Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Alternative Lifestyle

Two years ago I sat in a dim lit "examination room" listening to the pentatonic stylings of Chinese music. I awkwardly complied as I was asked to stick out my tongue. I was astounded when Jerry, my Chinese medicine practitioner, looked at my tongue for three seconds and related personal health issues back to me that I had never mentioned.

We were trying to get pregnant and I heard acupuncture might help. I had already subjected myself to ten months of forced menopause, a surgery, and various other embarrassing procedures. Having some fruity old hippie poke me with needles didn't seem so bad after all that.

"So how exactly does this work? Do the needles, like, stimulate hormones or nerve endings or something?"

Jerry smiled patiently, "The needles encourage ch'i flow to different parts of the body. They help absolve blockages and get things moving."

"What is ch'i?"

"It's life-force. The life-sustaining energy inside us."

Okay...a little cryptic, but I was here on faith - not a scientific mission. "So how does the acupuncture actually cause change and help?"

"Our bodies get a little out of whack for various reasons. What we eat. Stress. Illness. Injury. Acupuncture gets the ch'i flowing as it should, which basically brings the body back to a healthy, natural state."

"And how does this help with fertility?"

"The issues you've told me about - endometriosis and fibroid tumors - are not normal. Those problems occur because the body is working against itself. By restoring order, those problems will go away."

"Go away? Completely?"

"Infertility issues respond very well to Chinese medicine. If you give me six months, your tumors would be gone completely. You would get pregnant."

We then proceeded with my acupuncture session. I didn't know what to expect, but I was astonished by the feeling I experienced when all the needles were in place. You know those tuning forks that vibrate and "sing" when you hit them? I felt like I was a tuning fork that had just been hit. I felt like body was vibrating, buzzing. Almost audibly. I could feel the energy coursing from my head to my toes. It was weird. It was real. It was really, really weird. I began to believe there actually may be something to this Chinese medicine thing.

Jerry made me a specialized blend of Chinese herbs that I took twice a day for about two months. I got distracted with life and before long, we were chosen to be Jocelyn's parents.

But for two years, Jerry's words have tugged at the back of my mind. Give me six would get pregnant.

Off and on in my spare time, I pulled up scientific studies regarding Chinese medicine and infertility - mainly fibroid tumors and endometriosis. I found several surprising articles and studies (yes, scientific Western studies) that should an unexplainable amount of success when infertility was treated through traditional Chinese medicine.

Give me six months.

I mentioned to Justin once or twice that maybe we should go back and give the treatment six months, and just see what would happen. If nothing else, we'd have some great stories to tell - not to mention a monthly appointment for basically napping (yes, I always fall asleep during acupuncture; it is very calming and the needles do not hurt).

A girl I work with went to Jerry for severe carpal tunnel. She's a designer and usually takes ten ibuprofen pills a day. By the end of the day, her wrists are so swollen you can't see that knobby bone. She was trying to find an alternate for surgery because that would put her out of work for a long time. So she decided to try acupuncture. She said as soon as the needles were in, she felt like sludge was draining out of her arms. It was such a strong feeling she even looked on the floor to see if there was a puddle of tar! It's been about a month and after one treatment, she hasn't had any pain. Hasn't taken a single ibuprofen. So weird.

So I decided to do it. I decided to give Jerry six months and just see. My regimen is a specialized herbal blend three times a day and acupuncture once a month. Am I doing it for fertility reasons? I would be lying if I said that thought wasn't there. But that's not the driving reason. I really believe this will make me healthier and help ease my pain and problems without horrible hormone therapy.

Chinese medicine is said to address the whole being instead of parts, like Western medicine. Western medicine keeps dealing with smaller and smaller parts. Receptors. Nerves. Cells. Individual body parts. I see a handful of doctors for different things. I find it interesting that I have three autoimmune issues - endometriosis, seborrheic dermatitis, and lipomas (suspected to be autoimmune related) - and not one doctor will look at all three.

Obviously something is out of whack with my body - it is attacking itself. But I must go to an ob-gyn for endometriosis, and he doesn't care about the hair loss and plaques on my scalp. I have to go to a dermatologist for that, and the last thing he wants to talk about is my uterus and so on. I believe there is a benefit to such specialized medicine, but on the flip side, there aren't any experts on the whole. Except Dr. House and he's not exactly taking appointments.

I have two fibroid tumors on my uterus. My ob-gyn says they can only be "cured" through surgical removal and since they are benign, it isn't worth it. He says they don't interfere with the uterus or its function. I think that sounds so weird. I have two golf-ball sized (that's how big they were three years ago, I don't know what they are at now) tumors on an organ the size of a pear and they aren't affecting it at all? Seems strange to me. And I think they are growing. My stomach is expanding and I haven't gained weight.

Anyway, I like the idea of someone who treats the whole. I like the idea of "medicine" that isn't designed to alleviate pain by blocking a receptor. Pain is an important part of the body's communication. Western pain meds often just turn the volume down on the message - without fixing the cause of the pain. Maybe this is all far-fetched. But I am going to give Jerry six months and just see. I am hoping for lighter periods, less pain and cramping, a reduction in the endometrial lumps I can feel, and maybe a shrinking of the uterine tumors (here's hoping for a flatter stomach!). And maybe, just maybe, we can get pregnant.

Truthfully, the hope for pregnancy is simply because it is so much more affordable than adoption. I am not ready to go on a pregnancy crusade at all. I am not ready for hormone therapy and in vitro and cycle tracking and shots and all that nastiness. This is the extent of it. Honestly, it would be a great "side effect" but it is not the primary reason I am doing this.

I've been afraid to talk too much about this because my reasons for going are personal (not everyone wants to hear about my uterus and its many quirks) and I have been afraid that people will think I am on a pregnancy crusade. When people know you are trying and struggling, the support is great, but at the same time there is more pressure and a lot of unwanted pity. It can be hard. But it's time I come out of the Eastern medicine closet and embrace my new alternative medicine lifestyle. :) So if you see me choking back some funky smelling powdered herbs, you'll know why.

And just because this post is really long and maybe boring, here's a picture of Jocelyn attempting to strangle herself with a Christmas bead garland. You deserve it for getting to the end of the post.


Mom on the Go said...

I love it! What's wrong with having an open mind? I would love to hear about any of your results and I hope your health improves. Love ya!

Kristy Skoy said...

Where do you go and how much does it cost? I am very interested.

Liz Smith said...

it wasn't boring at all!

i am a big believer in acupunture and holistic medicine. i have yet to try it, but i have always wanted to in the hopes it will get rid of my migraines. i just don't know how to start.

but seriously, i think it's great you are exploring all kinds of treatments. Personally, i'm always really disheartened whenever i go to the doctor. it's so impersonal and most of the time you get 5 minutes with them and then they just end up throwing drugs at you. i am super grateful for modern medicine, but sometimes, it can be very frustrating, not to mention super expensive!

and, btw, one of my friends had the hardest time getting pregnant...until she tried acupuncture. she now has a healthy little boy and she calls him her little miracle. :)

Ashley said...

Here's the deal toots,

YOU and ONLY YOU know what's best for your body and your family. YOU and ONLY YOU know what path Heavenly Father knows you should take.

I totally agree with it being stupid that someone doesn't treat all aspects of an issue. "Treat" never happens, you're right; suppress is a better word. In order to get my PCOS manageable, I had to talk to my Primary Care Physician, my OB and my RE. Not cool.

I've never had much faith in acupuncture or herbal things, but I'm open to ideas. I've never tried it so I don't know if it works. I may have to do some reading and see if Mike would agree to letting me do it.

Hey, if it's not harming you or your family, why the crap not? What's the worst that can happen?

Best of luck and keep posting on this, I'm totally curious now.

UK Yankee said...

I'd say go for it; I think it sounds amazing! And please update every so often with how you're doing, because this sounds really interesting. Here's hoping you have a healthier, happy 2011!

Jessica said...

I think it's fascinating, the world of holistic medicine that is. After studying nutrition for such a long time, I really do believe that everything is connected in a way that science just doesn't really understand. There are so many things we just can't explain. I guess what I'm saying is that I think your venture is awesome and I really think you'll see some great results. You can't go wrong when you start to really listen to your body.

Rachel said...

First of all, loved the line: "It was weird. It was real. It was really, really weird."

Secondly, my sister-in-law Briar has seborrheic dermatitis, too. She's been living with me for a year and I just now found out about it. Jeesh.

Now, on to the meat: I'm really glad you posted about this. For some reason, the way our culture is structured makes it really difficult for anything different, health-wise, to wedge its way into the established medical practices, even evidence-based approaches like acupuncture or a plant-based diet. I'm grateful in a lot of ways for modern medicine (Liam wouldn't have stood a chance when he contracted HMPV without it), but I do get frustrated at the primary approach to medicine these days, which does, as you've noted, have a tendency to regard the body as a series of unrelated systems--and which also has a tendency to throw drugs and surgery at every problem when a more holistic approach might be more healing/beneficial. I hope you'll keep posting about this because I'm interested to see how it impacts your overall well-being and (of course) the fertility issue.

Finally, Joci is excruciatingly adorable. Would she be amenable to a betrothal to my Liam? Would it be okay with her if he never learned to walk?

Amy said...

My sister has MS and she does acupuncture very regularly. It helps her a lot! I think it is so important to look at the cause of health issues instead of just treating the symptoms. Sometimes we need surgery, drugs, and the like, but often it is a much more simple solution. Good luck with everything! Keep posting about it, it wasn't boring at all. :)

Jennie Smith said...

Good luck with everything Lara!


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