Saturday, March 29, 2008

Painting with a wide brush

Just like everyone else, I read the article with a heavy heart. How on earth could parents allow their beautiful little girl to languish for thirty days with nausea, vomiting, excessive thirst, loss of appetite and weakness due to diabetic ketoacidosis, and all they would do for her is pray? What’s more tragic and unbelievable is that the parents felt their daughter’s death was attributable to the fact that she “didn’t have enough faith.” It’s the zenith of idiocy on crack. I didn’t feel compelled to comment on it until I received an email that pointed a quasi-accusatory finger in my direction because of my advocacy for integrative medicine. This has nothing to do with integrative medicine, and I bristle at being painted with such a broad brush.

Just to be clear, here are the first three definitions for Integrate:

  1. To bring together or incorporate (parts) into a whole.
  2. To make up, combine, or complete to produce a whole or a larger unit, as parts do.
  3. To unite or combine.

There is nothing integrative about what these parents did. What they should have done is rushed their daughter to the doctor and prayed. Their inaction and misplaced faith was their replacement for medical care. They killed their little girl, something that gives me chills because their blind stupidity closely relates to the emotional opening of my book. Sometimes truth and fiction have unclear margins.

So, to the kind soul who felt obliged to email me, let me reiterate; I’m nothing like these folks. Integrative medicine is nothing like these folks, so please put the blame where it belongs.

Happy National Doctor’s Day

I’d like to wish all my favorite docs a happy National Doctor’s Day. You guys are the jam in my jelly doughnut.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trust Me, I'm the Government

Government to Taiwan: “Yeah, I know you ordered helicopters, but, honest, nuclear cruise missile fuses can be just as helpful. It was just a little clerical error. No worries.”

Government to Americans: “Why of course we’re able to run healthcare. Why do you ask?”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Reiki - you get as good as you give

“So what the hell did you do to my nurse?”

Mark, my ER doc buddy was in a lather. Well, not really, since he was also a benefactor. “I initiated her into first degree Reiki. So?”

He waved his arms around and nearly spilled his coffee. “So? So? She’s having a bad day and yelling at everyone, and the first thing she does is grab me when I’m on a break and Reiki the crap out of me. And if I’m not available, she grabs someone else. What’s up with that?”

Ach, he can be so dramatic. Are all ER docs this dramatic? “Reiki is one of those lovely gifts where the giver benefits as much as the receiver. While she’s giving you a treatment, she gets one as well. The energy moves through her first before shooting out her palm chakras into your overworked and underpaid bod. The result is that whatever crap is invading her day gets dissipated, and she becomes as compliant and happy as a fuzzy kitten.”

“So I’m merely a conduit for her jollies.”

“Listen to yourself, you make it sound as though she’s shoving bamboo under your fingernails. You feel better, don’t you?”

Oh, how he hated to admit it. “Well, yeah.”

“Then what’s your problem? Where there were six or seven grouches in the ER, there are now two who are relaxed and having a much better day. Happy docs and nurses make for happy patients, or something like that.”

“And here I thought she was being nice,” he groused.

“Oh, not at all,” I laughed. “In truth, she’s hated your guts ever since you made her take that projectile vomiting drug seeker.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


On my way home from spending Easter in Palm Springs, I drove on the toll road this past Sunday and noticed the explosion of new growth everywhere. Well, duh, it’s springtime. Thing is, I live in southern California, the area that was devastated by all those canyon fires. Both sides of the toll road were scarred with blackened hulks of trees and scorched brush. The landscape resembled the moon rather than the lush wilderness where signs are regularly posted to watch out for crossing deer.

I smiled as I whizzed by burnt out tree trunks sporting shrouds of brilliant green leaves and fresh carpets of new grass. It made me think about how life offers hope and surprises. Those of us who live here thought the land had been too badly burned to ever sustain new life. But here it is, springing forth in an effortless manner, unconcerned about what everyone thought. Life found a way. It always does.

It made me think of the times I’ve felt energy pouring from my hands, urging new growth on a scorched soul. It’s amazing what we pick up with the simple act of touch. “What’s it feel like?” I’m often asked.

Well, for me, it’s a series of sensations. First thing that happens is that the palms of my hands grow warm. It spreads throughout my body with a warm glow and goes clear down to my feet. The energy ebbs and flows when I touch someone. After about a minute or so, I feel as though I’m being pulled inward into a gentle trance. I’m still aware of everything going on around me but it's a few layers removed. Sort of like being draped in Saran Wrap. Once I reach that level, the energy gets really ramped up, and I just sit back and enjoy the ride.

How can I enjoy the ride while touching someone who’s physically or mentally broken? It’s fairly simple, actually, because I know that the energy offers that person something they will never receive from a prescription bottle – a sense of peace and relaxation that has no side effects. And just like breaking the dry and brittle branches off a tree, I can feel the energy gliding through the canyons of a person’s spirit. Sometimes it feels like a pop or a wheeze, and other times it feels like a breath of wind.

And the picture is always the same when I finish working on someone. Their eyes are slow to open, and they almost always have a sloppy grin on their face. “So how do you feel?” I ask.

“Grrrreat,” is the usual slurred reply.

I smile because my first reply to that same questions was, “I feel like my insides were scrubbed clean with Ajax.” And Reiki does feel great because, just like the once-burnt landscape, life always finds a way.

It feels like renewal.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Get thee to a Reiki Master...and fast

I…I just don’t know what to make of this. All I can say is this is a woman completely and convincingly out of balance.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

“Baggage is a big-ticket item”

I read that headline in the paper yesterday and my thoughts immediately went to the subject matter – that airlines will start charging fees for oversized and extra luggage. Since I do a lot of flying this, quite frankly, pisses me off.

But this also hit me on an esoteric level, and I found the headline even more interesting when I read the comment made by the United Airline’s senior veep: “The definition of basic airline service is evolving, and different airlines have different answers on what comes standard with a ticket.”

When I thought about this in a medical/integrative medical level, my only thought was, “Oh my holy liver, what a concept! How I wish a doctor had made it.” With a little tweaking, this sentence would read:

“The definition of basic medical care is evolving, and different doctors have different answers on what comes standard with treatment.”

Could it be that standard medical treatment is evolving? With mind/body medicine making a bigger splash in the medical arena, the idea of wellness and disease are taking on new definitions. Suddenly the baggage that we all carry takes on new significance. Stress, fear, loneliness, abandonment, divorce, financial issues, life-long family issues are playing a responsible role in diagnosing disease.

With all the emotional baggage we carry, is it such a strange notion to have things a little backward – that docs are treating the manifestation of something far larger. For instance, what’s the first thing a cardiologist tells his patients? “Reduce your stress levels.” They’ve known for many years that stress kills. Stress is accepted as one of many catalysts for the manifestation of heart disease. Is then a stretch of the imagination to include loneliness, anger, or hate in that list as well? If our baggage is seen as being a catalyst to disease, then doesn’t it make sense to treat that just as aggressively?

For example, I remember a nurse telling me many years ago that cancer was “the angry disease.” Huh? I’ve known a number of people with cancer, and I’d say most of them displayed that particular characteristic, but what about the others, who were some of my best buds?

“No,” she told me, “I’m not talking about the screamers and yellers. They’re the ones with high blood pressure and ulcers. The cancer folk are invariably the quiet ones with festering bundles of unexpressed rage or resentment. That rage has to go somewhere, and it seeks out the weakest link. Sure, we know all about mutated cells that go haywire and turn into cancer, but that spark has to have a point of origin - just like a fire. So where does the spark come from? I say anger has a lot to do with it.” She shrugged and told me it was her armchair philosophy based on years spent as a nurse.

I was utterly riveted by her thoughts and flashed back to the old, “she died of a broken heart” explanation when I attended a funeral as a kid. Is that actually a possibility? If so, shouldn’t we, as a society, be taking a closer look at ourselves to see whether we’re carrying too many bags, its contents, and if it’s too heavy?

I know that when I began Reiki my health was vastly improved. Besides giving up my medicine (on doctor’s orders), I no longer suffered crushing headaches that plagued me. Was the energy getting in and helping me cosmically unpack? I’ll never really know, of course. Though I will say that I feel as though I walk around with a much lighter load.

Baggage really is a big-ticket item, and I long for the day when docs enter America’s exam rooms and ask what baggage we are carrying and help relieve us of a suitcase or three. Man oh man, now that’s what I call evolution.

“Why didn’t I get better?”

The woman was indignant when she confronted me at a book event Q & A. “My Reiki lady told me I’d get better, and I still have acid reflux!”

Hooboy, how does one inform without admitting that the Reiki therapist appears to be a dolt? And, wait a minute, why should I care? The therapist is a dolt.

What brought on this whole line of questioning was my story about how Reiki freed me from the symptoms of attention deficit disorder. The Ritalin that had fired the synapses in my brain for so many years was now too strong, and I couldn’t tolerate it. After stopping the meds, my brain fired all on its own. Talk about ultimate balance. I got so balanced that I also couldn’t tolerate taking hormone replacement therapy after a complete hysterectomy ten years prior. My doc is still completely and utterly confused as to why.

I looked at the lady and plunged in. “Look, I have no idea why I no longer have ADD or why I don’t need HRTs,” I explained. “I went into Reiki for research and had no expectations of what it would do for me. In fact, I was an ardent skeptic. However, since taking the journey with Reiki, I realize that the energy balanced out whatever was creating these manifestations. But what worked for me doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everyone. I have a very good friend who’s been a Reiki Master for seven years and suffers terribly with ADD.” I shrugged. “Go figure.”

“So how does that fly in the face of what my Reiki lady told me?”

I took a breath and impeached her therapist. “Unless we’re talking about a doc and meds, no one can or should tell you that they can cure anything. Reiki is a divine intelligent energy that works on its own schedule and intent. Therapists are merely the conduit. Reiki works in spite of us. To promise anything more is irresponsible and potentially dangerous.”

She rested her elbows on her knees and stared at me. “So why did you get better?”

“Maybe on some cosmic level I no longer needed ADD.” I held up my hand to stave off the expected throwing of verbal knives. “I know, I know, you’re about to cut my throat for suggesting that disease comes into our lives because we need them, and that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m suggesting that it’s possible my body or my soul was ready to give this up. It’s like a car that’s has a misaligned wheel and drives like a knock-kneed donkey. The mechanic realigns the wheel so it’s in synch with the rest of the car, and the result is that we have a smooth ride. But, unlike the mechanic, we aren’t the director of the energy, merely the purveyor. But like the mechanic, we can put our hands on the source of the problem and give it our direct attention – NOT intention. Thar be a difference. It's possible that my body and Reiki were in the same place at the right time. I've seen amazing and startling recoveries from some serious diseases. But can I say it works for everyone all the time? No way.”

The woman sat back and appeared deflated. “So my Reiki lady can’t fix my acid reflux?”

“Your Reiki lady can’t fix anything. She can transfer energy from her hands to your body and let the energy do its thing. To take ownership of the promise to healing someone is arrogant. The true credit for healing goes to the Reiki, in whatever form that healing takes place.”

The poor woman was visibly deflated. “I feel like I’ve been sold a bill of goods.”

“I think your therapist” – and yes, I choked on the words – “has allowed her ego to get in the way. You might think about finding another Reiki therapist who can better explain Reiki and attend to your expectations.”

I then proceeded to offer a quickie treatment to her after the Q & A – which she took me up on.
As I rested my hands on her shoulders, I could feel the tension welling up inside her. She was a bundle of nerves. My hands burned, she had her “Ahhh” Moment, and the tension eventually melted.

She turned to me with glazed eyes and smiled. “I’ve never felt that good. Thank you." She held up a copy of my book. "Will you sign your book for me?”

Heh, do I look like an idiot?

I signed her book and gave her a hug. I then made a mental note to seek out her “Reiki lady” and tie her to a fence post and make her listen to “I’m An Oscar Meyer Weiner” from dawn to dusk.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

But I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies…

Five years ago I took a seventeen day bug-filled trip to the Peruvian Amazon with a medical group to further my book research. It remains one of the most soul searching, fabulous, horrific, spiritual times of my life. I expected to be an observer. I never anticipated how much my participatory role would change my perspective on life and the lives around me.

Stories from the Amazon:

She was fifteen-years-old – an age when girls are dating, downloading music into their iPods, text messaging, and thinking about how much that upcoming history final is going to blow. But not here in the Peruvian Amazon. It’s a whole different life. Hell, it’s a whole different planet.

Our medical team arrived at a dusty village that hugged the Amazon River via The Anita, our floating collection of splintered wood, faded paint, a choking motor, spit, and glue. The rest of the team was there for medical reasons – doctors and medical students. I was there to do research for my next book. Patty, the expedition leader told me that “we’ll put you to good use.” I figured that meant I’d be the head gopher fetching scissors or the occasional bandage. Seems my gifts of prophecy had abandoned me.

“Hey, want to help out with a birth?”

I looked up from the screaming scabie-covered three-year-old I was bathing. “Huh? Me?”

Patty smiled. “Sure, why not?”

We dried off my little charge, dressed her in her filthy clothes, and gave her back to her mother, along with a baggie full of medicated soap and instructions – knowing full well they wouldn’t be followed.

I followed Patty to the grass-covered hut that, had this been fortified with A/C and maid service, would have been absolute paradise. While removing my boots, I tried to mask my shock at the mother’s youth. Fifteen. Not that much younger than my daughter. She was in hard labor, scared, and in pain.

“I don’t imagine you have anything for her pain,” I said, staring into the young girl’s deep dark eyes.

Patty shook her head. “The money we get from donations doesn’t cover pain meds for labor and delivery.”

The baby was big and the doc was preparing to do the episiotomy. Having given birth to three kids, I knew those suckers could be painful. I asked if they could hold off for a bit. Sure, they said. Why?

I rubbed my hands together and smiled at the girl. “Let her know that I’m going to place my hands on her stomach.” My Spanish is limited to asking for a beer and directions to the bathroom.

The minute my hands touched her stomach, I felt a surge of energy leap out. It’s like the energy had sat poised, ready to spring like a jaguar at just the right moment. Almost immediately, the girl’s eyes fluttered and closed. I heard that oh-so-satisfying “Ahhh” Moment as she sighed and relaxed.

“Aiyeeee!” the mother wailed while watching her daughter slip into a meditative state. What was I doing to her daughter?

Patty quietly interpreted my explanation. The mother’s eyes widened, and she drew back and looked at me in awe.

“What the hell did you tell her?” I whispered through the side of my mouth.

Patty never got the chance to answer me. The baby’s head crowned, the doc did the episiotomy, and a healthy baby slipped out. Mom came out of her meditative state relaxed and seemingly pain free.

“That was amazing,” Patty said. “I’ve never seen Reiki used like this.”

I wiped my sweaty brow. “Me either. I’m a freaking author, not a midwife.”

The new grandmother pressed a beaded macramé necklace into my hands and thanked me. At least I think she thanked me.

Patty laughed. “She’s calling you a curandera. A healer. Pretty cool for an author.”

One of the smart aleck med students laughed and began bowing. “All hail the curandera!”

Honored beyond belief, I pulled out my best Spanish and ordered a beer.

Complimentary /Complementary

Seems like a minor thing – the change of a single letter – but that one letter makes a bucket load of difference in the world of medicine. A comment made in this post brought to mind an email I received last month complimenting my novel:


“Thank you for this book. Even though it’s fiction, your story mirrors what I am currently experiencing with my husband as he battles cancer. I’m now looking at complimentary medicine as a source of hope to help ease my husband’s suffering from the radiation and chemo.”


Hers was a very cool email, and, happily, it’s in keeping with the majority of my mail. However, she got a bit tripped up on the spelling. Normally I wouldn’t care and would shrug it off as a typo. Problem is, I see this enough that I wanted to point out the difference.

Complimentary is “making nice,” as in, “Oh, how nice that you’re doing Reiki on your son before surgery,” or, “Reiki is a good source of relaxation and help promote healing.” No doubt; a compliment is lovely to hear – especially after suffering through a blistering medical seminar where I was accused of being there simply to sell books – but it can feel dismissive when dealing in the medical world. My advocacy goes much deeper, and my goals are much bolder.

The word Complementary, on the other hand, is supplemental and adds something that others lack. This is meat and potatoes fare, not whipped-cream-cherry-on-top platitudes. And this is my focus, my hope for the evolution of medicine.

Reiki, and other non-science-based healing options – geez, how’s that for PC – offer something that conventional medicine doesn’t, and it’s what I call the “Ahhh” Moment. It’s connecting soul to soul with a patient who’s scared out of their open-backed gowns and feeling an energy I’ll never understand flow freely and intelligently from my hands. Watching a patient’s eyes close and their face relax into a sleepy, sloppy grin is the closest thing to Nirvana I’ll ever get. Whatever awaits them in the OR, they now have something extra that no amount of medicine can offer – peace and balance.

I know, this ‘e’ and ‘i’ issue may seem picky to many, but I’m an author, an editor, and a Reiki master, so I like to be clear. However, if you want to compliment me on my new shoes, I will welcome any and all.

Friday, March 07, 2008

What to run that by me again?

I'm a Creedence Clearwater Revival fan from the old days and found this hysterical. What does this have to do with integrative medicine? Absolutely nothing, other than you might need to Reiki your bladder to keep from spilling it.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Reiki - Spiritually Guided Life Force Energy

As is the wont of most twenty-five-year-olds, my son considers himself indestructible. Bully for him – except when he’s challenging a mountain and a rail armed with a snowboard and no helmet. Guess who won? A broken clavicle in four places landed him in surgery this past Monday.

The nurses took him back and got him prepped. It was at this point he got pretty nervous, so I went back and Reiki’d him like crazy. The energy poured out of me, and he soaked it up like a sponge. After a few minutes he went from anxious, to completely relaxed, to the point of snozzing off into a deep meditative state.

Okay, that was cool, but I’ve done that before. Here’s the funky part; I happened to be working on the soles of his feet when the anesthesiologist came in to give him his pre-surgical cocktail. The minute the drugs left the tubing and went into his veins, the energy shot out of my hands like fire. I mean, it ramped up like I’ve never felt before. My hands and my son’s feet tingled and burned. It’s like the energy knew the drugs had entered his body and set about doing its thing. I’ve never done Reiki in the midst of an injection before, and this gave me a front row seat to witnessing an intelligent energy knowing far more than I. I’m merely the conduit.

Truly amazing. Truly humbling.

The medical personnel was great. No one whistled the Twilight Zone theme song. In fact, the OR nurse grinned when she found out I was doing Reiki and said, "Oh, I love that stuff!"

More reading material - Yipee!

I’m always on a quest to find great books about docs who think outside the box. I stumbled across just such a doctor through one of my publisher’s dailies that crop up in my inbox. I just ordered my copy of Dr. Allan Hamilton’s book, The Scalpel and the Soul. With a title like that and a byline of, “When Medicine and Spirit Converge,” how can I resist? What’s even cooler is that I received a bonus chap titled, "What Doctors Need to Know About Practicing Spiritually-Oriented Medicine." It is 35 pages with 20 Rules that will benefit both physicians and patients alike. Again, what’s not to love?

The only thing that makes my teeth itch is the abysmal copy editing on what is one of the most lovely websites I’ve seen in a long time.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Flu/Cold Drugs - blessing or bane?

This, in my morning paper:

“Roche Holding AG…warned of reports that people taking…Tamiflu have experienced delirium and abnormal behavior leading to injury or death.”

Yikers, is this a case of the prevention being worse than the affliction? Not that I’ve ever been one to avoid the doc’s office, but I’m also not an alarmist either and didn't race to his office with every bug that invaded my kids when they were young. I knew he was always a phone call away if things got serious.

I’m also not much of a pill popper. Well okay, there was that one time my doc gave me a few pills, saying that the drug rep was convinced they were the bee’s knees in reducing the effects of a cold. Our collective shrug communicated doubt to those assertions, but I had a big book event and needed to have all cylinders running. I took the pills. Instead of simply feeling like crap, I was groggy, my teeth itched, my hair hurt, and I got a rash on my neck. Horrified at my blunder, I stumbled into the bookstore looking and feeling like a castaway from Lost.

My outward condition hardly bespoke my faith in “Reiki Master, work on thyself,” as I scratched at the rash and blew my nose. I faced the largely CAM crowd and admitted that I’d popped a cold pill, and that I might not make a whole lot of sense. I could hear the collective intake of breath.

“Why didn’t you give yourself a Reiki treatment?”

“Because I’m an idiot,” was the best thing I could conjure up in my drug-induced haze.

I can’t be certain, but I believe I had an audience of about 40 and sold 1 book. 1 freaking book. Talk about a credibility killer.

Conversely, my son was coming down with this God-awful flu that’s going around. He came over and had me Reiki him for an hour. I Reiki’d him again the next day. He ended up with a sore throat. My daughter, on the other hand, hates me to Reiki her. She got sicker than a dog for three weeks.

I know, I know, we can’t say one way or another that my son wouldn’t have gotten as sick as my daughter had I not Reiki’d him. But I can say that I would never allow these flu/cold drugs to find their way into my family’s digestive tracts either. It could be the last thing they ever do.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Just sit down and write, stupid

I’ve been trying to find the time to finish Book 2 of the Donovan Series, and it’s a battle to find a few scant minutes to put fingers to keyboard. I wish I could be more like one of my friends who basically barfs it all out in a first draft. It’s smart writing because she gets the foundation and finer points down on her hard drive. Then she goes back with a scalpel for her rewrites.

I’m jealous that I can’t plow through on my first draft. I know how vital it is to get the darn thing down because it gets crowded sloshing an entire book around in my brain for so long. But I can’t. I begin to write and before I know it, I’m noodling with the action, the dialog, the inner voice….ARGH! And this is why Book 2 remains two-thirds of the way finished.

Sorry, Kim and Erik, I love you two knuckleheads as if you were real, and I really hate leaving you two in limbo in the Amazon jungle for so long. Just don’t misbehave while I’m off having a serious sit-down with God. I’m requesting that He do something about adding a few more hours to the day. This 24-hour thing isn’t working. Or maybe we could discuss cloning…