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.