Saturday, September 29, 2012

The C-Word: Energy, Acupuncture & Mona Chopra

here's the point: acupuncture works.

even the national institutes of health, memorial sloan kettering and the american cancer society recognize it in the fight against cancer.

people are always asking me about combining alternative and natural healing with chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and other allopathic (or western) healing methods.

i believe it can - and should be done - but with this caveat:

most other modalities - i.e., more natural healing methods - are about dealing with the bigger picture. they are about looking at each person's personality, habits, character traits, life choices. so when they help you heal, they are less focused on the symptoms of your body's imbalance - it's often called "dis-ease" - and more on helping you return to a state of balance.

i apologize for being simplistic here. please skip over all these explanations if you've read them a thousand times.

in western medicine, one takes a pill or has a treatment, and one sees immediate results. a simple example - you take an advil and within an hour or so, your headache is gone. it is symptomatic problem-solving. the symptom is gone, but often we don't address what the underlying issue, i.e., the stress, lack of sleep, allergies or whatever, that caused the headache in the first place. however, even mainstream (western, allopathic) medicine has begun to realize that with more serious symptoms, one needs to make a commitment to healing them.

this means a lifestyle change - managing your tension or anxiety, changing your diet, re-thinking the way you exercise, taking supplements and making sure you get sufficient sleep and rest to recharge the system.*

alternative healing works by activating your body's own immune system. the goal is to stimulate all your organs and defenses to get your body back to normal. it's based on the idea that your body is designed to heal and regenerate itself.

the self-restoring ability is obvious for minor things - you cut your nails or hair and they grow back, you cut your skin and it forms a scab and then heals itself. you get the flu or a cold or pimples or an upset stomach. more often then not - you rest, wash, hydrate, eat well and give your body the tools it needs to resolve the issues on its own - and you restore yourself.

the reason many alternative healers struggle with traditional chemotherapy and/or radiation is that they work on the opposite principle. they rush in and kill the cancer cells, but they also weaken or suppress your body's innate healing systems. with too much outside force, your body gives up the effort.

the processes in your body that are designed to fight become too weak to do anything. it's sort of like wearing spanx instead of strengthening your core muscles. it's an instant fix, but as soon as you pop yourself out of it, you're even more lumpy than before. if you wear it everyday, your stomach muscles just give up the ghost and flab all over the place. (this is why i do pilates).

there is also some concern that while chemotherapy and radiation may stop the cancer outbreak, it leaves the cancer stem cells which may regenerate and cause a proliferation of new tumors. (they are supposedly working on a vaccine for this, but in the meantime, women need to think of alternatives).

i see this often in people who had chemotherapy and/or radiation for breast cancer. within a few years develop, my friends have developed metastasis in their bones or more virulent cancers in their lymph nodes.

mona chopra is an amazing acupuncturist and intuitive healer. she was one of the first people who thought i might have something more serious than early menopause (which was what my tribeca ob-gyn, austin chen, insisted) and also helped me through meningitis, stress and a rare liver virus. in every case, i recovered almost "miraculously" - fast and completely.

if i had anything at all wrong with me, mona chopra would be one of the first people i would call, not least because she appears to be the calmest person i know. just being around her calm aura has a soothing effect.

mona explains what happens in an acupuncture treatment.

ideally, you come into the acupuncturist's office, after you've had something to eat or drink because it is key that you are hydrated. mona looks at your tongue. she writes down what she notices about the surface of your tongue. apparently, your tongue has a lot of information about the way your body is processing things.

next, she takes your pulse. in chinese medicine, they take one's pulse from several different places. again, these pulse rates give her information on the strength of the energy meridiens.

as in the intake process of many natural health practitioners, while you wait, you fill out a long, detailed questionnaire.  the answers show, amongst other things, how you deal with stress. not surprisingly, stress and tension cause a lot of imbalance. you are also asked about your diet, your exercise routine, your sleep patterns, allergies, your temper and a lot of other things that could affect your health.

then you lie down on a massage table-type of thing. if the energy points to be stimulated are on your torso or higher up your arms and legs, you might undress - the same way you would for a massage.

if your points are only on your hands and feet, you might just roll up your cuffs and sleeves. personally, since one lies on the table for 40 minutes, i find it is more comfortable to undress and lie under a blanket. i always get so relaxed i fall asleep during acupuncture.

next, come the much-dreaded needles. as gigantic and scary as the acupuncture needles appear on the tray, they are so incredibly thin that most people can't even feel them as they are inserted.

my own experience has been one of a minute electrical shock as my nerves register the needle. then i feel sensation of tingling warmth as the needle stimulates my energy and circulation. in my case, i have never felt any pain from an acupuncture needle.

once the needles are in place, mona covers the patient with a weightless space blanket or a sheet. then the patient lies quietly on the table for 30 to 40 minutes while the needles do their work.

another acupuncturist i went to see, ming jin, is also extremely talented and subtle and has helped a number of my friends successfully. she has her patients given a 30-minute massage before the acupuncture. in that way, one is melted into pliable bliss even before the treatment.

gynecological cancers, especially in their early stages, seem to be effectively helped by acupuncture and chinese medicine. even if you have not been diagnosed with cancer, acupuncture - along with lifestyle and diet changes - can prevent the energy blocks that lower your resistence. releasing these blocks can help your body stay balanced even in times of crisis or stress.

the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, including nausea, fatigue and neuropathy can often be alleviated with regular acupuncture. an acupuncturist might also prescribe chinese herbs or supplements to energize and protect the immune system or "good" cells. the acupuncture can also help strengthen the immune system so that it is not as depleted by the chemotherapy or radiation. in my case, regular acupuncture post-chemotherapy was extremely effective in ending the chemo hot flashes, as well as returning sensation to my hands and feet.

if you can find the funds, and a good referral, acupuncture is a solid investment in your ongoing health and recovery. many acupuncture schools offer low-cost treatment options. if you and your acupuncturist decide you should see each once a week or more, quite often he or she may help you come to a more affordable rate.

as you put together your team of healers, an acupuncturist is powerful presence.

*my mother is always arguing that we have been eating and living the same way for centuries and that's what her mother did so why flit around with every new trend?

my answer is multifold. one, our lives are so more stressful and we all know what stress does to one's body so we need to be gentler.

two, the world has changed. we grow and process food differently and that has affected the chemicals in the food which affects our bodies differently. (we've all seen what happened to the rats fed GMO corn for two years).

three, we are now subjected to magnetic fields as never before: cell phones, wireless devices, computer screens all give off rays that we have yet to understand, but we do know they are speeding up the ageing process.

and four, as we get older, our machinery becomes less efficient. what we could process easily at the age of 8, we can't always at 16 and by the time we get to be 35 or 45, we need to work harder to operate at optimum levels. it's like a great vintage car. it might look and run like new, but we need to put the work in to keep it like that.

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