I’ve Been Using Someone Else’s Needles…


No, I’m not a drug addict, although you will find me with a needle in my veins weekly. Not by choice, of course. I am normally a girl who doesn’t even like to take an aspirin, but being a chemo patient will quickly strip you of any preconceived notions such as, I don’t know, health coming from healthy stuff and not from a drug that can only be handled by your medical staff with a hazmat suit.

My Nurse Preparing A Delicious Chemo Cocktail

My Nurse Preparing A Delicious Chemo Cocktail



In order to cope with all the fabulous side effects of being poisoned, I have turned to a number of alternative (translated to doctor’s terms = futile and annoying) treatments. Aside from supplements, I have been relying on acupuncture to diminish the side effects of chemo, shore up my immune system, balance my hormones, keep my mood in check, and for a host of other important functions. (see article link at end of post)

I love my acupuncturist. He’s caring, easy to talk to, and very intelligent. And he’s adorable in a young, carefree Asheville hipster way. We’ve been seeing each other since chemo began back in May. I just assumed that we’d be together for the duration.

Hipster Acupuncture Dude

Hipster Acupuncture Dude

Then, yesterday, it happened. I cheated on him.  I had no intention of it going that far. I was simply tagging along with a very good friend to her acupuncture appointment downtown. “I made you an appointment too. This girl is great. I just want you to try her.” What could it hurt? I wasn’t doing anything that morning, and a good acupuncture session is very relaxing. She even promised that we could get breakfast after. I’ll do just about anything for pancakes.

When we walked into the old Victorian house, I knew I was in trouble. The inside was softly lit and charming, its rich Oriental rugs and dark cherry woods beckoning. There were a few simple yet elegant Asian-inspired decorations, and I could detect a fresh, light fragrance in the room, perhaps citrus with bergamot. This was in stark contrast to the unloved, spare-bedroom feel of my usual place. I remarked to my friend after a few minutes in the waiting room that I felt like I was falling into a sleepy trance.

Then she appeared like a soft breeze flowing into the room through an open window. She introduced herself as Allison, but she could have easily pulled off “Eden” or “Willow”. From her lithe, petite graceful frame to her soft, melodious voice that washed over me like a caress, everything about her suggested that she might actually be the source of Zen. She led my friend back to begin her treatment while I filled out paperwork, and then she came back for me.

I tried to resist her charms, but they were too many. I noticed that she wore no makeup but still managed to look twenty years younger than I suspect she was. She had soft, curly brown hair and deep blue soulful eyes that radiated kindness. The few lines on her face suggested a life lived with zest and passion, but always on her own terms. And when she smiled, which was often, I was envious of how she lit up the room.  She reminded me of a smaller-mouthed Carly Simon. As she spoke, she impressed me with the depth of her knowledge, which is very hard to do. She was at once confident and humble, professional and embracing.


Then it happened. I let her stick her needles in me. How could I resist? She might as well have led me by the hand to an opium den. As I relaxed in a comfy, overstuffed recliner, she covered me from head to toe in a soft velour blanket and whispered that I could press the button on the side of my chair if I needed her. And she left. I sank into the chair in my hypnotic state, oblivious to my friend beside me.

Until I was startled by a swift poke on my arm. “Hey. I really have to pee. BAD! I’ve been in here for 30 minutes longer than you, and I had a triple shot latte on the way.” What a Zen kill! I told her that Willow, er, Allison would respond in a jiffy if she pushed the button on her chair. She pushed, and pushed. I tried pushing mine, thinking that maybe her chair was not connected. Still no one came.

After five excruciating minutes, my friend said, “I can’t take this anymore. I think she’s gone out for a smoke break or something! I’m gonna pee all over myself.” So she oh so carefully pulled her blanket back and sat up in her chair, her hands and feet full of needles. Like a kid escaping from Catholic mass, she skulked out of the room, holding her arms out straight and walking on her heels to keep the needles from dislodging. She reminded me of one of the villains in “Scooby Doo”, stalking those “meddling kids” down a dark hallway.

scooby due villain

Soon my friend reappeared with a big grin. “I didn’t get caught!” As if my dear sweet Allison had been lurking behind the stairwell waiting to rap the knuckles of wayward, needle-laden acupuncture clients with a ruler. “This isn’t the Hotel California, for God’s sake!” I replied. In a few minutes, a tranquil, sweet-smelling Zen apprentice appeared to remove our needles and lead us back to the waiting area where we were to receive our “herbs”.

My bottle was plain white with the name of 13 items hand written in Chinese. She speaks Chinese too?!? She told me that these herbs would release my stagnated qi (“chi”), which certainly sounded like a good thing. Apparently, in traditional Chinese medicine, the root of cancer is stagnated qi. I asked Allison why one’s qi would become stagnated, and, of course she had a thoughtful intelligent answer. She said that there were numerous reasons for this to occur, but a common theme revolved around “stuffing one’s emotions”, leading to buried resentment and anger. That was a light bulb moment for me. I’ve been doing that my entire life. And intuitively, I feel like I will never be truly healthy until I can stand up for myself in the moment.

I left the office feeling like I had gotten a bargain. Acupuncture, zen, and therapy for one price. And of course, Allison, who is the kind of person that sticks in your brain and affects you deeply. What will I do with this awkward acupuncture triangle? She wants to see me again, but I am in so deep with the hipster. We have plans, a future together. Can I possibly juggle them both? I feel my qi stagnating at the very thought of it!

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