Holistic Practitioner Spotlight on Michelle Domonkos, a Freelance Integrative Medicine Copywriter
We are speaking with Michelle Domonkos, an Integrative Medical Copywriter, on how her own struggles with autoimmune disease and holistic changes remodeled her life and career.
Tell Us the Story of Your 20-Year Journey of Coping with Autoimmune Disease to Finally Eliminating the Source to Regain a Quality of Life
My Autoimmune Struggles Inspired a New Career as an Integrative Medicine Copywriter
Many patients who see traditional doctors with symptoms too vague and confusing for them to describe and often have normal labs are treated with medications. But the patient keeps coming back, complaining they still aren’t feeling as good as they think they should. I was one of those patients.
Growing up, I was always the kid who didn’t feel well. My frequent stomach aches and overall lack of energy were chalked up to me being an anxious child. I learned to live with my near-constant fatigue and digestive issues. When I entered high school, I found myself becoming more and more tired. College was more of the same. It took all my energy and concentration to do well and graduate with a Biology degree.
A few years after college, I found myself in school again for diagnostic medical sonography. As part of our training, ultrasound students practice on each other before we can head out to internships. So there I was, lying on the exam table, taking my turn at being the patient. My instructor walked up and did a double-take. She took the ultrasound probe from my classmate and took a look. It turned out my thyroid was quite enlarged and filled with nodules. So, I went to see a medical doctor.
I come from a medical family.
I was always taken care of by them when I was sick. Except for vaccinations or trips to the ER, I never went to the doctor or had blood work. So there I was – twenty-two years old and having my first complete physical. I described what my ultrasound instructor said about my thyroid and answered all the questions the doctor asked. We talked about my nervous nature, incredibly dry skin, and constant state of fatigue.
Well, I must have done an excellent job explaining how I was feeling. Because when I came back for my follow-up, my doctor told me not only did I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but so did she! It turns out that while I was describing my symptoms, she was silently thinking, I have all of these things too. She had her labs drawn and got a matching diagnosis. After further testing and a biopsy, I was put on a small dose of levothyroxine.
My labs were always in the normal range, but I sure as heck still didn’t feel well. No matter which endocrinologist I went to, the outcome was always the same. My lab values were “normal.” So I continued taking the medication and remained “stable” for almost twenty more years.
What had you tried before seeking out other options?
The Symptoms Increased
Over those twenty years, I started feeling more and more anxious. I also felt like I had difficulty comprehending things when someone spoke to me. My digestive system began defying me with frequent bouts of diarrhea. I was more tired than ever.
The Medical Diagnosis and Treatments
My doctors all agreed it was depression. So I went down the rabbit hole, trying dozens of medications, but never finding one that helped. I went to therapy but felt I didn’t have much to talk about. I went through the medication side effects of weight gain, nausea, insomnia, and headaches.
By now, I was falling asleep almost as soon as dinner was over every night. I never knew what to expect from my body. I was withdrawn and exhausted. My skin was breaking out with acne and rashes. My body ached, and I felt inflamed all over. I was having trouble digesting my food.
The Aha Moment
Finally, I found a glimmer of hope in a fashion magazine article, of all things. A kind-hearted soul described her journey through the same things I was going through. She shared that she had found a solution.
Through genetic testing, I could get my DNA analyzed so my doctor could choose the best medication to work with my metabolism. I felt so relieved. I could take a simple cheek swab test and find the perfect medicine to help me!
I was lucky enough to have it done by the right provider, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who uttered the words that changed my life.
“I wonder what your gut looks like.”
I still remember sitting there as she introduced me to the concept of the gut-brain axis. I went home and decided I need to get to the bottom of my symptoms. One elimination diet later, I had my answer.
How did you arrive at your course of action?
I cut gluten out of my diet and after 30 days of not eating gluten, I felt like the person who had been inside me my whole life was finally emerging. The change most notable to others was that I was suddenly wide-awake every evening until bedtime. The changes most noticeable to me was the rash on my hands was gone, and I wasn’t struggling to keep my eyes open.
I was over the moon. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but dwell on why no endocrinologist ever thought to tell me to try cutting gluten out of my diet or to test me for other autoimmune diseases.
I wondered how I was supposed to have known what tests to ask for.
Because I was already gluten-free, I couldn’t have an intestinal biopsy. Genetic testing by my gastroenterologist showed I carry two of the markers for celiac disease. These results, combined with a much overdue conversation about the medical history of my family in South America, revealed I have seven cousins with celiac disease. I stopped eating gluten and began devouring information from holistic and functional medicine websites.
What modalities or therapies did you implement and what was the outcome?
Both my gut and my thyroid are benefiting since I went 100% gluten-free for over two years now. If I do ingest a little gluten through cross-contact, it manifests as a blistering, itchy rash on my hands. More than a small amount results in a bit of brain fog, body aches, and either diarrhea or constipation. Sometimes it takes days to feel normal again.
Even though the cure for celiac disease is to simply not eat gluten, it’s way more complicated than many people realize. Currently, I’m getting help from a Registered Dietitian who has celiac disease herself and has taught me so much about navigating my gluten-free world. She has also helped me discover that I have a dairy sensitivity as well.
I’ve become vigilant about making sure my food is safe for me.
Label reading to check for “hidden” sources of gluten is second nature now. But knowing how to take care of myself physically is only one aspect of conquering gluten-free life. Learning how to ask questions and advocate for my food safety is something I’m still practicing when I do enjoy a meal out.
Why and When Did You Choose the Holistic Path?
Eliminating the foods that trigger inflammation in my body has sparked a passion for holistic health. It even inspired me to the point where I decided to change careers.
Since I’ve always enjoyed writing, becoming a copywriter for integrative medicine practices was a natural choice for me. I get to use my writing skills to help people with chronic illnesses find doctors who are up to the challenge of figuring out their root cause. People need to know doctors are out there who can help them heal.
My twenty years of experience in ultrasound have also proved to be priceless because they taught me how to communicate effectively with patients. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a sonographer was time spent explaining complicated information to patients in a way they can understand. So many patients asked questions about their anatomy and physiology. It was always a pleasure to see the look on their faces when things finally clicked.
Now I get to do the same kind of thing but in a different way. I spread awareness about health to a broader audience through medical copywriting.
What Lessons Have Your Work and Personal Experiences Taught You?
Websites should be about making people feel understood. It should also be about portraying the practitioner as an approachable person. People are looking for a healthcare provider with whom they can build a relationship with.
Copywriting is a powerful tool for health practitioners to organically draw patients to their area of expertise. Using language that shows empathy for their struggles builds a connection with readers. This helps people recognize the health provider who they’ve been searching for as the best choice for their needs.
I’m a freelance medical copywriter and the owner of Bexley Row Agency.
My work is centered around helping integrative medicine doctors and other companies in health and wellness grow their businesses. Having health challenges helps me to empathize with others living with chronic conditions.
My experience in hands-on healthcare taught me a lot about communication. I enjoyed relaying doctors’ messages to patients in ways they could understand. I also realized my words had the potential to empower, comfort, and calm people’s fears.
As a writer, I continue to take this responsibility very seriously. I’m proud to help spread the word about the difference integrative medicine can make in the lives of those who feel like they have nowhere to turn.
- John Carroll University B.S. Biology
- American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
- Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS)
- Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT)
- Write Your Way to Freedom Online Course
Freelance Medical Copywriter
Bexley Row Agency
Downers Grove, IL USA
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