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Nova Battles on…To Acupuncture or not, that is the question?

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To Acupuncture or not, that is the question?- Alternative ways to help yourself through Cancer and Chemotherapy

As you embark on your breast cancer journey there are endless options. There are many different ways to fight cancer and many different beliefs and practices. Each person must pick the journey to battle cancer in the way that suits their lives mantra or practices. What might work for me may not work for the person next to me. In the end the belief and hope is that we are somehow fighting back….no matter what path we choose for ourselves.

I was just turning 45, a newly single mother, finalizing a divorce and at the start of what I was considering the amazing part of my new life. I spent more than three weeks with My WVMC Breast Care Team (Oncologists, Breast Surgeon, Plastic Surgeons, Radiologists, Chemo Nurses and every other medical individual who was helping me to get answers and results). The decision was clear and easy once the results were in. They all pointed to chemotherapy first and a bilateral mastectomy second.

It was enough for me to process going through this once, but in my mind I wanted to make sure that twice would be a small to none chance. So the use of chemotherapy treatments was based on clear test results from MRI’s, ultrasounds, biopsies, bone scans and the experience of a team of doctors who had treated thousands before me.

I had taken my fears and placed them in the hands of the My Breast Care Team and was ready to battle.
I came to “Chemo School” at the HR Hoover Cancer Center. I was given my “Chemo Book” along with cookbooks, resources(24 hour nurse line) and ideas to help me as I started to process all that was about to come my way. I dove into the resources given to me regarding my double diagnoses of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Breast Cancer.

I was thinking this was NOT the start to the new life that I had planned. I saw it as me idling or treading water when I really want to be plowing through the water.

I started becoming an “expert” on all things that could improve and help my quality of life in this journey of battling cancer. Food, acupuncture, and rest were among the first things my list!

You are what you eat ~that saying rings true in everything, but for sure rings true through during chemo. I fell fast into my cookbooks, pinterest and informational articles. A food for every phase of chemo-What to eat when you have mouth sores, what to eat when you can’t go “Number two”, what to eat when you have nausea.

I even found a recipe to curb nausea called “Chemo Moonshine” (Moonshine Free of course.) I couldn’t pin things fast enough. I made lists of foods, shopped, cooked and stocked my freezer with delicious soups. I froze my soups in single serving containers for when I had no energy to cook.

I knew I would have to learn my chemo cycles quickly. What days I was weak, tired, had nausea, was constipated or needed to build my white blood count cell up with proteins. I read the list of “Must Haves” in the house post chemo. If it’s mushy, bland and squishy it’s a winner. If it’s full of protein like mushy, squishy peanut butter or a soft egg well that’s a double bonus.

I started stocking up my pantry and fridge with things that sounded good or didn’t. I could have a packed fridge and pantry. Then post chemo stand in the kitchen and absolutely nothing sounds good. Go figure! One must eat and drink fluids to keep the body up for fighting that cancer! I cook, eat and balance my way through chemo with the right proteins, fluids and foods.

After my first chemo my path crossed with an amazing acupuncturist here in our town. I was like “Hey, these are my symptoms! Can I do acupuncture while in chemo?” (Yep brace yourself I ask all those first time questions!) I am overly careful with my body during chemo. I make sure to reference my oncologist and all my care team when trying new things.

I had an appointment for my first acupuncture and I was thrilled and nervous at the same time. I was sold on acupuncture from the first time and first pressure point! I felt instant relief from muscles and joint and pain I had carried with me for nearly six months due to my Rheumatoid Arthritis that came hand in hand with my Breast Cancer.

I am relaxed and at peace during my hour long sessions twice a week. I come to my appointments and list the symptoms I am having. At my most recent appointment I had a left eye twitching, some swollen hands and feet. The twitch is gone and the hands and feet are not painful. It’s amazing how the gentle touch of a skilled acupuncturist and the placement of needles can cure so many alignments in an hour.

It’s me so I asked all the questions you ask or things I had heard. “Why do people say it doesn’t work?” “Why are people afraid to try it?” “Does it work?” “How long does it take?” “How does it work?”

Acupuncture needles are extremely thin, about the thickness of two human hairs. The needles are sterile, individually packaged and disposable. I barely felt them going in to my skin. I can sometimes feel the “Energy” from the needles flowing through my body and working. It’s like they are “talking to one another” as they are placed in my head, hands and feet. I fall asleep in the recliner, relaxing music, a dim room with a heat lamp and heating pad on my back. Acupuncture feels like a gift I am giving myself during this battle of cancer.

My acupuncturist duo team Lisa Pool and Antonio Barros (Blue Sky Acupuncture) have worked with my chemo cycles (If I am on day 7 post chemo or 1 day before chemo) to either boost my immunity or treat my body in different ways to prepare and detox different parts of my body from chemo. Their knowledge of the way your body reacts to chemotherapy, mixed with their talented and healings hands of acupuncture make for a beautiful blend of peace for my body.

Studies show that acupuncture can help relieve fatigue, control hot flashes, help decrease nausea, reduce vomiting and lessen chronic pain associated with chemotherapy or breast cancer related surgeries. “It may help reduce the amount of pain medications needed, and consequently some of the side effects of those pain medicines. Acupuncture can improve circulation in the body leading to regeneration of damaged nerves (neuropathy) and improve healing of scar tissue. “(According to the University of Wisconsin Health and Medical).

Many side effects associated with Chemo can be eased through the acupuncture. Overall you feel calm, happy and relaxed while undergoing acupuncture. For me, it is an amazing feeling twice a week during the journey to fight breast cancer.

Chemo, eating to heal your body, giving it what it needs mixed with acupuncture to build your body up and detox it. For me these simple acts of love towards my body help alleviate symptoms, create happiness, peace and calm.

While battling Breast Cancer giving yourself any of these gifts all go hand in hand in my book with amazing self care. One of my favorite quotes says “Sometimes we choose our battles! Sometimes they choose us!”

Why not love yourself each step of the way while you beat cancer one breast at a time!

Nova A. will be writing a weekly blog in the month of October. October is breast cancer awareness month. Please help us support Nova during her journey.