I have a love/hate relationship with acupuncture and eastern medicine, most likely due to my acupuncturist lighting me on fire. Yes, that’s right. I was lit on fire. I am not kidding. I have five second-degree burns to prove it. However, before writing further about what it felt like to become human sagnaki (you know, the cheese that waiters light on fire in Greek restaurants while exclaiming “Opa!”), I would like to provide some background.
I never wanted to get acupuncture in the first place. Upon embarking on my fertility “journey,” a good friend who had twins via IVF and recommended my doctor suggested that I give it a try. When I told her that I did not like needles and was afraid that it would hurt, she put me in my place. She said: “Silly girl, you are going to have to get over that, and I assure you, acupuncture is going to be the least of your problems. Do you want to know what hurts? I’ll tell you what hurts, egg retrievals and childbirth with forceps.” She had a point and I needed to toughen up.
Following our first failed IUI, and after I realized that perhaps our problem was more than timing, I made an appointment with the acupuncturist conveniently located next to my doctor’s office. I was looking forward to my appointment. Even at this early stage in treatment, I was already beginning to feel dehumanized and was eager to be treated like more than a piece of meat with a credit card. Unfortunately that is not exactly what happened. My hour and a half consultation lasted only forty minutes and the therapist seemed more interested in selling me supplements than explaining the treatment that she was going to perform. She both literally and figuratively left me in the dark, with no explanation whatsoever as to what the needles imbedded in my skin were doing. When I got home I wrote the manager and asked for a refund. This was very out of character for me; I have never so much as written a yelp review, let alone directly complain to a service provider. But at this point I was just sick of feeling like my feelings did not matter. In response, the manager sent me a packet of calming tea. Suffice it to say, I never went back and determined that acupuncture was not for me.
Then a few months passed, a few more cycles failed and I began to become once again open to the possibility of incorporating eastern medicine into my treatment. I also was sick of being told that if I just tried acupuncture, I would get pregnant (see my prior blog post re pregnancy accouncements). Even my dad who would rather get a colonoscopy than talk about infertility sent me an article suggesting that acupuncture was the solution to my problems. So, I gave it another try and made an appointment with an acupuncturist who came highly recommended by a colleague. She was absolutely wonderful. She answered all of my questions and showed me more compassion and empathy than I could have asked for. I felt that she cared about my wellbeing and was invested in my success. Then, I was set on fire….
My treatments were commonly supplemented with cupping and massage to help me relax. I never gave it a second thought. I never thought that I could be in physical danger. I had no idea that cupping even involved fire until my acupuncturist screamed and furiously tried to put out the flames that were quickly traveling from my back to abdomen. (Apparently the alcohol that she used to light a cotton ball on fire to heat the cups spilled onto my back because she was distracted). It was one of the scariest moments of my life; my body looked like a tablecloth that had accidently been lit on fire during a boozy dinner party. Once the flames went out, I just sat in shock, completely exposed and afraid to look at my skin. I had no idea whether I would have first, second or third degree burns. I can’t lie, once the shock wore off, I was in a lot of pain. She tried to treat the burns, but I just wanted to go home and have my husband, who is a doctor, take care of me. Had E not been around to treat me, I definitely would have had to go to the emergency room.
Even though the burns left scars, I feel incredibly lucky. It could have been so much worse. I wasn’t angry after it happened, I was just thankful that I was okay. I understand that it was an accident, but also took it as a sign that acupuncture/eastern medicine really is not for me. It is kind of sad. I really did like my acupuncturist and found her treatments helpful. There is just no way that I could ever feel comfortable having her treat me again.