalls. “Because she grew up on the East Coast and she was very aware of it. And I will never forget this … my doctor looking at my mother and saying, ‘Anyone who ever tests her for Lyme disease is a charlatan.’
“Two years later, another doctor looked at me and said: ‘I think you have Lyme disease.’”
Still dealing with her chronic illness, Ali co-founded Advocacy Express, a platform that makes it attainable and efficient for constituents to lobby their Representatives for tick-borne disease-related and healthcare change.
Keep believing in what you are feeling, keep looking for answers — is the advice Ali presses home: “I’ve had the opportunity to meet thousands of patients across the country, and so many have been abandoned; they have no one to go through this process with them. Because you go see a doctor that is not educated on it, and they’re, like, ‘Oh, no, it’s all in your head. You need a antidepressant.’ Thank God my family never questioned me, my husband never questioned me — they just knew. Because when you see somebody go from a thriving individual to not being able to get out of bed, you just know that they wouldn’t choose that.”
Dr. Casey Kelley is a family physician, an integrative practitioner, a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (that’s the LLMD!), and a former Lyme patient.
If you are still searching for a doctor who believes you, who is earnest in getting to the root cause of your symptoms, here’s Dr. Kelley’s take on the doctor-patient relationship:
“At the end of the day, I trust my patients. They know their body better than I do. I just met them two minutes ago, right? So when people say, ‘Something’s not right; this feels off. I know my labs are normal, but I don’t feel good,’ I trust them. And when we’re not getting the results that I’m expecting or wanting, then we have to look under a different rock. Sometimes this includes diving into our psychological demons, and trying to repair toxic pathways as well. But that’s a part of healing, dealing with all of that.”
In large doses or small, we hope you’ll find much inspiration from listening to our guests in February.