The Neighborhood Acupuncturist

I tried out a new acupuncturist yesterday, recommended by my friend G, who pens the greatly amusing but scarily accurate Whirled News Tonight. G sees this acupuncturist's mother in Chinatown.

The place is about a 10-minute walk away, in a half-basement office below a brick apartment building on Addison. The waiting room was a small and white with a bench with three square cushions on it, a few plants and big vase in the corner. X (his real first initial) greeted me by name from behind the counter. He looks about 30, with wire-rims and frequent smiles. It was windy and snowing very very slightly yesterday. He wore a blue shirt with vest. I had to wait about 20 minutes. I filled out a form and read through Health magazine, before I realized I'd brought The Jewish Book of Why with me. I didn't get through the introduction. I learned that Judaism has changed in each epoch. Which I suspected, but never articulated. While I was waiting a guy was leaving. I asked him what he thought of X and he said he was great, and that his mother is the country's best herbalist. (I guess her expertise could trickle down to us. He could consult his mother on intractable problems.)

He asked me many of the same questions that the Absentmind Acupuncturist had asked me, except he tooks notes by hand instead of on the computer, and looked in my eyes and seemed to be paying attention. I told him that immediately I was worried about my cough and sore throat. He looked at my tongue and asked how I was sleeping. (Hadn't gotten enough the night before.) He took my pulse and blood pressure. We talked. I lay on my back on the massage bed and he stuck me in my head and legs, telling me what he was doing as he did it. He brought a heat lamp to warm my feet. He turned off the light and gave me a button to push in case I needed anything. (I pressed it when the warmer got too hot.) Then he cupped me. I had seen this done once before, in Nicaragua. This is how he did it: I stomach and he lifted my shirt. He took a small glass cup that looked like it could hold a votive candle, then picked up scissors with a gauzy pad at the end, dipped the pad in alcohol, then (behind my back) lighted the gauze, put it in the cup for a moment, then put the cup on me. It felt like a suction cup. Uh, I guess it was. The smoke, he said, got rid of the oxygen. He had several cups and put them down my back. He left them on for a few minutes. When he took them off he said the circles on the right side were red, which meant I had more tension on that side. The cups were supposed to help my lungs, as I recall, but more indirectly than you would think. Cupping increases circulation and releases energy. He said that in summer people are less willing to be cupped, because it does leave marks.

He told me that he can help with chemo side effects. He didn't want to give me herbs because he said I already take a lot of medicine and he wants to use foods to heal. He also wants to wait to see how I respond. These are his recommendations, mostly to take care of the cold: Cut out dairy and sweets for two weeks, as well as other mucous causers: mango, pineapple, coconut, spinach, cherry, strawberries, berries; barbecued, grilled and deep-fried food; duck, lamb, seafood, cinnamon, pepper, salt. Have less: strong flavors, coffee, ginger, garlic, onion, broccoli, celery, cucumber. Cook those vegetables in ginger, because they have cold properties, and ginger has warm. (Yeah, I know, I'm supposed to have less ginger.) Do eat: seaweed, tangerines (not the same as oranges; tangerine peel is used in respiratory medicine), more vegetables, green and black tea. Soak feet in warm water before bed. He told me to have fresh ginger tea instead of boxed. To make it: cut and peel ginger the size of your thumb. Crush it. Boil in water two minutes.

Cooling foods cause nausea, he said, and hot ones cause headaches.

I didn't ask him why I could have seaweed, which is salty, and not salt. Maybe I didn't want to know. I put kombu in my soup last night. It's my second-favorite seaweed. My favorite is dulse. I'm just remembering a blind date in Miami; I remember finding out that dulse was this guy's favorite too. It seemed fated. He was a literature professor in Maine and his parents were Holocaust survivors. But he seemed to be too intent on us having a future (which he denied later). About four years later I went to New Orleans for the MLA convention and saw him at the airport. He was still very good-looking. I heard he quit teaching and is living in the country, with a partner and a kid. (I just looked him up on Google. He's teaching writing at Cornell.)

So. Flash-forward 20 years. Breast cancer. Acupuncture. I'll meet with the acupuncturist next week to tell him how it went. Today I woke up and I was more stuffed up and my throat hurt more. I thought of how my friend B went to him (must have been years ago, because B is in the wheelchair all the time now, and there are stairs leading to the office) and was worse the next day. How we rationalize; I'm thinking, Well, he stirred everything up and that's why I'm worse. I decided to call my regular doctor for an appointment. Got one for tomorrow. After two weeks, I might need an antibiotic. I called the chemo nurse and she said that it's OK to have any antibiotic. I told her about my bad headaches over the weekend and she said that it could be from one of the nausea medicines, though I took them only Tuesday and Wednesday. She said to wait till next time and see if it happens again.

Onward. Of course when I showed L my back last night he was horrified.

4 comments:

bc said...

I think I mentioned her before, the old lady who said (when we were discussing the young doctors & the old ones & the merits of each)"You know dear, there's a reason they call it a practice." It could just as easily have applied to East and West.

Nobody gets it right every time. I hope 'they' find a way (i guess they is you) to get it right and make your cold AND your headache go away. Soon. Something will work. bc

j said...

About herbs--the oncologist we worked with cautioned us against trying any before consulting with her first. She said that various herbs could interact with or interfere with the chemo drugs.

About nausea--Zofran was magic.

Carolyn said...

I'm no acupuncture expert, but here is my experience being treated for chronic insomnia. First of all, the treatments were years and years ago (like more than 15 years ago), but since then I have only the occasional bad night -- nothing like what it used to be with sleepless night after sleepless night (except when I was pregnant -- I had awful pregnancy insomnia). But I remember going to my acupuncurist (who sadly no longer lives here) and on one visit she put needles in between my thumb and forefinger on each hand and the analogous place on my feet. I felt this weird buzzing, like energy moving around the circle made by the needles. And then for the entire following week I was incredibly depressed. Just could not shake it, totally dragging, with no apparent cause. When I went back, I said, you've got to undo that, and she said, no, that's over, whatever needed to be released is gone. And after that next treatment I felt much much better.

None of this may be the slightest bit relevant to your experience, but maybe it is in some attenuated way. I was very surprised by the whole thing -- I was pretty skeptical going in. Your body is being buffeted by so many winds; it may well take a while to find the best course through, and I imagine that the course may change.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sandi: About cupping, my parents were firm believers. Every time I had a cold, my father would put the cups on my back. Of course, I'd be embarrassed in gym class for others to see. I'm thinking of you. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.
Anna