My experience with Chinese medicine
A few months ago one morning
my mother excitedly called me and told me about talking to a
friend who was going to see a Chinese physician whose trip to
Arkansas to see patients was being sponsored by a local church. This friend
reported that the physician was quite famous and had been known to cure
people with serious illnesses. Mother said his name was Dr. Guo
and asked if I had ever heard of him. To her disappointment I replied
that I had not. She urged me to see him as I have been contending with
ovarian cancer for over six years now. Being a dutiful daughter (sometimes!),
I told my mother I would call the person who was scheduling appointments
for this physician and try to obtain more information. (Need
I say that this sounded like one more "miracle cure which isn't" and
I was highly skeptical!)
A woman named Martha Landfair
whose young son Patrick's juvenile
rheumatoid arthritis had supposedly responded amazingly well
to Dr. Guo's therapy was scheduling the appointments. I was impressed
with Martha; she seemed to be an intelligent, reasonable woman
who did not make extravagant claims for Dr. Guo's therapy but
who felt that he was a good physician who had been able to help
many people, including her son. The cost of the consultation was quite
reasonable so I decided to make an appointment to see him -- motivated
mainly by curiosity, I'll admit.
Dr. Guo turned out to be a most impressive
individual. He was formally trained as an M.D.-- an oncologist
and a surgeon -- as well as a traditional Chinese physician.
A fifth generation practitioner, he was trained in traditional
Chinese medicine by his father who
had practiced Chinese medicine for sixty years. He spent three
years at M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston
researching Chinese herbs and
cancer. He now practices Chinese herbal medicine in Chicago. He is a
quiet, gentle man who conveys warmth, wisdom, and compassion.
As is characteristic of Chinese physicians, Dr. Guo
used no instruments
to examine me. He, in fact, maintained an "appropriate" (by
Chinese medicine standards) distance from me -- about three feet.
He asked a number of questions and then looked at my tongue.
(Chinese physicians have to memorize over 200 "tongue types.")
He then placed his index, middle, and ring fingers on my right
wrist, not quite parallel as in the reading of the single pulse
in the Western style, but at slightly uneven points on my wrist. He "read" my
pulse for several minutes and then did the same on my left wrist.
During the entire time, not a word was said by either of us.
In the Chinese system there are six pulses on each
wrist, three "superficial" and
three "deep." Thus twelve separate pulses are recorded, each
correlating with the activity of a specific sphere of bodily
function -- "spleen", "large intestine", "circulation-sex",
and so on. "Chinese pulse diagnosis is a highly refined art, difficult
to master, requiring years of attentive practice and careful correlation
Dr. Guo also inquired about my emotional state. I told
him that I recognized
the importance of stress control and relaxation in the pursuit
of health and tried to maintain a peaceful, positive lifestyle. "Relax,
relax, relax," he said. "That is the key to the treatment of
cancer." Wise words, I thought, and from an oncologist!
Dr. Guo then prescribed two different herbal mixtures.
When I asked what herbs they contained, I recognized astralagus, an
herb which has received perhaps the most attention of the Chinese
herbs. Current research has verified its immune stimulating
I have been taking the herbs for several months now.
Do I feel better, you ask? I can't tell. I never felt bad to
start with so I have no comparison. My cancer is still in remission.
Is this because of the Chinese herbs, vegetarian diet, the large
numbers of supplements I ingest daily, the injections I give myself,
meditation, the "magic
carry in my purse, etc. -- or the natural course of my disease?
I don't know. I just rejoice.
Andrew Weil, M.D., writes, "Potentially,
Chinese medicine complements ours ... an ideal interaction
of the two systems is closer in reality in China today than in any other
time and place. The present government of the People's Republic encourages
the simultaneous practice of the two, and in some hospitals
patients can choose the kind of treatment they want, with the advice
of doctors trained in both schools." 2
What have I learned from my experience with Chinese medicine? Be open,
approach new situations without prejudice, and you may be the richer (or
healthier!) for it.
1. HEALTH AND HEALING by Andrew Weil, M.D. Boston:Houghton Mifflin, 1988