I had surgery two weeks ago… less than 10 people knew about it. It took me out of my holistic clinic and into the depths of modern medicine for a few days of intensive rest and recovery. To be honest, as a doctor of Chinese medicine, I say the phrase “Surgery should be a last resort” to patients every day. But, when I heard the words “It could be cancer” I knew I had to go to the last resort.
Committing to surgery stirred up feelings of frustration (why didn’t acupuncture help?), fear (what if the surgery doesn’t go as planned?) and a sense of abandoning patient-centered holistic medicine for the profit-focused modern medicine machine. Having surgery felt a lot like a betrayal to everything I believe in.
This is what I learned…
• Modern medicine can be life-saving
• Modern medicine doesn’t have all the answers
• Modern medicine has a very limited toolbox (drugs or surgery) to solve health problems
Back in September, my gynecologist felt a mass near my uterus during my annual exam. I had been having severe pain with every menstrual cycle and knew my endometriosis had returned. An ultrasound revealed a complex cyst about the size of an egg and attached to my ovary. We agreed the best course of action was to watch it for a few weeks, clean up my diet (goodbye coffee, hello celery juice!), and check it again in December. The exam in December showed the cyst remained and had a new feature on it, a nodular tumor. My gynecologist told me it could be cancer and offered a CA-125 blood test. However, there was no definitive way to know without surgery. So, we scheduled the surgery, a laparoscopic cystectomy. The whole discussion took less than 10 minutes.
I returned home from that appointment scared and uncertain. Of course, my ultimate fear was losing a battle against cancer and leaving my 4-year-old without a mother. It was ridiculously easy for my mind to jump to that awful conclusion. I consciously refused to buy into that outcome that my mind wanted to play on repeat. After a few hours of acknowledging the fear and reprogramming my mind with positive outcomes, I felt more at peace.
In the days leading up to the surgery, I reprioritized my day to begin with a writing meditation full of “I am” statements such as “I am healthy and pain-free” and trust statements like “The universe conspires to help me.” I also spent 5-10 minutes every morning connecting to a higher power and asking for divine guidance. I revised my will. I treasured tucking my daughter into bed every night.
By the day of my surgery, I felt confident that the surgery would be a success. That morning I reminded my gynecologist to preserve my ovary if she could and to clean up any other endometrial tissue she discovered. She agreed and within minutes the anesthesiologist was there ready to knock me out. When I woke up in recovery about 90 minutes later, I was in a lot of pain and the nurse sent fentanyl through my IV. As someone who relies on herbal medicine, having fentanyl surge through my veins was quite a sensation. My pain level decreased from 8 to 1 within minutes, but I still had no idea if the surgery was a success. Once I saw my husband, my first question was, “Do I still have all my organs?” He said yes and a few hours later, I was released in a fentanyl haze of relief and gratitude.
Fast forward two weeks to today, when I had my post-operative appointment. I found out the cause of the pain was endometriosis, but not at all what I expected. The surgery revealed I had a benign ovarian endometrioma (often called a chocolate cyst) full of endometrial fluid. Compared to 5 years before when I had stage IV endometriosis scattered across my bowels, peritoneum, fallopian tubes and uterus, my body had effectively encapsulated the endometriosis into a single cyst. Miraculously, there were no signs of endometriosis on any other organs or structures. I thought to myself, “Wow, the acupuncture and herbs did help!”
Modern medicine can be life-saving and anyone facing the possibility of a life-threatening illness should consult a trusted MD for a modern diagnosis and treatment plan. However, for many chronic illnesses and conditions, modern medicine offers a very limited toolbox consisting of drugs or surgery. Now that I’ve had a surgical tune-up, I’ll continue with acupuncture treatments two times a week and a daily regimen of Chinese herbs to control the endometriosis. I know the risk of recurrence is high, but now that I’ve witnessed how intelligent my body was to isolate the disease, I have faith that I won’t be on an operating table again anytime soon.
Oriental medicine provides a holistic approach to healing from a broken heart. Symptoms of a "broken heart" can manifest as difficulty sleeping, depression, anxiety, poor appetite or overeating, inability to focus, acne, asthma, tight muscles and soreness, TMJ, sciatica, headaches, migraines, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and more.
Indigo Healing Acupuncture offers a comprehensive 12 week program to help you process the end of your marriage and reclaim a new vibrant life.
This customized package includes acupuncture, Chinese herbs, traditional fire cupping/gua sha, and self-care suggestions to boost your Qi and bring forgiveness & hope back into your life. This program is offered on a limited basis and a pre-consultation by phone is required.
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Have you ever wondered about Chinese Herbs? What they are? What they can do?
Before we dive into it, are you a fan of Harry Potter?
Do you remember how Professor Sprout taught a magical herbology class at Hogwarts?
Harry and his friends studied herbs for 5 years, which is the same amount of time most Oriental Medicine practitioners (a.k.a. an Acupuncturist-Chinese Herbalist) study Chinese herbs in medical school.
There are over 350 herbs in the Chinese herbal medicine Materia Medica, which is our version of an herbal encyclopedia. Herbs can come from plants, minerals, and animals. When they come from plants, they can be the whole plant, or parts of plants like seeds, leaves, flowers or roots.
High-quality Chinese herbs are grown and harvested in accordance with the season and carefully prepared to protect their magical, oops, I mean medicinal properties. Every herb in the Materia Medica is carefully categorized according to its function. For example, some herbs like rou gui (cinnamon) can warm you up, while other herbs like bo he (peppermint) can cool you down. Some herbs are minerals, like mang xiao (Glauber salt, similar to Epsom salt). Have you ever had a drink made with Epsom salt? If you have, you know that it drains downward and serves as a natural laxative. The Chinese figured this out over 2000 years ago!
Trained Chinese herbalists know how to use herbs effectively and safely. Some herbs can't be used together and some are only appropriate for specific conditions. There are over 100 ancient Chinese herbal formulas, each containing anywhere from 2 to 20 individual herbs that work synergistically together. Taking the right herbs at the right time for the right condition can have downright magical results!
Chinese herbs can be taken in several different forms and it's an acupuncturist-herbalist's job to figure out which way is best for you. Herbs can be taken internally as:
Herbs can also be absorbed externally through the skin as a poultice or by soaking the hands or feet.
So, what conditions can be treated with herbs?
For women, herbs can help with:
So, that's a quick overview of Chinese herbs. When used properly, they can accelerate healing in a safe, natural way and keep you on track between acupuncture appointments.
If you want to find out how Chinese herbs can help you feel better, schedule a consultation with Michelle today!
Dr. Michelle Wendt, L.Ac., DACM
Dr. Michelle Wendt, L.Ac., DACM practices Oriental & Chinese Medicine in Hawaii and Texas.