Pins And Needles

From the title of this post, you may guess that this is about acupuncture. Acupuncture is something I had been primed to explore when I was diagnosed, but the every two week infusion chemo schedule definitely put a crimp in my desire to explore alternative remedies. Once I finished that schedule I decided the time had come to try acupuncture. I hoped it would help with the neuropathy caused by the chemo. I know it has been shown to help with diabetics who get neuropathy, and that it also helps with pain management. My view was that it was worth trying, and there was little down side. I did not like the thought of many needles being stuck into me – it brought back to mind the very unlovely Lovenox that I had to inject into my stomach for weeks. That is not a good memory. People who have tried acupuncture told me that the needles were so fine they generally did not feel them. No matter whether I felt them or not, I wanted to try this.

As time has gone on, the neuropathy in my feet, hands and tongue kept getting worse. By the time I left the hospital, my feet felt like they were solid blocks of ice – they were almost completely numb from the ankle down. The neuropathy was also bad in my hands – my fingers, from the second digit to the tips, were numb. And there was numbness from neuropathy in the first 1/3 of my tongue. Fine motor skills are out the door, and balancing on one foot in yoga now requires me to put an elbow on the wall. It is almost impossible to balance on feet which are numb. Weirdly, the other pose that is very hard to do with numb feet is trikonasana (triangle pose). I feel very shaky going down to my toes in that pose, and now keep my other hand on my waist until I have grabbed my toe; then my arm goes into the air.

Three separate people had recommended the same acupuncturist, Julie S. I saw that as a sign I should see her. Julie S. is wonderful. At my first visit, and since then, she has asked a lot of questions about my health and the side effects of the chemo and the cancer. For the acupuncture, Julie had me lay on a heated massage table, which feels heavenly in the winter. Then she inserted the needles. The needles do not hurt – they are so tiny and flexible that I either barely feel them going in or do not feel them at all. After they are inserted, I lay on the table with my eyes closed for 30 minutes. I cannot describe how relaxing it is, even though there are needles between my toes, at my ankles and wrists, in my stomach area, in my ears and on top of my head. I feel so relaxed that I am always sorry when Julie returns to tell me it is time to come back to life and get dressed.

Julie S. told me not to expect instant results – that this is a more subtle process to align the energy in our bodies. Since the first treatment I have had three more. I do not know if it is a coincidence, but the neuropathy is very slowly improving. Rather than being solid blocks, my feet are mostly numb but there are breaks in the numbness. My fingers are not as numb as far down as they were. Now the numbness is about 1/2 of my second digit and all of my first. My tongue is down to being 1/4 numb, also a small improvement. I still am challenged in balancing on one foot and in trikonasana, and I expect that will not stop so long as I have neuropathy in my feet. That neuropathy has not stopped me from wearing cute shoes and boots – no three inch heels but definitely 2 1/2 inch or less.

I am officially a fan of acupuncture. Even if it is not responsible for the lessening of my neuropathy, the absolute peace I feel when laying on the table all needled up, and the way it allows me to then meditate and visualize my healthy cells attacking the cancer, are all benefits. I will continue to experience the pins and needles, using it, as I do other alternative remedies, to help me fight.

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