Sometimes in my practice it feels like the more I learn the less I know. Sometimes all the knowledge I have accumulated is nothing compared to the power of simply listening. Being present for another person is one of the greatest gifts we can offer. Sitting and listening while someone shares their life experience provides a valuable gift to the person being listened to, and at the same time provides you with the gift of wisdom and learning. Such is the case with so many of my patients, including Leigh-Ann, who has been coming into the clinic several times a week now since commencing her cancer treatment.
The Healing Power of Acupuncture in Cancer Treatment
Getting a diagnosis of cancer is a life changing event that leaves you feeling like you have no control over your health or destiny. We are very fortunate in BC to have one of the best cancer treatment agencies in Canada that only uses evidence-based treatment that consists primarily of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and drug therapy. All of these treatments are so hard on your body and spirit. After my surgery and first round of chemotherapy I was feeling that I would never get through this treatment and questioned whether I would ever be healthy again. I was fortunate to have someone I met at a support group refer me to Hemma. She knew Michael at Hemma had treated someone with my type of cancer and encouraged me to try acupuncture suggesting that it may help me deal with all the side effects that I was experiencing including nausea, pain, sleeplessness and overall weakness. The Cancer Agency did give me some information on adjunct therapies to try but there is no referral or partnership with these community agencies; you must take the initiative and search out for yourself what works best for you. When I researched the impact of acupuncture and cancer treatment, there were reports of positive impacts but most studies had patients attending 2 to 3 times weekly. Given that hemma is a community treatment approach, it was affordable for me to include in my treatment plan.
Beginning with the first meeting with Michael, I felt that I was being listened to, and we started where I was, anxious and very ill from the side effects of chemotherapy. This was the start of a relationship that continues to be such an important force in my healing. The focus of each treatment is always in response to how I am feeling that day and what I want to focus on; I never feel rushed and conversation is easy. The community setting is so comforting and peaceful, knowing that you are always able to get your acupuncturist’s eye if you need to, and you also can see the healing that is going on with the others in the room. I have learnt so much from just being present in the room; there is a culture of respect and compassion for each other. This caring approach is also present when you come in and schedule appointments with the hemma staff who often ask me how I am doing and wish me the best as I leave.
I continue to work in partnership with Michael, Melissa and the other acupuncturists as I share information from the Cancer Agency and the results of diagnostic tests, and how I feel I am progressing. It is a true team approach which gives me the ability to schedule appointments at times that work for me. I feel supported through their words and touch as I struggle through some difficult days but laugh together at some of the challenges and experiences I deal with. Slowly and surely I have gained more confidence in the Cancer Agency treatments and how I can strengthen and enhance my body’s ability to deal with the side effects through the acupuncture treatments and other activities I do including yoga, massage, meditation and hypnotherapy. These treatments, not available from the Cancer Agency, have and continue to help me regain strength, both physical and emotional, and allow me to be as active as possible each day.
It is unfortunate that acupuncture is not widely recognized as an important therapy to help one deal with the negative impacts of Cancer treatment as chemotherapy and radiation attack our healthy cells as well. Acupuncture has no side effects, not like many of the drugs that are prescribed to help alleviate side effects. For me, it has been critical to my healing. There is documented evidence to support this but I believe the most important evidence is one’s personal experience that is difficult to study in a scientific qualitative manner. I hope my story will encourage others to try this treatment approach in similar situations. I know that it takes a commitment to attend on a regular basis, just like we are asked to for chemotherapy and radiation, but isn’t that what is required for any part of your life? I look forward to my appointments and the caring and healing that happens as soon as I enter the door at hemma. Leigh Ann