Or How I Got My Groove Back.
What would you be willing to change to get your life back on track? A long held belief system? Or something as trivial as your small glass of wine with dinner? Or your nightly dip into the ice cream container?
This is what it has come to in my quest to reclaim my life as I once knew it.
It’s totally against all of my innate beliefs to go to a doctor of Chinese medicine. My father was an eye surgeon and my brother followed in his footsteps. I grew up just outside of Davenport, Iowa, home of the Palmer College of Chiropractics, which my dad used to infer was the “College of Charlatans.” In my family, if standard medical practice didn’t administer it or prescribe it, it was worthless.
My dear friend Roberta, who suffers from MS, is now taking Chinese herbs given to her by a doctor of Chinese medicine, Dr. Z. She went from being almost bedridden for months to getting on a plane and going to a mediation workshop in Denver less than two weeks after she’d started on the herbs. When she suggested I go to Dr. Z to see if he might be able to help me with my own lack of energy, I’ll admit I didn’t race right over. My familial background made me a bit skeptical even though I could see how it was helping her.
That said, three weeks ago, I went.
After looking at the three pages he had me fill out about my health and dietary choices and asking a few pertinent questions about my current lymphoma diagnosis, Dr. Z. took about 5 minutes to feel my pulses, look at my tongue and palpate my abdomen. He then gave me his Chinese diagnosis:
Phlegm heat nodulation
Spleen/kidney vacuity with some yin vacuity
Wei Qi vacuity
Liver depression/Qi stagnation
And I thought I being diagnosed with lymphoma was worrisome!
Of course, when I got home, I ran right to my computer to Google these odd phrases. What do I know about vacuity or Qi stagnation? (After the fact, I realized I should have just questioned Dr. Z about them but I was in a “this-guy-has-the-OMD-after-his-name-just-nod-and-thank” mode.) Their meaning can be summarized in a few simple words. I’m clogged up. Nothing in my body is flowing. Qi, (pronounced ch’i for those of you who are unfamiliar with this Chinese term), refers to “an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as ‘lifeforce’ or ‘energy flow’, and is often compared to Western notions of vitality, as well as the yogic notion of prana and pranayama. The literal translation of "qi" is air, breath, or gas,” from Wikipedia.
You could say Dr. Z found, not that my body has run out of gas, but rather it has difficulty getting the gas/breath/blood/phlegm to move around in a healthy fashion. For this he sent me home with a small bottle of powdered herbs I’m to mix with warm water and drink, twice daily. OK. No problem.
|The magic potion|
|My morning and evening brew . . .|
|. . . good to the last drop.|
But there was another little problem. According to Dr. Z, my body’s fat stores are holding onto toxins. His thoughts are this could very well be the cause of many of my symptoms, even, perhaps, the lymphoma. For this he sent me home with a diet.
It's basically the Atkins Diet – very few carbohydrates, no sugar, no wine or alcohol, only certain fruits and vegetables, and of course, protein. And on the first page of this diet, are these instructions:
“The goal for you is weight stabilization. Your diet is the strategy for achieving. . . a 10 lb weight loss.”
For those of you who don’t know me personally, you might be thinking, “well, Bobbie must be a tad zaftig and could use to lose a few pounds.” You would be wrong.
I am 5 feet tall and I wear a size 4. Everyone who DOES know me to whom I’ve told this, has said, to a person, “You, lose 10 pounds? You’ve got to be kidding.” Exactly what I needed to hear because, really, did I want to go on this diet?
The strange thing is when I brought this diet home to my husband, he took one look at it and said, “Let’s try it.” This is a guy who goes through several loaves of Acme rye or olive bread a week and can’t do without his glass of wine or beer with dinner. He also isn’t really overweight but always thinks he needs to lose a couple of lbs.
OK, so I’m willing to give it a try. I can easily forgo bread, potatoes, rice, pasta (not as easily), and my occasional glass of wine (I’m not a beer drinker). I can cut my ½ of a banana a day down to ½ every other day. I can give up certain fruits and vegetables listed on the diet’s page marked “unfavorable” – i.e., mangos, prunes, figs, lima beans, acorn squash, turnips – and fill up on the favorable ones – i.e., apples, blueberries, strawberries, artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower.
But what I’m not willing to do is give up my chocolate and my ice cream.
The chocolate addiction is merely a habit I picked up over the years. I blame it really, on being female. I know very few women who don’t need their chocolate fix daily. And as we all know (or if you don’t, you should by now) good dark chocolate is a health food. Yes, it has lots of those healthy antioxidants, and there are now studies, which show those people who eat chocolate with 70% cacao or greater have a 400% less chance of getting Alzheimer’s! We’re not talking Snickers Bars. We’re talking the good stuff. I have mine, a small square once in the afternoon and once in the evening daily. Heaven.
My ice cream addiction? It’s genetic. Truly. My mother told me years ago that when she was pregnant with me she ate a pint of ice cream a night. A NIGHT! And you don’t think I came out of the womb screaming for ice cream? It’s always been one of my four major food groups. Even as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda, where it wasn’t that easy to get decent meat, I managed to find a source for buying a half gallon of ice cream to keep me from going through withdrawal symptoms. Now, I can’t say ice cream is a health food, but, in my case, it is a good source of calcium. And since my favorite flavors these days are strawberry (there’s my fruit/berry antioxidant) and chocolate chip (read above ¶) I think I can safely say ice cream in my diet is definitely a healthy habit.
But here’s the real justification for not cutting out the things I really love from my diet. If not eating the chocolate and the ice cream means I’ll live another three weeks in a skilled nursing facility, sitting in a wheel chair wearing an adult diaper, not remembering who I am or who anybody else is with spittle drooling down one side of my mouth, I’ll choose having my chocolate and my ice cream every time.
It all comes down to this. Do I care about how long I live? Maybe. But I care more about enjoying the life I have left. Isn’t that what we all care about?
So here is the update on the results of taking the herbs and sticking to the major parts of the diet. I’ve lost 4 pounds in 3 weeks although that’s not really my goal. My goal is to get my energy back. The last four days I have gone without a nap. I have been working in my studio for hours at a time.
|Wedged clay waiting to be rolled. . .|
|. . . into a nice slab. . .|
|. . .which will become a lovely platter.|
I have been out with friends and/or my husband after a full day and not felt totally depleted. And friends who have seen me at my lowest, dragging my butt along day after day, have said recently, “You really seem brighter.” I can honestly say that’s exactly how I feel.
Tonight, I think my Qi is flowing fine and feeling groovy.
It’s late. I’m going down for my last dip of ice cream and ½ banana before bed.
It’s been a damn good day.