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Intro To Alternative

Posted Jan 31 2012 9:38pm

Alright, I believe it is time to get back to business. All Things Caregiver is about helpful advice for caregivers, and it seems to have morphed into a “Tory-pity-party” over the holidays and January. I suppose I could cut myself a break and allow grief and mourning to be a part of the care process (and it is), but I feel it is time to move on. Ahh…big breath…

As many of you are aware, I am a huge advocate for “quality over quantity” when referring to life. I was raised in a family that communicated their final wishes, and respected death. Most of my family members agreed that they preferred to pass when nature (or God, depending upon beliefs) took due course. As with most families, not everyone saw eye to eye, but most agreed ventilators and machines were not natural course, nor did they opt for treatments that limited their quality of life.

Before I continue, I would like to reiterate that I have no formal training in the medical field, only real-life experience. It is never my intention to offend someone’s treatment choices, unless of course you chose a treatment you are not comfortable with…then we may have words.  I also respect those individuals who do want life sustaining treatment and choose not to sign a DNI or a DNR; every patient should make the choices that suit their needs and beliefs.

That being said, I do believe that “integrative” or “alternative” modalities are beneficial and can work cohesively with western treatments, allowing any individual to establish a treatment correct for his or her particular needs and belief systems, as well as improving quality of life. I was introduced to alternative treatments shorty after it was detected my mom’s cancer had metastasized to her spine. The prognosis was not favorable, and more importantly, she was in a lot of pain; which takes me back to our family motto of “quality over quantity.” If the oncologists were unsure if the chemo and radiation would do anything to alleviate the pain in her back, unsure if the holes in her spine would heal, unsure if the cancer had metastasized to any “soft tissue,” and unsure of how long she had to live, what was the point?  The point was she had options. She could try the chemotherapy. She could try the radiation. She could pray to her God. She could do a rain dance with a voodoo doll. She could do whatever held her mind at ease, allowing her to sleep at night with her decision.

Initially, she opted to do a chemotherapy treatment as well as a 12 round course of radiation. The chemo left blisters in her mouth and the radiation burned her skin. She was uncomfortable and unhappy. With a “short” life expectancy, my mom decided it was “okay” to try something a “little out of the ordinary.” This is when things got good (wink, wink).

We contacted a local naturopath who had been recommended by a close friend. Having never been exposed to a naturopath before, the first time she was muscle tested was almost her last. She could never quite wrap her brain around the concept of polarity therapy and meridians, let alone understand how her fingers staying pinched or “going weak” had anything to do with her wellbeing.  She eventually gave in to the treatments and started taking the supplements recommended by her naturopath.

Not only did this naturopath muscle test and treat patients during the day, he had a small massage school at night. I quickly enrolled in his classes and proceeded to learn everything I thought I needed to know about helping manage mom’s pain via bodywork. As the years passed, mom’s quality of life improved. We were able to wean her off of several pain medications, some of the bone in her spine had rejuvenated, and all in all, she was happy and comfortable.

Many people are not aware of alternative treatments, which is why I would like to spend some time focusing on integrative options. I am currently working on people within my “alternative” circle to write posts for All Things Caregiver.  It is my hope to bring a better understanding of “alternative” modalities, including massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, naturopathic, dietary changes and many more.  Some modalities may seem awfully far out, while others may resonate with you.  Please, keep an open mind and explore options within yourself you may not have considered in the past.

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