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By Ellen Johnson
“I have good news, and I have bad news,” said the specialist with a smile. The exam had been painful, and he was ready with results.
After six months of searing pain that began at the base of my neck and coursed through each joint ending with my toes, I was in no mood for levity. It felt like broken glass and made me feel as if I’d aged thirty years in a nanosecond. At the top of my “to do” list was not driving my car off a bridge in total despair, followed closely by keeping myself from bursting into tears while at home, work or school. Humor was pretty low on that list.
The doctor had come so highly recommended by other well-known physicians, I decided to just go with his mood. I asked for the good news first. He told me that I had at least three quarters of the dozen or so symptoms for fibromyalgia. If it had a name, I could see how that could be construed as good news. OK so far. The bad news, as anyone with fibromyalgia will confirm, is that there really is no effective conventional treatment for the chronic, debilitating pain and the infinite cycle of insomnia and exhaustion.
Together with my internist, we experimented with arthritis medications, tiny doses of valium to relax my muscles, and prescription sleep aids. Nothing worked. In fact, each thing we tried seemed to generate another layer of complications. I took up yoga, which hurt more than I care to remember, and learned a few simple meditation techniques from a pain management clinic at a local hospital, all the while trying to maintain some semblance of a life. I was in pain virtually round the clock.
On one of my many return visits, the rheumatologist, a man with 35 years of traditional medical experience and who was truly sad that I’d shown no progress said: “You know what I’d do? I’d have a glass of sherry every night before bed and try acupuncture for the pain.” Part of me wondered why he waited so long to suggest that but I immediately set out to find an acupuncturist. I did some research and narrowed the candidates down to two. As soon as I spoke with Angela, I knew instinctively she was the right one.
On my first visit I almost literally crawled up to her office from my car. The pain was exacerbated by every move I made. Angela asked a lot of questions, listened attentively, asked a few more questions, processed the information quickly and then said, “ I can help.”
Although she was a stranger, Angela’s combination of gentleness and confidence made me feel completely safe and relaxed as she began to insert the needles. She explained what she was doing as she went along. Once they were all placed, she left me in a state of complete comfort and calm, for 20 minutes. When she returned, she removed the needles and started to massage me. I could feel an enormously strong and soothing flow of energy through her skilled hands. We talked while she worked, then when she was done she quietly told me to take my time getting dressed and that she’d meet me in her office. It wasn’t until I was headed out of the room that I realized that I had practically jumped off the table with no discomfort at all. Just moments before, preparing for treatment had been quite a feat for me! Honestly, I had resigned myself to a life of pain and limitations. This was an event of inexpressible enormity.
Of course, the pain did not disappear completely overnight, but I knew that I had finally turned a corner and that I wasn’t going back again. Once the joint pain came under control we started to treat my migraines, too. Now, for the first time in over 11 years, I am almost migraine-free. My experience with acupuncture and herbs has been life-changing in ways that I cannot express.
I have my body and my life back again. Trust me, that’s no small thing. I work, go to school, take care of myself and my family, exercise, have fun. You name it and I can do it! I love to cook, and for my son’s 21 st birthday party, I cut by hand enough coleslaw and salad to feed 60 people. It was only after everything was done that I realized how easily all my joints moved, without the spasms of pain I had suffered so chronically – something I would never have dreamed of a year ago!
Now she greets me with a cheery “What news?!” Happily, I can respond as my children would: “It ALL good!” I have even sent family and friends for treatment and they have all had such positive experiences with Angela that they too would sing her praises without hesitation.