Over twenty of us are seated around a large oval dining table, replete with all manner of edibles atop an antique-white tablecloth. It was a group effort to bring everything and everyone together in celebration for our hostess’ surprise eighty-somethingeth birthday.
Words of thanksgiving, honor and gratitude rise to the dining room’s tall ceiling, as we take turns telling stories about how Doctor Helen managed to grant us additional time and space to live in and with a variety of medical diagnoses “too advanced, incurable, untreatable, permanent condition or—sometimes—inoperable.”
Between tears of joy and gratitude, Doctor Helen gestures with her arthritic hands, uttering “Sh, sh. That’s enough.”
Despite her protests, the stories rumble on. And, we all celebrate living.
Over a year earlier, on the day I was scheduled to meet Doctor Helen for the first time, my husband stops the car outside of her home. I am not particularly hopeful or enthusiastic about seeing yet another MD. But, a trusted neighbor recommended her work. Technically, Helen is retired and practicing everything but traditional allopathic medicine. Coming from my recent experiences with allopathic medicine and from a skeptical, academic/medical home culture—where even spinal adjustments were considered akin to voodoo—I am not looking forward to visiting with any aspect of what Helen represents, whether it is traditional or alternative.
Before entering her home, my husband makes a point of turning off the vehicle and stopping me to establish eye contact.
“I want you to set aside all of your preconceived notions about medicine. I don’t know what she practices, but I do know she put the color back into our child’s face. I hope she can help you.” This is coming from the mouth of an old-school doctor’s son. I leave the car with this thought rolling around in my head.
Doctor Helen offers many new options to absorb, consider, experience, reject or embrace. Fortunately I possess a broad pragmatic streak and high level of innate curiosity. These two personality traits have allowed me to explore a broader range of alternative-care modalities than most individuals might normally consider. Yet, just as I found my new comfort zone in the realm of alternative therapies, Doctor Helen surprises me one day with another idea.
“I want you to go see a healer,” she announces.
“Why?” I ask in all earnestness.
“I think there are some old things that need to be addressed that the other treatments are not taking care of. I can feel it here,” she says rubbing her sternum with the heel of her hand.
And, because Doctor Helen is the doctor, I capitulate. “Okay, if you think that it is best, I will give it a try,” I respond dutifully.
After all, what do I have to lose?