“Unfucking believable! Unfucking believable. This is just unfuckingbelivable!” Doctor Holmes, one of the Veterinarians at Windhover Veterinary Clinic who oversees the care at the Sterling Animal Rehab Center in Walpole, looked up at myself, the Vet Tech on duty, and the Clinic’s current intern, “Excuse my language, ” she apologized, “but I just can’t believe this. The lump is gone. I mean it’s totally gone!”
Betsy, a 10 year-old Golden Retriever, was diagnosed with what her Vets believed to be Lymphoma in late April of 2012. Lymphoma can present in numerous ways but in Betsy’s case it appeared as a painless enlargement of the peripheral lymph nodes. It looked and felt as if someone had cut an overly ripe cantaloupe in half and placed it under the fur and skin on the left side of her neck. Had Betsy been human, the large mass might have resembled an extremely bad case of the mumps. In other words, the mass growing around Betsy neck was quite large and if left untreated, likely to get bigger.
Betsy, like most Golden’s (sadly), is prone to cancer — this was not her first cancer diagnosis — so her owner, Mary Anne, has chosen to steer clear of chemotherapy that might negatively affect Betsy’s quality of life or any type of radiation treatments that have the potential to exacerbate the cancer or encourage other cancer growths. Instead, Mary Anne has chosen to treat Betsy non-traditionally with Chinese herbs and weekly acupuncture appointments that I have, as Betsy’s “driver” (yes, Betsy has an entourage – she is a “V.I.D.”!) had the privilege of witnessing.
The acupuncturist who practices at Sterling, Ann Murphy, is nothing short of a present day miracle worker. Like stories of Jesus, factual or fabled, she seems to have the power to heal with her hands. Anne is also the one who suggested and has been supplying the Chinese herbs, specifically Ganoderma 18 by Seven Forests, which Mary Anne has been administering to Betsy daily.
Anne explained to me that there is no word for cancer in the vocabulary of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). “According to TCM, good health depends on normal flows of fluid and energy (blood and gi). These flows are responsible for nourishment and discharge. Poor flow (stagnation) can lead to accumulations such as tumors, cysts, etc. Normalizing these flows through acupuncture and Chinese herbs tends to promote healing, recovery, and general well being” (drshen.com).
Betsy’s “team” has been treating her tumors holistically since April 10th, 2012. By early July Mary Ann insisted that the tumor had shrunk (she is a master of the art of positive thinking) but when Dr. Holmes measured it, she found that although it had not grown, it really had not decreased in size either. This in and of itself was good news because lymphoma is known to be an especially aggressive cancer. According to Wikipedia, untreated dogs have an average survival time of just sixty days (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymphoma_in_animals#cite_note-13).
On July 30th, as I was picking Betsy up for her treatment, Mary Anne was giddy with the news that Betsy’s tumor was gone; however, this was her own personal assessment. Dr. Holmes had yet to evaluate Betsy since a couple weeks ago when the two equally strong-willed women got into a friendly debate about whether or not the lump was shrinking, with Dr. Holmes backed up with her medical degree claiming that the numbers don’t lie, and a smiling, persistently positive dog owner insisting that mathematics and science (and veterinary measuring tools) be damned. Mary Anne was starting to remind me a bit of Steve Jobs with his “reality distortion field”. But it would seem that some people truly have the power to will things true.
I consider myself to be a pretty open minded person, but I’m also someone who rarely believes in absolutes. I think life is painted in varying shades of gray, with a few brush strokes of black and white used sparingly. When I was a little kid I wanted to believe in absolutes – good and evil, heaven and hell, a higher power, and happily ever after. I actually agonized over these concepts. Now as an adult, I realize that there’s mostly no such thing. My fence-walking has led me to be open minded yet skeptical of most things, acupuncture and eastern medicine included. I saw that physical therapy and acupuncture had definitely helped Betsy when she tore her ACL and also when she was suffering from a fever and indigestion issues. But cancer? I mean, cancer still manages to outwit the most intelligent doctors , the most devoted exercisers and healthy eaters, the newest technologies, the young, the clean and toxin free-living, and generally the overall healthiest of people. Cancer is, in my mind at least, the human race’s greatest foe and overpopulation’s greatest ally. I believed that there was a good possibility that all these treatments could help Betsy. But I was not absolutely convinced like Mary Anne. And it seemed neither was Doctor Holmes. Until now.
When Doctor Holmes, ever the consummate professional started cursing, I knew she was flabbergasted (in her defense, she apologized for her potty mouth after the initial shock of her findings). With her jaw agape, she confirmed what Mary Anne seemed to will true. The tumor was gone. Completely gone. Doctor Holmes had never seen anything like it in her professional career. She muttered something about writing up the case in a medical journal of some sort. I was overwhelmed not just by Dr. Holmes findings, but also to her reaction to her findings. She was absolutely blown away.
The things is, had the same outcome occurred on a human, my overly analytic mind might have guessed it could have been due to the “placebo” effect, or some sort of psycho-somatic B.S., but dogs do not have the capacity for this type of rational thought. For the placebo effect to work, a high level of cognition is required, cognition of the type that dogs lack.
After I dropped Betsy off and went into the office I share with my dad I put Ann’s business card on his desk and told him to call her and make an appointment. My dad does not have cancer, thank god, but he does have a whole list of other ailments. This was not the first time I asked him to call Anne, but this time I recounted the story of what I had just seen, the same story I have just shared with you now. Lucky, as we lovingly refer to him, might just be the greatest skeptic of all, but even he was persuaded. He called Anne and when she expressed doubts about him wanting to drive all the way down to Walpole when he could find a practicing acupuncturist much closer, I insisted he endure the dreaded Expressway to see Anne explicitly. He actually agreed, without much persuading needed on my part. He has an appointment with Anne this week. And if Anne can make Lucky, the most ardent of skeptics a believer, than she truly is a miracle worker.
Lucky’s treatments and prognosis to follow. This story, like our endless journeys on this planet is, to be continued…