Acupuncture & Zero Balancing as Supportive Therapies in Cancer Recovery
By Mark Montgomery, L. Ac., Dipl. Ac. Certified Zero Balancer
A few years ago one of my clients was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She eventually received a complete hysterectomy at the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City and has done well ever since. What struck me about her experience was that when I went to see her at Huntsman, I learned that the doctors there had performed several additional procedures on her because of prior medical conditions which posed a higher risk to her during surgery. Nearly a decade earlier a clot from her leg had gone to her lungs and nearly killed her. So a day or two before her hysterectomy, surgeons opened the femoral vein in her leg and threaded an intricate steel filter up into the inferior vena cava, the large vein just above the area of the surgery, to prevent any clots from the surgery from traveling up to her lungs or heart during or after the operation. A few weeks after the surgery they removed the filter, this time by going in through the jugular vein in her throat, traveling down through her heart and pulling the filter out through her heart.
As a practitioner of Chinese medicine I found this astounding because it shows so clearly the technological advances of Western medicine, which Chinese medicine has never even approached. And yet, at the same time, I was also astonished to hear from her that during the entire time she was at the cancer center not a single physician, nurse or staff member talked to her about the lifestyle changes she could make to help her avoid recurrence of the cancer.
This story, to me, summarizes one of the main differences between Western and Chinese medicine: the ability to perform miraculous high-technology interventions versus a strong emphasis on understanding the influences, both external and internal, that lead to disease and on learning how to lead a life that minimizes those influences.
The foundation of Chinese medicine is the idea of balance, the idea that the body automatically regulates and heals itself in ways that are far too complex for human understanding. From this perspective the job of a healer is not to perform miraculous interventions but to understand what got the body off track in its healing processes and to gently support it in getting back on track - “to remind it of what it already knows,” as acupuncture students often hear from their teachers in acupuncture school.
Cancer is a disease that occurs when this ability of the body to monitor, regulate and heal from cells growing out of control somehow breaks down. Added to the challenges of the disease itself, the process of healing from cancer using conventional western medicine can be a disempowering and frightening experience, traumatizing survivors and often leaving them feeling alienated from their bodes.
Acupuncture and related bodywork therapies like Zero Balancing can facilitate the process of healing from cancer in many ways.
1. They can help survivors to “de-stress,” to shift from the “fight or flight” mode into the “rest and digest” mode. This promotes healing and smoothes the process of re-entry into day-to-day life.
2. Acupuncture and Zero Balancing can help to clear the energetic blockages that in Chinese medicine are considered responsible not only for pain and constriction in the skeletal system and the internal organs but also for emotional imbalances like depression, anxiety and “inappropriate “ anger or sadness. Many patients report that after the insertion of the needles they feel a sense of “flow” or “something opening up” or, on the emotional level, a feeling of “a load dropping off my shoulders” or “letting go” of issues they were struggling with.
3. As the “flow” begins to reassert itself, patients often begin to feel as if their bodies are “waking up.” It’s not unusual for patients to make remarks like, "Those flowers outside the building that I barely noticed on the way in seemed so bright they shocked me when I left my treatment.” This, again, is a function of heightened energy flow leading to greater consciousness of one’s environment. And it also works on the inside as well, as the body’s heightened awareness leads it to respond more effectively to the drugs and other therapies or techniques the patient is using. In fact, patients frequently discover that, under the advisement of their physician, they are able to begin reducing their medications after starting acupuncture.
Coming back to the story at the beginning of this article, this heightened awareness also helps cancer survivors to become their own best lifestyle consultants, not needing as much to rely on the advice of doctors, nurses or even acupuncturists. As they continue with their healing they are often able to more quickly sense what it is they need in their lives and whether or not something they are doing is working well for them. This allows them to make the necessary “course corrections,” making changes that benefit them. And this creates a “virtuous circle” by which they move to higher levels of wellness, in turn heightening their awareness and making even more progress possible. This sense of helping patients to develop an inner compass is what the ancient masters of acupuncture meant when they said, “The inferior physician treats disease after it has occurred. The superior physician treats illness before it has even begun.”