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Dr. Francesca Owoo is a therapist that focuses on couples and families navigating the complex world of chronic illness. She is passionate about working with this population due to several chronic illnesses within her family. While working on her Ph.D., she was diagnosed with fibroids, stage 4 endometriosis, and adenomyosis. She has 14 years of experience using systemic-based therapies and a culturally-sensitive model when working with marginalized populations in a variety of settings such as psychiatric and medical facilities, community mental health agencies, university clinic settings, and within the school system. In this episode she shares her story and her passion for taking her personal experiences and helping others that are going through the same challenges. You don’t want to miss her honesty, humor, and warmth as she speaks about her passion of sharing her story so no one else feels like they’re going through this alone. 

Guest Spotlight: Dr. Francesca Owoo

Dr. Francesca Owoo

Dr. Owoo is the owner of FKO Therapy & Consultation Services, LLC, an online private practice that focuses on couples and families navigating the complex world of chronic illness. She was born and raised in the South Bronx, New York to immigrant parents via way of Ghana, West Africa. She is passionate about working with this population due to several chronic illnesses within her family. While working on her Ph.D., she was diagnosed with fibroids, stage 4 endometriosis, and adenomyosis which would result in multiple surgeries, both parents would be diagnosed with cancer, and her brother would experience complications of sickle cell disease. Having these personal experiences with chronic illness has driven her passion to work with this population exclusively. 

Dr. Owoo is licensed in Maryland, New York, and Ohio. She graduated from a doctoral program with a marriage & family therapy specialization from the University of Akron in Ohio. She also has a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from her beloved alma mater The University at Buffalo. She has 14 years of experience using systemic-based therapies and a culturally-sensitive model when working with marginalized populations in a variety of settings such as psychiatric and medical facilities, community mental health agencies, university clinic settings, and within the school system. 

Connect with Dr. Francesca Owoo:

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NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors.

Dr. Francesca Owoo

It's not often that you meet someone who has known what they wanted to do since childhood. Dr Francesca. Owoo, we knew from a very early age, like age eight that she wanted to help families who were affected by chronic illness.
That's quite a thing to know from such an early age, but she did. And as she grew up, her passion only deepened and she stayed very true to her calling.
Her story. Is amazing. And she is such a natural storyteller than I know this episode is going to grab you from the very beginning. And levy wanting to hear more from Dr. Francesca Owoo. So please enjoy this week's episode. And visit Andrea Hanson, for more on Dr. Owoo. Resources we talk about in the show.
And transcripts from today's episode.
[00:00:46] Andrea: I'm here today with Francesca Owoo. Dr. Owoo is the owner of FKO therapy and consultation services, LLC. And online private practice that focuses on couples and families navigating the complex world of chronic illness.
She was born and raised in the south Bronx, New York to immigrant parents via way of Ghana, west Africa. She is passionate about working with this population due to several chronic illnesses within her family. While working on her PhD, she was diagnosed with fibroids stage four end endometriosis and adenomyosis, which would result in multiple surgeries.
Both parents would be diagnosed with cancer and her brother would experience complications of sickle cell disease. Having these personal experiences with her chronic illness has driven her passion to work with this population. Exclusively, dr. Owoo is licensed in Maryland, New York and Ohio.
She graduated from a doctoral program with a marriage and family therapy specialization from the university of Akron in Ohio. She also has a master of science and mental health and counseling and a bachelor of arts and psychology from her beloved almond mater the university of Buffalo. She has 14 years of experience using systemic based therapies and a culturally sensitive model when working with marginalized populations in variety of settings, such as psychiatric and medical facilities, community mental health agencies, university clinic settings, and within the school system. welcome. Welcome I love it. That's quite the bio.
[00:02:26] Francesca: yeah. I I'm listening to it and I'm thinking, oh my goodness, I feel old. I'm not old, but I feel old.
[00:02:34] Andrea: you're yeah. You're not old at all. I think that's amazing. , the thing that sticks out to me of of course, is you're doing something that not everybody does, but you're taking your personal, very personal journey and challenges that you've had in your life. And you turned it around, you built on it with all of these professional degrees and experience.
And now you're helping that same chronic illness community that you understand. So personally,
[00:03:04] Francesca: absolutely. I love it. I've always thought that you're not, you're not really working if this is something you're passionate about. So it's not really worked to me. It is something I've always dreamt about something I've been planning since I was eight, because I was one of those kids. And it's just, I'm just glad to actually be living out in my purpose.
[00:03:24] Andrea: Wow. So you've been planning this since you were eight to go into therapy and all of that.
[00:03:29] Francesca: it's creepy, actually. It's, just a, a little bit creepy. I was one of those kids that was always watching 20, 20 and Dateline, and the news at six o'clock till nine. I was one of those kids. I was always doing something that a normal eight year old wouldn't necessarily do, but how I even fell into this at eight, I just remember this one event that just always stuck out to me.
My brother was having a sickle cell crisis. He was in the hospital for some time and I was sitting in a chair across from his bed and I was clutching like the sides of the chair. And my parents were standing on either side of him, arguing with each other. And my father was talking about he doesn't understand why this is happening.
And he was kind of like blaming my mom and my mom is blaming him. And then some doctors walked in with some residents. And the first question that the doctor says. Is your home clean. And I just remember kind of tilting my head thinking, oh my God, why would he even ask a question like that? And then , the doctor also starts to question my parents' profession.
Are you really like what do you do? Are you really an architect and asking my mom, are you really a registered nurse? And once again, is your house clean? Do you have roaches in your house then? Once again, my parents started arguing and I'm thinking is a. Therapist or a social worker going to come in here and kind of talk to my parents about this is not good for you as a couple.
This is not good for your child. Who's currently sick. And that's literally how I fell into this. I just remember thinking, oh, I'm going to be a pediatrician, because I was always in the hospital setting. I'm going to be a pediatrician. I'm going to figure out a cure for sickle cell disease. And as I got older, I got more interested in psychology and couple dynamics and family dynamics and how all of us experienced a chronic illness, not just a person with the illness.
[00:05:20] Andrea: Yes, that's, that's very true. And I think it's also really important and because it's something that I talk about a lot too, is that relationship, especially when you're going through either an event with your diagnosis, or even just a diagnosis to begin with that relationship you have with the authority figure in the room, right.
The doctor, the nurse, or whatever is so important. And sometimes they can be so detrimental.
[00:05:45] Francesca: Absolutely. If you don't have a good relationship with the doctor that you have to interact with, it is more than likely going to affect your care. It's going to affect the way you interact with the doctor. It's going to affect how you talk about your symptoms. If you feel comfortable, if you come back so on the doctor's end sometimes you have to be just extend a little bit more grace to the families, that, to the families that are coming in and a little better bedside decor in how they interact with clients.
Well, how they interact with patients in the medical setting, because it can really alter the course of care with that patient,
[00:06:23] Andrea: Absolutely. It's funny because one thing I. always advocate for, and I know it's a little controversial is if you don't like your doctor and there's other doctors available dp your doctor, go to other doctors. I know people are like, oh, it's doctor shopping and you get a bad name and they're not going to like you.
And I'm like, no, you've got to advocate for yourself. Especially when they say off, like I've had some really off the wall. Things said to me, by nurses and doctors and all sorts of things, and you've got to advocate for yourself,
[00:06:55] Francesca: absolutely. If you don't advocate for yourself, doctors, sometimes doctors might not think you're even serious about your condition. So it's important for patients to actually speak up. So doctors understand, but I definitely have a story about that one too. So
[00:07:08] Andrea: Oh, Can't wait. Okay. But let's, let's continue cause I want to stay. So you are eight years old and you're looking at this the scene play out with your brother and the doctor and your family. And you're realizing you. Wanted to go into psychia or psychology.
[00:07:25] Francesca: yes, yes. I thought that was the best route, because once again, it's not just about the person experiencing the illness, but it's also the family dynamics. So if we're looking at the couple unit, the couple might start blaming each other, that what is going on with our child, are you taking care of our child?
there's also an additional dynamic to that is that I had a sister who passed away. She had sickle cell disease as well. So once again, traa upon traa, upon traa for my parents to experience their two year old child dying, even before they got to the.
She died in the cab. And that is something that my mom still processes till this day and that happened in the seventies. So it's something that still sits with her. So fast forward to, I have another child with sickle cell disease, and this is what's happening with him. So it was a very traumatic experience for my family.
And, and also for me, I didn't realize how traumatic it was until I went to college and, , they're separating us and any time they would separate us, one of us would get sick.
And my father had to sit me down one day and said, this nonsense has to stop. , , you should be able to like, not be together all the time. But it was just, that's just our connection, , during childhood, that was our connection. He was my best friend. So whenever he was in the hospital, once again, I would get sick.
But it seems more so, maybe our child should be in therapy her brother is gone and she's sick, but we're not explaining to her why he's sick and what the illness is. No one ever explained to me what sickle cell disease was.
And I didn't learn it until my first week in biology class thinking I was going to be pre-med. Whew. Yeah, that didn't go over too well but the first sentence in the blood disorders chapter about sickle cell disease was that patients usually do not survive past the age of 30.
[00:09:24] Andrea: oh my gosh.
[00:09:25] Francesca: So I called my brother and I was asking him, I was like, why.
What's going on here, how come no one told me this information. And then he goes on about how, , you're so emotional and this is why we didn't tell you. Oh, good, good. Thanks for not telling me, but it's nice for me to know. So I kind of made it my own personal mission to find out more about sickle cell disease and to educate myself about the, the prognosis of the illness and what I can do to actually help the sickle cell disease community.
[00:09:55] Andrea: right. And it's really interesting. You touched on something that I think a lot,because I, I think we're about the same age. And I remember when I, , went through different things in my childhood, especially when I was little, , like five, eight, whatever. There was very much the thought that like kids don't really you don't have to tell them like they're too little, they don't understand.
And by they don't understand, it was translated somehow into that means it's not going to affect them.
[00:10:21] Francesca: Kids understand more than we think they understand, especially when working with children, they will tell you some things and you will be completely shocked. So I always tell parents be careful about what it is that you're doing around your children or what you're saying around your children, because don't come back and tell me, so just make sure,
just make sure that you're cognizant, like exactly.
Eventually I'll find out.
[00:10:45] Andrea: Wow. So when you were in you're in school and you're looking at you going into graduate school and all of that, that is when you had your own personal is that right?
[00:10:59] Francesca: I've always had a menstrual cycle that was the cycle from hell. I always referred to it as Satan. Eventually I started referring to it as dooms day and I didn't realize that my cycle was not supposed to be this way
it was difficult for me to speak. I always had a really bad headache. And my best friend at the time told me, , this is not normal, right? I'm like, what do you mean? This is not normal. My mom told me this is normal. You're supposed to have pain and thinking about this now, of course, my mom is a registered nurse from like 1940 So the things that they learned then are completely different from what we know now. Our bodies. So I thought I was supposed to always be in pain and my friend said, no, you need to have that checked out because this is not normal. Just an extended amount of time using the bathroom frequent constipation vomiting, the toilet, and I were best friends. So we always kept a very clean bathroom
[00:11:58] Andrea: oh
[00:11:58] Francesca: were times when I would actually just sleep in the bathroom.
It was just, it was very it, when I look back on it, it was very traumatic for me, but I thought this is life and this is just how life is going to be for me.
[00:12:10] Andrea: Especially when it's something that people don't really talk
about a whole lot and kind of the general understanding is like, yeah, that time of the month just sucks and you have cramps and it hurts. And some people have cramps more than others and some people have heavy flows. And so it's easy to think that they're talking about it the same way as what's happening to you.
And, but you don't really go into those details to realize oh no, what they mean by pain and cramps and
whatnot is, is, like a fraction of what I'm feeling. And, , it's another reason why we just have to communicate.
[00:12:43] Francesca: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that leads me to talk about the cultural differences as well. Being in elementary school, I'll never forget this. Because I had this conversation with a friend years ago and when I was telling her about my diagnosis, because she also had polycystic ovarian syndrome and I told her, I remember your mom saying that we were being nasty quote unquote, because we were talking about our periods and she started laughing.
She's like, yeah, because we never talked about it again after that, like exactly. We never talked about it again after that. So here we are, , in college experiencing these symptoms and no one's talking about it. So even when I got diagnosed with endometriosis, the first words that came out of my mouth was what. That's a, that's a white woman's disease. I don't know what that is
[00:13:33] Andrea: Mm.
[00:13:34] Francesca: because I never heard any black women actively talking about their cycles or having any sort of cyst or fibroids and uncle Google, him and him. And I have a very good relationship.
[00:13:48] Andrea: Oh, gosh,
don't, I don't I don't have such a good of relationship, so it's nice to hear that
[00:13:53] Francesca: Yeah. , with web MD, , they always tell us that we're going to die at some point in time, but just Googling my symptoms at the time, it was a whole list of symptoms. And I said, something is not matching up. This isn't just fibroids. This has to be something else. But I didn't see any black women talking about endometriosis at the time.
I didn't even know what it was. I didn't even know. I, I kept reading about it. And once again, going into Facebook groups and not seeing any black women actively talking about this. So I just, I felt very isolated. I felt very alone. , I felt very ashamed that this is what was happening because the stereotype said as an African American woman, I'm supposed to be able to have children.
I'm supposed to be okay. I'm supposed to kind of just man up and deal with these issues. But at the time I really wasn't dealing with it because there was so much going on at the time from the first diagnosis of fibroids. And then the following year was another diagnosis.
And the following year there was another diagnosis. So it just kept coming back to back to back every year. And within that time span, both parents being diagnosed with cancer. And my brother had a , a stent in the ICU and. I just remember asking God, did I do something wrong?
[00:15:07] Andrea: Yeah.
[00:15:08] Francesca: are you punishing me for something?
What have I done? And then I started to reassess almost everything in my life, thinking I have to have done something because this doesn't make any sense. I am dedicated my life to people. I am going to work when I probably shouldn't. Cause I was changing at that time every 30 minutes. So I had an alarm on my phone that would go off every 30 minutes and I'd run to the bathroom.
I'd change. I get wrapped right back into my session. And when you're working with kids, once again, kids notice everything they would ask me, are you feeling okay? You look a little pale today. Are you okay? I'm like, yeah, everything's okay. You're lying to us.
[00:15:48] Andrea: Mm-hmm yeah, they
[00:15:49] Francesca: I was like, no. Yeah, they, they I'm pretty sure they definitely knew, but I had a really understanding supervisor at the time who allowed me to wear sweatpants and a t-shirt.
But then it started to feel really odd because people were talking,
people were talking like, what's going on with her. She's supposed to be a professional. She's in a doctoral program. Why does she look like this? And I sit back sometimes and I'm think, damn, you guys are some assholes.
why why couldn't you like, why couldn't you just sit me down?
Like, Hey, is there something going
on with you? Do you want to talk about we're in a therapy program? ,
[00:16:24] Andrea: that
the irony though? Right? You're working with people who should totally understand. And they're the exact same people who are like, what's going on with her. Let's talk about that. And she can wear sweatpants. , , I, I can hear it.
I know exactly what they were saying. How did you, how did you handle that? What did you do? What did you say to them? Or did you,
[00:16:42] Francesca: let's see. I'm thinking of the instances in my head. There were, there were so many, I had an instance of a
person bping into me and using, using my stomach to brace herself. So she kind of just bped into me because there was a ror that I was hiding a P.
[00:16:57] Andrea: which by the way, who cares? Right? Who gives a shit if you're hiding a pregnancy?
[00:17:02] Francesca: And I didn't say anything to her. I was, I was so in my head about how I'm feeling, but I was very cognizant of how others were treating me,
Not knowing what was going on with my body. I feel like I went to bed at 28.
I woke up, I went to bed with a six pack. I woke up with a one pack and one side, the left side of my stomach was obviously protruding. You could just see it. So if I started wearing shirts that were really big I was a size four at the time, and I shot up to about a size 16 throughout this entire process.
And it was literally all in my stomach. So my clothes started getting bigger. My pants started getting bigger. My hair started get getting stringier and falling out, and I just didn't understand what was going on with me. I kept seeing doctor after doctor, after doctor, I saw six doctors and the seventh doctor, God bless her, an African American woman.
She sat there and just looked at me like you're on 13 pills, said yeah. And supplements. And I was under the impression that these supplements are going to cure me. And I'm going to find the magic herb and they're going to dissolve the fibroids. No, no, that's not how this works. I mean, some individuals will say that and these magical herbs, they find on Instagram will work for them, but it didn't work for me. and even exercising and I cha I've changed my diet like 20 million times and nothing was working. And , I had a discussion with my brother about it, because I bought a juicer
[00:18:34] Andrea: mm-hmm
[00:18:35] Francesca: and he started yelling at me. He said, do you think a freaking juicer is going to help you with your condition? Why can't you just understand that you're always going to be in pain.
I said, that's, are you talking about yourself or are you talking about me? And then he got really quiet and I said, I'm going to deal with this the best way I know how I'm going to deal with this. I was able to talk to my circle of friends all the time. We'd be on the phone at all hours of the night.
[00:18:59] Andrea: That's so important.
[00:19:01] Francesca: it, it most absolutely is because they understood.
And eventually some of these friends got diagnosed with fibroids as well. Endometriosis Picos having hysterectomies and I sat back and thought, is it the neighborhood we were raised in? Why do all of us have fertility issues? Why are all of us having to do IVF or something extra in order to start our families?
This just seemed really odd to me. Very odd till this day. It seems odd. We still talk about this.
[00:19:32] Andrea: That's really that. Yeah. I mean, I get it. That's a really interesting, it's a really interesting question because they do find that there are so many environmental causes for things. And so many, , I mean, even with Ms. It's in higher concentrations in places that have like higher air pollution and things like that.
I think that's a real question
[00:19:57] Francesca: Absolutely.
[00:19:58] Andrea: for sure. I get, when you go to so many different doctors and you're looking for this diagnosis, it's, it's almost like as people living with a chronic illness, whether it's diagnosed or before diagnosis, and we just know that our body is going nuts and we got to figure it out.
It's like you get it from both sides. You get it from every doctor just says well, I'm not entirely sure. I think it's this taking it.
Then we also get it from the other side of you can heal this naturally.
can do, , it's all about the, and I, I. , I do both, right. I am all about, I've always been on some kind of, , Western medicine for my Ms. And I'm always looking at like supplements and things like that. But, , as well as other holistic things , mindset and all that kind of stuff, but sometimes it can just feel like it's this assault from both sides of don't do this, do that.
Don't do that. What are you doing with their don't? Do ? And it's almost like when we're looking and seeking for answers, some of the ways people try to make themselves look like the answer is by putting down whoever else it was that we're seeing. And oh, you're on that. Don't do that. And, and it's just, it's this
[00:21:17] Francesca: Overwhelming.
[00:21:18] Andrea: Yes, it's overwhelming. And it's just, it's a lot for us to deal with. And like you, we end up on things like 13 different medications with, and still, it sounds like no answer.
[00:21:29] Francesca: Absolutely. So the first doctor or second or third, whichever one. I don't want to put her business. I don't want to put her out of business, so I won't mention her name.
, we ran through a litany of tests at first. She thought it was lupus. because my skin was changing color, which once again, uncle did not mention this.
So I got really, really light around the eyes around my cheek carry and around my lips. So she thought it was lupus and I'm thinking, oh my God, she's going to kill you, Fran, get out. But I was so desperate at the time that I decided I'm just going to keep going to these appointments and working with her because I didn't know what else to do then it was a possible diagnoses of leukemia and I'm thinking, oh good God, this seems, it seems plausible at the time because I was having nose bleeds every single day.
But once again, what doctors do not understand is it's not just about how the patient is presenting in front of you. It's about the context of life and what is going on at the time. So I'm in a doctoral program. I'm one of two African Americans in the program. And uh, , it was a lot of racial discrimination and it's something that sometimes I don't even talk about in depth on purpose, because it's too much to think about having the racial discrimination and then having these personal issues.
And both your parents having cancer brother is an ICU. I didn't want to deal with it. I didn't want to deal with it. So my safe Haven was to be at home and I'm sitting there thinking you shouldn't be sitting here Fran. And she she's writing a prescription and she wants uncle Google to look up the prescription.
And I'm like, oh my God, what are you doing here? Get out of the room. She doesn't know what she's doing.
[00:23:13] Andrea: Yeah.
[00:23:15] Francesca: and I decided I'm going to take this prescription. And I get in my car and I call my friend and she says, don't you dare take that medication. Don't you dare take that medication. That is not what is wrong with you.
Don't you take it. You don't need it. You need to find another doctor. And I told her, if you could give me a pill with horse manure in it and said, it'll cure me. I would've taken it at
the time. I was so desperate. I went,
[00:23:41] Andrea: And I think a lot of people understand that.
[00:23:44] Francesca: I was so desperate. I went from being a pescatarian to a vegetarian, to a vegan, to a raw vegan. I've changed the diet so many times a 13 pills and supplements. I had a pill for almost every bodily function because my body just wasn't functioning. And at the time I thought it has to be me. I have to be the crazy one here.
The doctors are not finding anything. It has to be me fast forward to 2013. And this is a few weeks after my birthday. I'm having these really bad pains on my left side, it felt like someone was stabbing me with a little knife.
And I kept saying, are you having a cycle? Well, nothing is happening here. What exactly is going on here? And then I had called a friend because I told her I had not urinated in 24 hours and I had a gallon of water and I told her, please do not call your mom. Please do not call your mom. Just ask her, like post the hypothetical five minutes later, she calls me and she's like, what are you doing?
You need to go to the hospital and you need to go now. And I'm thinking, ah, I'll be fine. I hung over the phone and I passed out. I passed out. I didn't realize it. So when I actually came to, I drove myself to the ER because I'm very cheap and I was not going to call 9 1 1
and get that five bill for the ambulance.
[00:25:08] Andrea: to the ophthalmologist when I had optic neuritis and I like, couldn't see out of one of my eyes, but I was like, I'm driving myself.
[00:25:14] Francesca: okay. I, I did not want, I did not want that bill. And let's see, the doctor told me it was gas initially. So week later, I go in I'm like, this shit is not gas. What is he talking about? This is not gas a week later. I go in because I was exercising. Thinking that I'm fat, I'm the problem. It has to be you and I did a squat and something came out and I kind of panicked and I ran to the bathroom and I did a squat again, and I felt this lp poking out of my vaginal opening.
And I was like, oh my God, I called my mom and I was screaming into the phone. There was something coming out of me. She was like, what do you mean? I said, there was this lp coming out of me. She was like, go to the hospital right now. So I went to the hospital and they put the little, I called it the Wey pad on the bed, because I was still having my cycle.
And I told them it's been 30 something days. I stopped counting. You think at that point they would've done the transvaginal
[00:26:17] Andrea: Yeah.
[00:26:18] Francesca: been to that ER, so many times. So they finally did the transvaginal the doctor, well, the nurse at the time, the male nurse was really nice. Gave me some cookies and everything that they build me for too.
They bill me for the cookies.
[00:26:29] Andrea: $50 for a
[00:26:32] Francesca: absolutely ridiculous. There were some good cookies though. And I was there for maybe about two hours or three hours, probably longer than that. This nurse comes in and I, now the doctor comes in and I remember her because she had. Black hair with blonde highlights. And I thought, oh, that's a really bad combination. and she walks in and she's so happy and peppy. And I'm thinking your voice is really annoying me right now. And she says, oh sweetie, you're all fibrous. I said, what does that mean? She's like your entire uterus, nothing but fibroids. And I said, it took for me to pass out and come here multiple times for you to tell me this. You didn't run a trans vaginal, you didn't do an ultrasound. And I told you I'd been bleeding for months.
[00:27:16] Andrea: Yeah.
[00:27:18] Francesca: And she kind of just looked at me like, I, I don't really care. And I said, okay, thanks for letting me know. And then it just seemed to be, I was always in that, ER, it was annoying at this point, annoying enough to the doctors, the next visit I was told after I finished throwing up.
You should, why do you keep doing this to yourself? You should get a hysterectomy already. I'll never forget that.
[00:27:44] Andrea: my jaw just dropped. I can't believe
[00:27:47] Francesca: I'll never forget it till this day. It bothers me. And I remember I threw up again and then I said, give me my discharge papers. And he looked at me as if I was being disrespectful.
And I said, would you have said that to a 28 year old white woman? And they didn't say anything at all. And then the, the nurse behind him says, well, I have two friends, 19 and 25 and they have hysterectomies and they're just, , their quality of life has improved.
[00:28:18] Andrea: the lead right there, right?
[00:28:20] Francesca: I just didn't understand the purpose in her saying that
[00:28:24] Andrea: No,
And you're exactly right. They wouldn't, , I can't, I can't guarantee that they would take a white woman seriously, a hundred percent anyway, because we're still women and we're still hysterical and don't understand, but yeah, I mean, I think you were exactly right with that question.
[00:28:44] Francesca: He gave me my discharge papers and I never went back. And then that's when I moved into self-medicating because the doctors weren't doing anything. So once again, dealing with the racial discrimination in my program and self-medicating and worrying about my family, I just remember another day of just collapsing to the floor and just crying and screaming.
I feel like that's why my neighbors probably moved. crying and screaming and asking God, what is he doing to me? And what is the purpose of all the pain that I'm experiencing? There has to be a purpose in this. There has to be, no one should be going through this much pain because I haven't done anything in my life to deserve this amount of pain.
And I told myself, keep looking for doctors. This is not the end of my story. Please keep looking for doctors. I've had doctors told me to watch and. I'm like, what the fuck are we waiting and watching for, for the fibroid to pop out of my vagina? What are we waiting for?
[00:29:45] Andrea: in the meantime, is there any kind of treatment for or is it
just like you got this good luck?
[00:29:51] Francesca: I was on birth control and once again, friends to the rescue,
a friend said, I don't understand why your fibroids keep getting bigger. Because I felt like I did an MRI and blood work like every three months or so, but probably not. And they just kept getting bigger and bigger. And my friend said, read the package to me.
What what birth control pill are you on? And the birth control contained estradiol. That is estrogen. I said, yeah, but it's only 0.01%. She's like it doesn't matter. It's estrogen. It is feeding the fibroid. You need to get a new doctor.
[00:30:24] Andrea: Yeah.
[00:30:24] Francesca: oh God, I'm like, I'm on this journey again to find a new doctor.
So I did find the new doctor after throwing things around my apartment and I was just so angry, I needed a way to get out this anger. I decided I need to find a doctor who is at least an hour and something and change way away from Akron because Akron is not cutting it for me right now. So I found the doctor who basically saved my life before I was not in the best mindset at all. I wasn't feeling good at myself. I remember I hadn't even looked it up in a mirror for maybe a year or so. I didn't want to look at myself because it was an obvious deformity of the way that my stomach looked and even the way down to my feet. So one of the largest fibroids was the size of a watermelon was basically sitting on my left side.
So my left foot was a, a little Blackish purplish. And always just really, really swollen. So it's also hard for me to walk. So I also could wear sneakers. Thank God for that.
[00:31:23] Andrea: Let's also remind everybody that you are still working. You're still getting your degree. I don't know where you are, but you've got, I mean, you're still studying you're S I mean, a master's a doctorate. That's no joke. And you're still on top of that.
[00:31:38] Francesca: I, I had to be, because I always told myself your journey is going to inspire someone else to keep going. At a point where I thought, I didn't want to keep going. I told myself, you have to keep going, because this is not just for me. This is for families that are similar to my own. This is, I felt like I was carrying the entire community on my back.
And I still try to operate with that same mindset. I can help people and these, these are my people. They're always going to be on my back. At least this is what I feel like I have to do. I don't want to let my community down because so many people have so much faith in me and they knew this was the route that I was going to take.
And it was so disheartening for all of us that this is what was happening. And I told myself, I'm not going to drop out. I was encouraged to stop the program by my advisor. And I told her, no, I told her, no, I, I am not going to stop this program. And in between all of this I got into a car accident.
I was hit by another vehicle, we don't drive regular car. Is there
[00:32:45] Andrea: now
[00:32:46] Francesca: we have to have the, yeah, we have to have the big body type of cars. Mm-hmm
[00:32:50] Andrea: I lived in Texas long enough to know
[00:32:52] Francesca: oh, okay. Very similar. I was hit. Woo. Thank God. This is not an ad for because that car was cheap. It looked, it looked amazing. It had the heated seats, everything I needed, it was like my own personal heating pad whenever I got into the car. However, I remember that day, like it was yesterday, I'm sitting in the car on the 10 and the two kind of bopping my little head. I'm pretty sure I was listening to some sort of rap music and I was looking in the rear view and before I could finish my sentence, boom, he hit me
and I think the police officer or progressive told me that he had hit me at 50 miles per hour. So the impact of that accident caused one of the large tors to push forward. It had shifted. So I remember getting out the car. I was so nauseous. I was throwing up and I couldn't talk and I couldn't get out on the driver's side.
So I had to get out on the passenger's side and I remember getting out and almost going into traffic, then a lady in front of me It's nice. This nice lady walks up. She's oh my God. Get out. She's get out of traffic. Don't worry. I'll talk for you. And I'm like, what is going on? This doesn't make any sense to me.
And I'm looking at the, the colleague, student, this little kid that hit me and I wanted to say something to him, but the words just wouldn't come out. And my right hand was stuck to my chest and I'm pretty sure my head had the steering wheel because I had a concussion and I was diagnosed with a post concussion for about a year.
And I remember thinking once again, God you're punishing me. You're punishing me. Did I do something wrong? Here we are. Again.
[00:34:24] Andrea: what though? This, this is the true healer's journey
[00:34:29] Francesca: it's always some shit it's it's, it's always some shit.
And after a
[00:34:35] Andrea: And you're like, it is some shit. It is, but it's, it's often people who are called to heal in
[00:34:43] Francesca: don't call me,
[00:34:44] Andrea: ways.
[00:34:44] Francesca: don't call me. I didn't ask to be called So I was tired. I was completely, I was just drained. So, , she spoke to the officer and she said she was sitting in traffic and I saw him, she wasn't moving, he hit her, the officer took the statement. He wanted me to speak and she's like, she clearly can't speak.
Why do you keep pressing her to speak? And in my head, I'm thinking, this is so Ohio, I should have stayed in my, my behind, in the Bronx. like, This is ridiculous. So I'm, I'm sitting on the side of the road with this lady and she's talking to me and trying to get to know me better. And I don't know what they call these things.
The guys that come up and sweep up after the accidents
This big burly blonde headed man what do they call jpers?
With the, with,
, Yes. Overalls. Yes. With the white shirt underneath the sleeves cut and
a com exactly standard and a Confederate flag on his arm.
I said, oh my Jesus. I said, you might as well just take me now. Jesus, what's going on? What's going on? And the looks in stares that I'm getting, and the ambulance came and he looked at me for two seconds. She's fine. I just didn't understand it. So my friend came to pick me up and I'm sitting in his car, waiting for them to clear up the traffic. And I see the team that hit me laughing with the police officer. And I keep telling myself, I don't know why you came here. I know you came here for a reason, but I'm just not understanding it.
I was taken out of New York city. I know everyone. I know everything. Very culturally diverse. Love it. Then moving to the Midwest and this is what you're experiencing. I just, but I kept telling myself, you have to keep going. You're here for a reason. I don't want you giving up. I said, I was going to get a PhD.
I'm going to get this PhD. And that's what I'm doing. So suck it up, but in sucking it up, I'm pretty sure , that's what exacerbated a lot of the chronic illnesses.
[00:36:53] Andrea: Yeah, I was going to ask you, do you, have you looked into things like the traa, , from multiple things and how they are,
[00:37:04] Francesca: Absolutely,
[00:37:05] Andrea: you're experiencing in your body and how
they're related?
[00:37:09] Francesca: absolutely. I looked into all of that because it, everything that I've been through has helped me build a deep relationship with myself and with God
[00:37:19] Andrea: Hmm.
[00:37:19] Francesca: and, , God, and I have a very special relationship. I talk to him sideways. He talks to me sideways. It is what it is. We have that type of relationship.
He knows who I am. and I. I had to build that relationship with him because granted I can be on the phone with my friends at all hours of the night, but they're not going to be there to help me when I am feeling like, I don't know if I'm going to wake up in the morning. I was in so much pain. My bathroom was my best friend.
I slept in a bathroom for months on the floor. So I always had back pain and I'd wake up in the morning and I would see vomit on the floor. And I'm thinking, what if I didn't wake up?
What if I didn't wake up? And it was once again, very traatic experience and I'm pretty sure I wasn't even sleeping because then my PCP at the time suggested a sleep study.
So the sleep study concluded that in the nine hours or so that I was supposedly sleeping. I actually went into REM sleep for about, I think it's like an hour 30 minutes or something like that. So I was getting no sleep whatsoever, but once again, going into work or going into my program with a smile on my face.
And sometimes I look at some pictures and I'm thinking, oh my God, you look horrible. Like you look absolutely horrible. Like you look pale, your hair is just thinning. You look like you're going through something.
[00:38:47] Andrea: Yeah.
[00:38:47] Francesca: And I just really with the program, I just wasn't really talking about it. I didn't feel comfortable talking to any of them about anything that I
was going through.
I felt very isolated. I, I felt like the lone Mohegan basically the last Sam, right? That was it. It was just me against. Every everybody else, because I was also very vocal about African American issues and the field of psychology and how we treat African American clients. And I realized I was the only one in the program that felt like that, even though we're two African Americans, I was the only one that felt like that.
And I spoke up
Quite often. And after a while, I just stopped speaking because of an incident that happened. I just stopped speaking and I told myself, don't speak unless it's absolutely necessary. Don't waste your energy. And my mentor told me, I think it's time you go to therapy. I said, no, I'm fine. As I said that, here comes the blood coming out of my nose.
He's like, no, you're not, you're not fine. Your nose is bleeding every single day. You have multiple nose BES. Everyone knows you for your nose bleeds friend. I was like the kid that had the tissue stuck up their nose in
elementary school, always had the nose bleed. And I told myself, this is. It's the racism and discrimination that I'm facing in the program that I'm holding in.
It's also the fibroids that I'm holding onto. So fast, fast forward to the next diagnoses of endometriosis, like I said, uncle Google was telling me all these things and I'm thinking no only white women have this, this can't be me. Cause I was only seeing white women talk about this. And I'm thinking, thank you for talking about this. It opened up my mind and my heart to being around others who were experiencing the same thing
and them being able to explain to me what this condition is. So I'd gone in for an MRI with my new doctor and she figured everything out within the span of two weeks to a month.
I believe. I went to see her. I did the MRI. I came back in maybe a week later. And she says, did you look at, did you look at your the CD? I said, yeah, I didn't see anything, everything, everything just looked like a blob. It's like, exactly. Everything is connected. I said, what do you mean? So it's you have endometriosis.
And I took a deep breath and then I started crying and I was like, this is a white woman's disease. And then she looked at me, she's just like, what? I'm like, none of us are talking about it. I don't see women like me talking about this. And she said, well, let me explain to you. she's showing me that my uterus is backwards. My fallopian tubes are pinned to the uterus along with my ovaries. Then the uterus is connected to my intestines, which is connected to my rect.
So I have stage four endometriosis it's in, I think stage four means it's in the most difficult spots and the way that it's spread, I was blaming myself because I thought it's because of the diet change, you went to being a vegan. So you're eating a lot of soy. This is your fault brand. So I had to, once again, work through this self blame self hatred that I did this to myself, and this is not something that's genetic or environmental.
I did it to myself. It took a lot of work for me to say that this is not your fault. This is absolutely nothing to do with you. It had nothing to do with your diet. It had nothing to do with you and my doctor. She was, oh, she was so attentive. She would call me every now and then. and talk to me about, you need to take your pain medication.
You need to take your pain medication. I want to make sure you're taking your pain medication. My brother would call me and tell me the same thing and I just, I didn't want to take it because I felt this makes you a drug addict. I don't want to be reliant on medication. I can do this myself through prayer.
Ooh, Lord prayer. through prayer. Getting rest. I wasn't sleeping. So I don't know why I thought
that. And just having a positive, , mindset, toxic positivity
[00:42:55] Andrea: Mm-hmm mm-hmm oh God. I could talk all about that.
[00:42:59] Francesca: Instance, where I called her and I was crying because I couldn't sit. I had mastered sitting at least an inch off of the chair. I have some very strong thighs, very strong thighs.
[00:43:13] Andrea: I can imagine. I can't even, just because it hurt.
[00:43:17] Francesca: Because it hurt. So with the stage four connected to my rect, it's in my rectal area and it was just very difficult to sit. So I felt like I was always constantly pacing. And then I'd sit for a couple of minutes and I'd get up and start pacing again. And I called her and I was just crying, saying, I can't deal with this anymore.
Can you write my prescription? She said, I'm so glad you called me cause I'm going on vacation. So I'm going to put something in the mail for you right now and you go pick it up tomorrow. You take it. And I called my brother and I said, yeah, I think it's time for surgery. Nber two. And it had been nine months from the first surgery.
So I think the first surgery was about three hours. By the time I was ready for surgery two, it was seven hours. So there were about three surgeons in there. My reproductive endocrinologist I think the urologist and the colorectal surgeon. I just, it was a lot I'm laying there. And I remember this because I was holding onto my chest and I made this joke because , hor is something that has really gotten me through this and everyone's surrounding me and I'm thinking, oh Fran, just let your kids go.
They sag anyway. And everyone just started laughing and that's all I remember when I went in there and I came out and the doctor was kind of like, flicking me just like you did such a good job. You did such a good job. yeah, yeah, yeah. I, I remember that it was seven hours and I'm thinking, thank you, God that I, my body sustained me.
That's when I started changing my mindset. Thank you God. For my body, sustaining me through this seven hour surgery and for all the pain that I've been through, I need you to take this event or event. And use it and change it into something positive. Don't forget to acknowledge how bad it was though, because we have a tendency to just want to focus on the outcome, but not the actual process because , some people say no one wants to hear your struggle story, but that's the thing.
If I had heard other black women speaking about their struggle stories, I wouldn't have felt so isolated at the time. I wouldn't have felt so awkward as a black woman, having these fertility issues. I wouldn't have felt like on this island by myself. If I had heard and seen other black women talking about these fertility issues,
[00:45:47] Andrea: Right. We know people say things like, I don't want to talk about my struggles. I don't want to talk about my diagnosis. And I feel like they get that confused with things , like, I don't want to focus on the negative. You hear that? Right.
You're talking about the toxic positivity. It's all, all connected.
, I don't want to focus on the negative and. , yes, some people are just focusing on the negative, but talking about your struggles, especially from that, from that viewpoint of healing yourself and helping to heal others and helping to get the word out to communities that, , don't hear this , I think it's, it's really interesting to look at and say like, oh, white girls have that.
That's not anything to do with me. It's talking about our struggles from a sense of. I don't want to say obligation, but it it's almost like, like, I feel obligated to tell my story because I went through a lot of gas lighting from
doctors and nurses and people just trying to force their ugly stories onto me and you feel it.
And I feel this, , this sense of duty, I guess, is a better way of saying it to get my story out, to say, Hey, listen, when your doctor says these terrible things to you you don't have to take on this story, you don't have to listen to what they're saying, even though they're doctors, even though they're this authority figure and, , we kind of feel like they have more importance than we do, especially when we're getting diagnosed or looking for a diagnosis.
We feel like we're, like you said, it's we feel like it's all our fault,
but really, I feel like some of that, that blame on ourselves is coming from us, accepting other people's stories about us.
[00:47:24] Francesca: absolutely absolutely the amount of gas lighting and medical traa I experienced throughout that entire process. And once I found that doctor, oh my God, that hospital was amazing. Absolutely amazing from the technicians. When I would have the MRI, there's a specific MRI that they do for women with stage four endometriosis.
I had no idea about this until I went in to have it done. So they actually have to put the contrast or the dye in vaginally and anally. So I'm laying on the table and she's like, okay, I'm ready. Oh, I ready for what . I was like, what are you doing? And she's oh, they didn't tell you. Oh, oh my I felt like I was being punked.
I kept looking around the room, waiting for someone to come out and say, ah, we're kidding. No, they weren't kidding. So once again, traatic at that point I had just become, so I don't want anyone touching me. I don't want anyone touching me. This is. There's been way too many hands down there. way too many hands I'm.
I'm tired of this, but I realized you have to let this go and just get it done. So afterwards, the tech walked up to me and I'm pretty sure she shouldn't have done this, but she did it anyway. And she gave me a hug and she whispered in my ear, everything is going to be okay, we're going to take good care of you.
She didn't have to do that.
She didn't have to do that, but she did it anyway. She did it anyway. And I just remember every time I had to go on for an MRI, the tech was always just very, the empathy, very welcoming, very considerate, because I'm pretty sure they knew how difficult this was for me. Maybe I didn't understand my facial expressions, but maybe they were seeing that I was scared
and it was a lot, but they took incredible care of me.
I'm pretty sure I had the same nurse from surgery, one to surgery, two Kim and. When I saw her the second time around, she recognized me. She was like, oh, you're back . I said, yeah, I'm back. And once again, remembering all of the doctors and the nurses who did something for me, it just changed the way I felt about hanity in general.
I felt like people actually cared. And afterwards when I came home my family took care of me for surgery one and two. I made sure to send out gift baskets to each and every doctor that helped me. So I sent one to the OB GYN, my reproductive endocrinologist, and the women's Institute and the colorectal surgeon, just to make sure that they, and I brought a card in there.
And I said, you don't understand how you literally saved my life because my mental health was not the best. That point in time. I get so much joy in helping other people that going to work was exciting for me. But I told myself, you are overworking yourself. You're overworking yourself. This is not people don't find joy in going to work.
like you're finding joy and going to work. Fran. It was that's where I had my joy because being at home and sitting with my thoughts, I was exhausted. I didn't want to feel anymore.
[00:50:38] Andrea: I think it's amazing that just at looking at the doctors and nurses that we deal with and I get it, I mean, God bless nurses and nurse
saved my life too. By reading my facial expression, like she looked at me like our eyes met and she looked at me and she knew exactly what was going
And I was half a second from like, when she started moving. The next thing I did was I fell to the floor and wasn't breathing. So. God bless nurses. God bless these, these doctors and nurses that have, but that have this empathy
[00:51:13] Francesca: Mm-hmm
[00:51:14] Andrea: it sounds like they showed you what you wanted to emulate
[00:51:18] Francesca: AB absolutely.
[00:51:19] Andrea: your practice.
[00:51:20] Francesca: Absolutely. I made sure to kind of just take that into account that pay attention to how these doctors are treating you
[00:51:29] Andrea: Yeah,
[00:51:31] Francesca: and pay attention to how it's making you feel. So I don't care if even if you're on your worst day, the client doesn't need to know about it.
[00:51:42] Andrea: mm-hmm
[00:51:43] Francesca: make sure you leave whatever you're going through at home at home before you go in there and deal with the client.
I always, even though they could under, they understood to a certain extent I was going through. and I had a conversation with my mentor, because I kind of hit a wall to a certain extent when working with some of my parents and he said, it's because they know you're hiding something and you're not talking about it.
And I said, what good would it do? If I started talking about my issues, he said, how to do it. You're not going to be talking about your issues, but you can self disclose, which will also push them a little bit to self disclose about their own situations. And I decided, what, I'm going to try this.
I'm going to self disclose. So with surgery too, I did mention to my parents that I have endometriosis, I have fibroids. And this is why I , I kind of leave every year for a couple of weeks. And some women started laughing saying, I know that I was just waiting for you to say something and now I can tell you what's going on with me.
And a lot of these women had similar issues. That they weren't talking about. And then once I started talking about it and opened up about it, I had quite a few moms who were considering hysterectomies quite a few moms who had cyst uterine fibroids a few moms who have who got diagnosed with breast cancer.
[00:53:01] Andrea: Hmm.
[00:53:01] Francesca: And I thought, oh, thank you God, for using me to help these women talk about their stories and feel comfortable. And then with the clients that had on the fibroids, I refer them to my doctor. It's here's her name? Here's an information. She's amazing. She's not going to judge you.
And I felt, I just felt great.
I felt great. I'm like, thank God. I'm actually able to help these women. I wish I had someone who was doing this for me at that point in time. It's a lot of it's a heavy load we carry
when you're working on these things on your own. It's a very heavy load. I feel like sometimes to a certain extent, I'm still carrying it.
It's probably why my arms are so jacked, but
[00:53:43] Andrea: Yeah. I think these are, I mean, all traas in our life, big or small, whatever it is. I think we can carry them for quite a long time. I don't, I I'm not, I'm not a traa specialist. I wish I knew the answer I don't know if you can let them go.
[00:53:59] Francesca: mm-hmm
[00:53:59] Andrea: heal them.
I'm sure you can work through them. You can use them to help other people, but I don't know what that does to the actual traa
[00:54:06] Francesca: mm-hmm I had to remind myself, just remember that traa sitting in the body can formulate into something
else. So make sure you're taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually. And I started seeing a therapist and I started practicing yoga again, and just trying to work with my body instead of fighting my body.
and trying to put myself in these positions. And I know I cannot do because I also have a fused of frozen pelvic instead of fighting my body work with her. And I remember a nurse telling me when I was doing physical therapy, we're going to have to accommodate the fibroids. And I looked at her, I was like, no, the fuck we aren't, we're not accommodating her.
She needs to come out fast forward to now we have to accommodate whatever is going on in a uterus, Fran, we're going to have to accommodate her. So I might not be able to do this, but I can do that. I might not be able to do this, but I can do that. And for others looking. The others on the outside looking on the inside are thinking, oh, she doesn't sound like she has a very, , quality of life that sucks.
, in the beginning it did in the beginning. It did. I felt like I couldn't do anything. I always joke around and say, have three good hours in the day. So don't waste my time. I can, I can get up and go to work. It takes me a while to kind of get started with my day. And I start later in the day, but that works for me, especially being in private practice.
And I can end at a reasonable time, not coming home at like two or three in the morning. And I felt good about, oh, I feel good about what I'm doing. I don't have to be at every party. I've done enough partying from 17 to 28 to last me a lifetime. If anybody knows me, , that I was definitely partying in college from the first week that I got there to when I left
So it's just okay. It's okay, I get it. I have that part of my life. And now it's time to. Grow up a little bit mature and understand your body and what you can and cannot do. And once again, grateful for having a friend group that understands we are still going to invite her, even though we know she's not going to come.
And that's what some individuals don't understand, we still want to be invited to your events, even if we're not going to show up, because it means you're still considering me. There've been quite a few times where I just didn't want to go out when I was in Ohio. I didn't, but I also realized that the people that I was around didn't understand what I was going through. And I told myself that's okay, you're going to have your people. And you do the ones, the ones who understand are the ones who are driving up here and visiting you, going to doctor's appointments with you, sending you cards and balloons after surgery. You're perfectly fine. Cause as an individual with a chronic illness, so many times I've heard, oh, you're such a flake.
You never want to go out. You never want to do anything? Well, I'm sorry that I am, it's not a regular tired, it's a fatigue that feels like, I don't know, like I've been in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. It's just an extreme tiredness. You, I can sleep for 14 hours and wake up and I'm like, oh my God, I'm so exhausted.
It, it, it's just a fatigue that just takes over your entire being from the brain fog to feeling like you're moving in slow motion to the inflammation and the pain. It's just a lot. So if I wake up and I'm feeling great, good, I can get some work done today. If I wake up and I'm not feeling great, Hey, I'm going to stay in bed a little bit longer because I can do that.
Now, having my own practice allows me to honor my body the way that I should, instead of constantly pushing and going and pushing and going. because the way that I pushed myself in my doctoral program, it was unhealthy,
[00:57:58] Andrea: Mm-hmm
[00:57:58] Francesca: unhealthy. Granted. I was able to complete my program, but I sit back and think you put yourself through a lot. You put yourself through a lot. So even when I finished, I took a sabbatical, which people had issues with for about two years. For about two years. I didn't want to do anything. I didn't want to read anything about mental health. I was tired. I decided I was going to move back home, take, I'm also a caregiver taking care of my mom.
And two years I did absolutely nothing. And I felt okay with it. I felt okay. But once again, being in academia, you're not doing anything.
What do you mean? You're not looking for a
[00:58:41] Andrea: you publishing while you're taking that break?
[00:58:45] Francesca: exactly what it was. That's exactly what it was. That's exactly what it was. And I thought, I, I don't even want to look at my dissertation. I don't want to look at it. I don't want to read anything. Don't speak to me in common sense. Let me go back to being well in my head, I was always a trap queen. Let me go back into, , in my head and mind my business and just do nothing.
And once again, I feel like with the American culture, it's very hustle culture. We have to be doing something every second of the day. what? Sometimes I just want my me time.
[00:59:19] Andrea: Yeah.
[00:59:19] Francesca: my me time. I keep my phone on, do not disturb all day and my brother hates it. He absolutely hates it. So funny to me he absolutely hates it.
[00:59:28] Andrea: , that's one of the, the big things that I talk to when I talk to clients and I'm teaching classes,
you really you've got to give yourself that break. You, you can't you can't judge yourself by keeping up with with other people.
. , I know it's true for me. And maybe it's true for you having an invisible illness means that your illness is not top of mind for other people.
So they just kind of naturally expect you to keep up with stuff. And then you expect yourself to keep up with stuff. And when you're not, or you're taking a break, it can really, we can really be hard on ourselves, which means that
[01:00:05] Francesca: Absolutely.
[01:00:06] Andrea: just like doing nothing and being hard on ourselves at the same time.
[01:00:10] Francesca: I was very hard on myself and I had this this conversation with a friend and she mentioned, I don't think you understand how amazing you are and what you've done and what you've been through. It's okay to rest. Don't compare yourself to what everybody else was doing because everybody else in your program they're, they didn't have to go through multiple surgeries.
They didn't have to go through parents with cancer. They didn't have to go through a brother in the ICU. They weren't driving back and forth from Ohio to New York. Whenever my brother would get. They weren't driving back for their parents' chemo. You were driving nine hours back and forth, even though you were sick.
And I would stop at every rest stop. And I would make it home in 11 hours. And I remember my dad would say, you have to stop doing this. You're not feeling well yourself. And in one instance, I had drove home 11 hours and everyone was freaking out. Like, why did it take you so long? And I just came to my room and I slept and I woke up and I had gone into the living room and I noticed my brother was limping and my mom was sitting like a lp on a log in the couch and it hit me.
Oh shit, everybody's sick. And my brother limping, he had ulcers on both legs, which is very common for individuals with sickle cell disease and poor blood circulation. And he was kind of walking on his tip toes. And my mom chemo, her fingertips were black hair was falling out and she was so depressed and she didn't want to, she didn't tell any of her friends at the time that she had cancer.
So, sorry, mom. , I just told them , and it was a very difficult time for us. My dad was quiet. He didn't want to talk about anything.
[01:02:01] Andrea: Right.
[01:02:02] Francesca: He was just more worried about me driving back and forth. And I'm more worried about him having cancer. Like you don't have to worry about me. I got. and I'm thinking once again, I have to take care of everyone, but for some odd reason, it didn't, it didn't bother me then.
But now that I'm older, I'm just like, listen, I have to get a man. And some kids, I can't keep doing this for y'all. Okay. I, I, can't, I, can't,
exactly, exactly. But then I was just so concerned about taking care of my family. I can't lose these individuals, so whatever you're going through, suck it up.
You're going to be okay. The holidays would, for some holidays, I didn't come home. And for some I did and it was too much for me. Cause my oldest brother saw me and he just started crying. I'm like, oh, stop it. I'm going to be fine. He's you look so different. It's just you don't look like yourself. I look like a, a stick with a lp right at my stomach.
And I was just kind of like wobbling back and forth. I wasn't eating very much. I was always sleeping. and I sit back sometimes and I think about that and I tell myself, I'm so glad that I'm in the position that I'm in now with the chronic illnesses, because I don't know what I would do if I was still experiencing that type of immense pain.
Now I, even, when I have on flareups, I breathe through it. I tell myself this is going to be okay, you're in pain, but you're going to be okay, I'll talk to God. I will stay in my room. I'll get an ice pack or a heating pad. I might pace up and down the hallway to kind of like relieve a little bit of tension.
I'll stand in the bathroom for a couple of hours with my essential oils and steam. And I just try to focus on experience this and it's going to pass. It's not going to be here forever. And if it hits a certain threshold where I cannot take it, then you can go to the hospital. That's how I've been dealing with my flares because the pain is not going to go away.
As my OB GYN told me,
If you're still in pain and it's stage four and it's in the cul-de-sac and the rect, that's a very difficult position to remove endometrial system. I'm pretty sure the endometriosis is still there. And your uterus, you still have your uterus and you have abnormals.
You're going to be in pain for the rest of your life. It was hard for me to take in, but it's the life that I have to live and I have to accept because if I continue to push it away and act like it doesn't exist, it's only going to prolong the suffering.
So I accept it. I know that it's here. How can I work with it?
So can actually improve my quality of.
[01:04:53] Andrea: You posed a question before, like you don't know what you would've done, if you were still, dealing with so much that you were before, you didn't know how you would've continued to be able to take care of your family. But I think you answered your own question, right?
You would find ways I think. And that's, that's kind of part of, I think the, I don't know, I don't know what the right word is, but that's the amazing part. I think of us finding strategies and finding things that help ourselves and finding things that we use when things flare up and when things get really intense and sometimes we can do it so naturally.
and I think it comes from, and another thing that you said that was so amazing, it comes from when we allow it, even though it's this big bag thing and it's this crazy thing. And sometimes we don't really understand what our bodies are going through. If you allow whatever's happening to happen. That's actually a good thing because I think even more of the problems come when we fight against it, because then we just we're fighting against our own bodies.
And so when you're allowing it to come and you're just kind of letting that natural energy flow happen within that, it allows our brains to kind of open up and realize, okay, here's something that
[01:06:15] Francesca: Mm-hmm
[01:06:16] Andrea: here's something that I know that helps me. And before we know it, we've got this whole toolbox full of things that we go to and help ourselves heal.
[01:06:25] Francesca: absolutely. You have to feel the feelings
[01:06:27] Andrea: Yes.
[01:06:28] Francesca: Sometimes society will tell us. Okay, you're sad. Get over it.
Don't don't, what you're
right. One, 100% of the time
or the toxic positivity, but I always tell my clients, don't be afraid to feel your
feelings sit in it, but don't dwell in
it, acknowledge that the feelings are here.
You are hurt. You're confused. There might be suicidal ideation, hopelessness, helplessness. I need you to be able to acknowledge those feelings, especially with the chronic illness. We have all gone through that cycle at some point in time where we quote unquote, didn't want to be here because we didn't know what was going to happen.
And if this would be the course of our lives for the rest of our lives, and then using and changing that thought and telling myself, what can I do for myself now? What can I give myself now? What do I need now? The hardest thing for myself at the time was being able to look myself in the mirror and tell myself you're going to get through this.
Like I said, that one year where I didn't look in the mirror at all, because of the way that I looked and I explained this to my clients. I want you to look in the mirror and give yourself some positive affirmations. Tell yourself I love you. What are the great qualities about you? It is so hard for my clients to do this from working with, with children
[01:07:57] Andrea: Yes.
[01:07:58] Francesca: it is so hard for individuals to look themselves in the mirror and say that I love you,
or I think you're wonderful.
I think you are going to get through this, or I know you're going to get through this.
it's it's difficult.
[01:08:10] Andrea: Not only look at yourself in the mirror, but look at yourself in the eyes,
in the mirror, don't just look at your nose. Or like the Z that you have on your, on
your, , on your cheek, look yourself in the eye and that's yeah.
I mean, it sounds like such an easy thing to do, but it's so hard. It's something to work up to and then, but get used to doing it. Even giving yourself a little wink, right.
[01:08:35] Francesca: mm-hmm
[01:08:36] Andrea: smiling at yourself. I mean, it's it's powerful,
but it is not to be overlooked that it can be a really hard thing
[01:08:43] Francesca: absolutely. But I have to also use the hor side of that, especially when working with myself, , because this therapist love to do therapy on ourselves. Right.
It's free. And I used to watch this show awkward black girl on YouTube and Issa would get in the mirror and kind of like hype herself up before these, big events in her life.
And she would start rapping. I'm a terrible rapper. Absolutely terrible rapper, just like her. So I would get in the mirror sometimes and that's what I would do. , and I start RA, I start rapping to myself and I'm like, Fran, you are not ti, please stop. But it gives me, it kind of fills me up knowing that I still have that spirit about me because it was a long stint where I thought my spirit is gone.
My zest for life is gone. I'm not smiling. I'm not talking to anyone. I felt like I had really lost that. And being able to look myself in the eye in the mirror and say, you're still you. You're just going through a lot right now. You're a little stressed out. You're going through a lot, acknowledge it, and you're going to work through it and you're going to be okay instead of this gloom and doom
that it used to be and just acknowledging, okay, I'm not in that position anymore.
I'm safe. I'm taken care of. And I can get through.
[01:10:02] Andrea: Yeah, which I think after all of the discussions that we've had with toxic positivity, I, I mean, I'm a mindset coach. I think positive psychology is amazing and there's so much goodness, but that's what positivity really is, is what you were just describing. It's not about forcing yourself to be positive.
It's not about ignoring the negative feelings and, and ignoring and not talking about the problems that you have and sharing them. That's not what positivity it is, is what positivity really is, is acceptance. It's letting whatever emotions flow through you because emotions are energy and it's being able to have your own back and truthfully, right.
You can't force it it's, you you've got to believe it, but to say Hey, it's going to be, it's going to be okay. And for the record, I think Issa Ray is actually a really good rapper. I love it. insecure is one of my favorite shows. And every time she had like her little heart to heart and the
mirror and the
[01:10:58] Francesca: huh. I loved it.
I loved it. Oh,
[01:11:00] Andrea: so
[01:11:01] Francesca: she, was such a role model. I love ISA. I love ISA
[01:11:04] Andrea: She's greatness. Francesca. I could talk to you for like another three hours because this is unbelievable. And you're giving so much, goodness, say you're going to come back and share more of your story and talk more about things that we didn't even get into.
[01:11:19] Francesca: well, in order to do that, I have to get a lawyer first. , cause there's certain things that really kind of influenced the story, but I want to get a lawyer first before we talk about that, but yes,
[01:11:31] Andrea: Oh, that's so funny.
[01:11:32] Francesca: I'd love to come back.
[01:11:33] Andrea: share about your work and, how people can talk with their families about chronic illness and how they can deal with the family dynamic and compassion, compassion, fatigue, and all of these
amazing things that we didn't even get to.
I would love
to have you nothing that needs a lawyer.
[01:11:49] Francesca: Okay, great.
I can work that out for you. I can definitely work that out.
[01:11:53] Andrea: I love it. which, by the way, you're not the first person who said I can't talk about this because I don't have a lawyer and I can't it's really it's.
[01:12:02] Francesca: Academia, academia. We can talk about that off record. Yeah,
[01:12:09] Andrea: Amazing. Well, thank you so much for coming on. I really, really appreciate it. I know you're going to help so many listeners. I can't wait
[01:12:17] Francesca: I hope so. I hope so. I hope so. And thank you so much for commenting on my post. I was super excited when I saw the comment. I'm like, yes, this is exactly what I've been waiting for. When I looked at everything online about you and your podcast, this is what I was praying for. This is exactly what I was praying for.
Awesome. So I'll see you in the internet streets.

About Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis

Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis podcast

Hear inspiring discussions with people living with chronic illness. These people went after their passions and big goals -even when everyone told them they couldn’t. Listen to stories of resilience and gratitude in the face of uncertainty.

I’m your host, Andrea W. Hanson, Author, Motivational Speaker, and Autoimmune Rebel living with multiple sclerosis. You’ll not only fall in love with these guests, but you’ll soak up positive mindset tips and ideas to find your own unique path to success.

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