Heather Corini Aspell is a visual storyteller, artist, and patient advocate. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her two wacky cats, SamsonDelilah

Heather has lived as a medical mystery with multiple complex chronic illnesses since childhood. Although her precise diagnosis is always in flux given that her rheumatologist thinks she likely has multiple systemic autoimmune/autoinflammatory diseases (see Hickam's dictum) her primary conditions are best classified as Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (also referred to as Still's Disease), and/or Lupus, and/or Dermatomyositis in addition to endometriosis, migraines, gastroparesis, GERD, hypogammaglobulinemia & more. 

Heather received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of Washington in 2007 and her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 2010. After graduating from law school, Heather practiced employment litigation at a national law firm in Los Angeles. Despite her best efforts to juggle her career with the demands of her health, she had to stop working in 2014 to focus more on caring for her health.

Since then, Heather has redirected her skills as an attorney and creative spirit towards patient advocacy. With 20+ years of experience as a "professional patient," she has encountered countless barriers in the healthcare system. Since becoming visibly disabled (she currently uses a cane) and unable to work she has also experienced a great deal of misunderstanding from society at large. Heather uses her social media presence, photography, and other art to challenge these misunderstandings by expressing the realities of living with multiple chronic illnesses and disabilities as a thirty-something. 

Heather also uses her art and photography to spark conversations about barriers to accessing quality medical care, improving the doctor/patient relationship, difficulties faced in obtaining a diagnosis, ableism/disability discrimination, and many other issues relating to disability and chronic illness. Using social media, she shares unapologetic "selfies" and other images featuring her using her mobility aids and engaging in everyday activities relating to caring for her chronic illnesses (#medaesthetiques) to normalize the idea that anyone can be chronically ill or disabled - even a mostly healthy-looking young(ish) adult.

Ultimately, Heather hopes that by sharing her own story, she can help others living with disability and chronic illness feel less isolated!

If you'd like to ask a question, make a suggestion, or just say "hi!" please connect with Heather on Twitter or Instagram, or email her at: heather.aspell@gmail.com

Heather painting, 2014.

Heather painting, 2014.

Heather as an ePatient Scholar at Stanford's Medicine X 2016

Heather's weekly methotrexate and actemra injections, 2016.

Heather's weekly methotrexate and actemra injections, 2016.

Heather giving herself her weekly SubQ Immunoglobulin infusion, 2016.

Heather giving herself her weekly SubQ Immunoglobulin infusion, 2016.

Heather walking with her cane in Joshua Tree National Park, 2016.