Mary Leatherman, who always wears her mask in public, overcame debilitating migraines with acupuncture. Photo by Anlan Cheney.

Wearing her mask and “I stand with Chesa Boudin” pin, Mary Leatherman stood outside the Lotus Center at 417 South Van Ness Ave. 

She had received a text from her acupuncturist, who was running a little late, so she decided “just to hang out for a little bit.” 

Leatherman said she decided to try alternative medicine during menopause. “I started getting horrible, debilitating migraines. And somebody said, ‘Try acupuncture!’” she said. 

She connected with an acupuncturist whose daughter attended the same primary school as Leatherman’s own daughter, a fortuitous decision. “She cured me!” said Leatherman, “Or, I should say, acupuncture cured me of the migraines.” 

She has since been back for navigating digestive issues, a stressful job, and a rotator cuff problem. So far, acupuncture has worked for everything.

Still, Leatherman understands it might not be for everyone. “Some people are, you know, dead set against any kind of alternative medicine or needles or whatever,” she said. “If somebody asks, I’ll say it works for me.”

She cites a deeper “whole mind-body” connection than she has experienced elsewhere. “I’ve had experiences on the table — I know this is going to sound crazy — where I was out. I was just somewhere else,” she said. “[The room] is heated. There’s nice music on. You’re all cozy. It just feels like it’s something deeper than sleeping.” 

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"Annie" is originally from Nebraska, where she found her calling to journalism as editor of her high school newsletter. Before returning to the field, she studied peace and political science in the Balkans, taught elementary and middle school, and worked as an epidemiologist during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow her on Twitter @anlancheney.

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