Saturday, October 4, 2014

Needles: the good kind

I had almost forgotten that I had signed up for free acupuncture through the Cancer Connection in Northampton, so I was surprised when the phone rang and it was acupuncturist Laurel Turk saying I had come to the top of the list.

Since the only time that she does this in Northampton is the same day I volunteer at the Literacy Project, I went to her office in Sunderland earlier this week. There was therapeutic value just in driving along beautiful Route 47 just as the leaves were beginning to turn.

 I previously had acupuncture done at Dana-Farber's Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies  and also in Amherst by a woman who is also an herbalist. The session at the Zakim Center was definitely calming, causing me to immediately fall asleep. Same thing for the sessions in Amherst. These were  complemented with Chinese herbal medicine to balance and strengthen my system after my first bone marrow transplant.

I took home a bag full of raw herbs that I boiled in my spaghetti pot and drank like a tea. It tasted and smelled horrible. The whole house stunk. My kids said it looked like the acupuncturist had just gone out behind her house and collected pieces of bark, and they would kill me if I did not stop. I am not doubting Chinese medicine, but it was not my cup of tea at that time.

At the session last week, I said I primarily wanted to address the neuropathy in my feet. I would love to get off that drug Neurontin, with its side effects of dizziness and drowsiness. There are many other imbalances in my body to address, including the graft vs. host in my liver and the tendency of squamous cell cancers to pop up on my skin.

My feet were the only place the needles hurt. The rest went in easily, including a couple in my head to calm my runaway mind. She also used a moxa stick, in which dried leaves of the Chinese herb mugwart are lit and applied to the needles, intensifying their benefits.

With each needle, I felt more and more like I was in a warm bath.

It was so much better than the needles that usually poke me.

I am happy to say I get five more sessions. Thank goodness for places like the Cancer Connection that offer services not just to those in crisis but also to those dealing with the long-term effects of cancer treatment.

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