I had heard about acupuncture before, but to be honest, the thought of having needles pushed into my body didn’t sound inviting. I wasn’t sure if it would hurt, what the point of it was and how it would benefit me physically or emotionally. When my pilates instructor, Katie, heard me say I was developing neuropathy from my chemo cocktail, she immediately said, “You have to go see my acupuncturist, Tina! She will change your life!” I figured, what do I have to lose? I’ll try it.
So let’s start at the beginning… “Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi (CHEE) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body,” explains the Mayo Clinic’s website. “By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.”
I started my first acupuncture treatments shortly after I finished IP chemotherapy and had begun taking my monthly Taxol, which is a drug known to cause neuropathy. My doctor had told me multiple times if the neuropathy got too bad in my hands and feet, they would stop my treatment. So I was going to do anything I could to keep it away! After a month of acupuncture treatments, my neuropathy was gone. I was astonished.
The first time I met Tina Berisha, she had this light about her. I instantly gravitated to her personality. She has this calming effect on everyone she meets, and I knew I liked her the minute we met. She is a walking encyclopedia of information about how to heal your body and transform your mind through acupuncture, diet and meditation.
“I don’t think anyone should go through life without experiencing acupuncture,” said Tina, who practices at Acupuncture Center for Balance & Healing in Davidson, N.C. She became licensed nine years ago, three years after the treatment helped her own health challenges.
Tina is passionate about the practice, which relies on pulse measurements and tongue inspections to determine needle placement. But the process is so much more than needles, because a licensed acupuncturist can also identify lifestyle or diet changes that may benefit a patient.
“The goal of acupuncture is balance,” Tina explained. “It’s balancing those meridians so your body doesn’t have symptoms.” She describes helping patients with challenges including fertility, digestive health, sleep issues, stress management and chronic pain.
“There’s not one protocol for a patient with cancer,” Tina said. “My treatment is dependent on what their body needs. You can come in with cancer but still have an imbalance of someone who has something else. It’s paying attention to what your body needs at that time.”
Besides the physical benefits acupuncture has given me, I really enjoy the relaxation I get from each session, which typically lasts an hour. While most people imagine hundreds of needles, treatment usually only requires between five and 12 needles depending on what your body needs for that treatment.
After the needles have been inserted, you remain in a room for 30 to 45 minutes, alone with your thoughts. You fall into what we call an an accu-coma – a state of relaxation that you’ve never experienced before. I’ve found it’s hard to get up after – it’s so relaxing.
For me, the most important realization was that I really have to give my time and attention to that person for a whole hour. No phone, no distractions; just letting my mind and body go into that meditative state. Discovering acupuncture has truly been another positive to a scary, life-threatening diagnosis – and I’m all about finding silver linings.
Sherry’s tips for considering acupuncture:
- Do your research and find a licensed acupuncturist.
- Ask for referrals from friends and colleagues you trust.
- Be aware of the cost; sessions can be pricey, so find out if insurance will help.
- Make sure the acupuncturist understands your family history and has explained how he or she thinks acupuncture can help the symptoms you have now.
Tina’s favorite resource on acupuncture:
- The Web That Has No Weaver, by Ted J. Kaptchuk