The on-going, first-hand tale of a journey through medical oncology... and what happens after.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Acupuncture and Massage

I thought about calling this post something clever, like "invasion of the body scratchers" or "extreme cancer therapy," but I decided that those titles would be a little disrespectful to some serious practitioners. My recent adventures in massage and acupuncture, though, do deserve a [long... fair warning!] blog entry. So here goes...

Friends, acquaintances, virtual friends' blogs and descriptions on the Internet, and caring family members have all suggested these complementary therapies at one time or another (some of you were a little pushy - you know who you are!) And some of you KNOW how much I have enjoyed massages in the past. So it wasn't very difficult to convince me of the value of massage. Acupuncture, though, was not such a no-brainer for Mister Type-A Analyst-Man...

First thing - I needed to check with the clinical trial doctors to verify that there were no restrictions in the protocols to my using these techniques during my chemotherapy. For massage, the word was that it is allowed as long as my platelet counts remain OK. And for the acupuncture, they really want both the platelet counts and white blood cell counts to be OK. Apparently, the risk of bruising with massage and acupuncture is higher than normal when platelet counts are suppressed. And acupuncture, with its needle penetration of the skin, has a risk of infection that suppressed white blood cell concentrations may not be able to counter.

(To get everyone on the same page here, the normal range for white blood cells is 3.4 to 10.0 thousand cells per microliter, for platelets it is 150 to 420 thousand cells per microliter, and, as bonus unrelated information for you diligent blog readers, the red blood cell normal range is 4.3 to 5.9 million cells per microliter. My latest CBC has my counts for WBC, platelets, and RBC, respectively, at 3.4, 149, and 4.31 - which are all at the very lowest end of the normal range or just below it. The docs are not worried until the numbers get down to about 30% of the normal range for any key indicators.) OK, so now we know that it is/was OK for me to get massage and acupuncture if I was/am so inclined. And I was. Hence the blog entry, duh!

Massage: not exactly what I expected, but then I was not exactly sure about the whole expectation thing in the first place. The massage therapist is a wonderful man who has given massage therapy to many cancer patients. In fact, he was the one that first indicated that I needed to contact my docs to get their approval. The session began with a physical/medical history - so he would know where I might have surgically-implanted devices like the PowerPort, or metal pins/plates from wild adventure days. No, other than the fillings in my teeth, and the glasses on my face, no implants other than Mr. PowerPort and he is pretty darned obvious even to the casual observer. The massage was about thirty minutes long, and he used a warming oil and peaceful music to relax me and push away the thoughts and stresses. Though a much softer/lighter touch than I am used to, I expect that I will see him at least every other week.

Acupuncture: This was quite a trip. As I have never done this before, and I am generally an analytical thinker, the Eastern tradition that acupuncture relies upon was not really on my radar screen when I was diagnosed. But the local scuttlebutt informed me of an MD that is also an acupuncturist, and she comes highly recommended, so I thought I'd give it a try. And it was OK. We discussed my medical and physical history at some length, she palpated several areas on my torso, and then started with the needles. First one to the forehead, and then a smattering down my sternum and around my abdomen. One each to the sides of my groin, then two each just below each knee and another in each foot. Oh, and one each at my wrists. These points were chosen to enhance the release of toxins and toxic energy from my body, and she opened a window so that that "bad" energy that was flowing out of my feet could escape from the room. She also applied some heat to the needles below my knees, using something I think is called a "moxa," and it felt like I was under a heat lamp on that entire lower leg. All-in-all, very interesting and I did feel a bit more energetic the next day. I have another appointment for next Tuesday (to try to help clean out the post-chemotherapy constipatory toxins, I hope). She thinks I should come in every Monday for pre- and post-chomtherapy acupuncture support, but I am still deciding how that might work for me.

So... long post this time. I trust it was/is worth it to read so much summarial drivel. Now I can feel less guilty, though, about my lame blog posting frequency. Today's chemo went pretty quickly, but I am very tired and have weird muscle spasms in my shin muscles, feet, and my right index finger.

Thanks for visiting, and I hope to post a little more frequently.


Anonymous said...

Well definitely let us know if you turn any heads at work due to the "curious" odor after returning from an acupuncture session using the moxa (mugwort)! They actually sent me home with it a couple of times to burn (and breathe) on my own when I was going through acupuncture. It helped!


Alex Cray said...
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