It seems a distant memory now that I am up to my neck in essays and final exam preparations, but my son B and I had a great Easter travelling to the US (Tennessee! Alabama!) to visit my family, whom I hardly see these days. The last time that my siblings, my mum, and I were all together was eight years ago. That was way before I had any inkling that I would be studying Chinese medicine in my 40s and trying to engineer such a radical career shift. It was great to see everyone and to finally meet all my nieces and nephew, which is what I expected. But what I didn't expect is that with my acupuncturist hat on, I now had a profoundly different -- and privileged -- insight into my family.
For example, cancer runs in my father's side. My wonderful dad died of pancreatic cancer in his 40s, while his older sister, my lovely and wacky auntie, died of bowel cancer in her 50s. It is no secret why I want to specialise in using acupuncture to support cancer patients undergoing conventional treatment!
In Chinese medicine, cancer often occurs against a background of Spleen Qi Deficiency. Spleen is the organ responsible for efficient digestion, to extract nutrients and energy from food. When we have strong digestive qi, we can do this efficiently. If we have weak digestive qi, we will struggle to break down food and absorb it. This undigested food will turn to Phlegm, which contributes to many kinds of cancer. (The ancient Chinese viewed what we call tumours as a kind of Phlegm build-up.)
How do we strengthen our digestive qi? Less meat and more vegetables for starters -- they say that your plate should contain all the colours of the rainbow, meaning having lots of different vegetables and fruit. When you're eating, sit down and enjoy your meal, rather than multi-tasking and trying to work/watch TV/read newspaper at the same time. The digestive system likes warm food, so avoid cold foods coming straight from the refrigerator, especially if you live in a cold climate. My son and husband don't like this dietary advice because they adore their Haagen-Dazs cookies and cream and ice-cold drinks. But try to minimise this and your digestive system will be happier for it.
Above all, enjoy eating and sharing meals with your loved ones. So glad I did plenty of this while away. Now it's time to finish that paper on acupuncture and lymphoedema, and start revising for the biomed exam. I am so very near the end of Year 3!