Some of our most remarkable healing takes place not only by grace of our bodies’ natural capacity to heal itself, but also by our faith and sheer determination to get better no matter what. I was still a fresh intern in the student clinic when one of my oldest friends was diagnosed with colon cancer. Following surgery to remove the tumor, she was slated for six months of chemotherapy. As she recounted everything the doctors told her, including the worst case scenario, she looked at me and with complete conviction told me, “I’m going to be fine, and I want your help to get there.”
Chemotherapy has come a long way since its invention, but it’s still not without unpleasant side effects. Anyone who has been through it can talk about a host of symptoms: extreme fatigue, night sweats, a bad taste in the mouth, insomnia, nausea and vomiting, and numbness or other abnormal sensations in the hands and feet. Also, because of how the drugs work, chemotherapy lowers immunity and often overtaxes the body’s own natural detoxification processes.
For over six months, my friend came to see me for acupuncture every week, no matter how badly she felt. I listened as she described all of these symptoms, and I watched in awe at the effectiveness of this medicine. Little by little those symptoms got better, and stayed better. She would go in for routine bloodwork and return to the acupuncture clinic with her test results. Her doctors’ were astonished at how her white blood cell count, a key indicator of immune function, was within normal limits when most people’s numbers in her situation were far below normal. The nurses who assisted with her infusions often remarked at her high spirits and energy where most were exhausted.
Towards the end of last year, she came to see me with a smile on her face and told me she was cancer-free. Where some of the chemotherapy side effects can linger for years afterwards, particularly the numbness, she had recovered so quickly that her oncologists asked her to participate in a neuropathy study. She is slated for surgery next week to reconnect her intestines and resume her normal life.
In September, she will stand alongside me on my wedding day. I feel so blessed not only to have
had the chance to help a dear friend through chemo and all its side effects, but also to see just how powerful Chinese medicine can be alongside Western medicine in the treatment of cancer.
[written by Molly]