The following is the first article in Chinosity’s series about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). We follow writer Maya Ono’s journey of TCM rediscovery through the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is 2016 and I am deep into my acupuncture haze. Friends and family who dare to let me in on their aches, pains, or slight discomfort, open the door to my knee-jerk TCM monologue response.
“Why don’t you give Dr. Canfield a call, it can’t hurt to try . . .” (Note: I am taking this space to apologize to friends and family on the receiving end of my unsolicited advice. I still think you should give Dr. Canfield a call.)
I undergo treatment for my gall bladder, TMJ, and yes – the thin annoying lines forming across my forehead. For years, I go to acupuncture weekly.
That is until the COVID-19 pandemic hits. The world shuts down, and acupuncture appointments are superseded by the fight for survival.
It is only when I take refuge in my hometown of Chappaqua, New York and get vaccinated, that I can exhale. I can finally garner the mind-space to assess my body.
A body that carried me through a pandemic. A body that has been anxiety-ridden for nearly 15 months straight. A body that has been fighting disease. A body that has been carrying the weight of my world.
I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with for as long as I can remember. As an act of appreciation for my body, I began to search for a local acupuncturist.
After much research, I find Wei Yuan. Dr. Wei is an acupuncturist with a Western medical background based in Chappaqua.
I walk up the carpeted steps to Dr. Wei’s second-floor office. After nearly two years of isolation it all comes tumbling out. My pandemic weight gain, high levels of anxiety, depressive tendencies, tense jaw, and those wrinkles.
Dr. Wei has me lay down on a medical bed and checks my pulse and my tongue. On the left wrist, she checks for heart, liver, and current condition of the kidney.
“Your kidney!” Dr. Wei exclaims. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you better,” she comforts. On the right wrist, she checks for the lungs, spleen, and the “essence” of your kidney, or your constitution at birth.
She checks my tongue for “dampness,” which I have. The good news – my lungs and heart are healthy and strong.
Then, it’s time for treatment. Acupuncture needles shouldn’t hurt when going in, though some may pulse or spark a brief pinch sensation.
The needles go into meridian points for my weakened kidney, stomach, liver, my tense jaw. And yes – they hit those annoying fine lines that somehow grew deeper during the pandemic.
“Ok, I will be back in 30 minutes,” Dr. Wei says in a soothing voice, and leaves me with my needles and my thoughts.
Feeling like a bit of a pin-cushion, I close my eyes and will myself to fall asleep. I hope for relief but am slightly doubtful.
A part of me wonders if somewhere during isolation I’ve gone beyond repair. Somewhere between dreams, I’m jolted by what feels like a rush of blood stemming from the pit of my stomach.
It radiates through my entire body. Waves continue for some time, before Dr. Wei gently knocks on the door and my time is up.
One by one, she gently takes the needles out of my body. With each, a certain heaviness evaporates.
I book my next appointment. Though on the outside my body appears the same I can’t help but marvel at the difference one step toward healing makes.
One step, then another. And I can’t wait to see where these steps will take me next.
Photo credit: Maya Ono
About Jennifer Canfield
Jennifer Canfield, MS, LAc, Dipl OM, FABORM, is a fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine (ABORM).
Her specialties today include women’s health, fertility, infertility, family health and wellness, and autoimmune conditions. Jennifer Canfield can be found at jennifercanfieldwellness.com.
About Wei Yuan
Wei Yuan graduated from Xinxiang Medical University in China’s Henan province. Dr. Wei moved to New York where she attended the New York College of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Dr. Wei served at Columbia University as a research scientist and pharmaceutical scientist before establishing her private practice in Chappaqua, New York. Wei Yuan can be found at [email protected].