Drink Me

Bai ji” I said to the Chinese doctor timidly.  She was a small, elderly woman, charmingly dressed in  a short sleeved shirt, with long cutoff sleeves of another fabric safety-pinned to the short sleeves underneath.  “Bai ji, to stop bleeding.” “Bai ji?” she repeated, “is that Chinese name or American name?”  And so it went, back and forth for a few moments, until finally, triumphantly, she said “oh, bai ji!”  It sounded ever so slightly different the way she said it, but although it had seemed that my pronunciation was good enough, clearly it was lacking in something essential.  She went and got me a packet of bai ji, and sure enough, it looked just like what I had seen online, when I was searching for herbs that might stop Shel’s bleeding.

And then she said, with audible disappointment,  “but only one thing, only one,” by which I understood that she wanted to mix several things together.  The result is as you see it.  There’s bai ji in there, alright, along with a dozen or more other plants, twigs, stems, pods, and grasses, none of which I can name or pronounce correctly, but all of which are now simmering slowly in a large pot on the stove, ready for Shel to drink later this evening.

Because Western medicine isn’t helping us here.  The radiation treatments were supposed to stop Shel’s bleeding.  It’s a tumor that’s bleeding, and it’s deep inside his throat, and I have a terror that although it’s merely seeping now, at some moment the faucet will really get turned on and I won’t be able to do anything about it and disaster will ensue.

Yesterday at the hospital the young doctor said she had nothing to offer to stop the bleeding, there was nothing she could do about it.  Today at the Chinese herbal medicine store the much older doctor, trained as an oncologist in China she said, assembled five brown paper bags full of herbal litter. Something anti-cancer, three things to stop bleeding, something anti-cough, and possibly other remedies that she didn’t know how to explain to us.  “Very bitter” she said “okay to add sugar.”  Let me add that she just looked at Shel and said “thyroid cancer” which is not at all the obvious thing to say.  And when she heard he’d just finished radiation she asked “first time, or second time?”  Shel and I exchanged glances, because it was the second time and it is thyroid cancer and if she knew all that without being told, then maybe, just maybe, her concoction will work as she said it would.

“Come see me Thursday” she said “tell me how you are, I will adjust medicine.” And so here we are, about to sip a bitter and unknown brew rather than live with the bitter realization that Western medicine is failing us now.  And that realization is one that no amount of sugar can sweeten, and that young doctor didn’t say to come back on Thursday or any day.

Bai ji, you say the bai with a rising inflection, rising like hope.

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21 Comments on “Drink Me”

  1. Ujwala Samant Says:

    My prayers that bai ji will stop the bleeding..


  2. Yes, I do believe. My experience was not for a life threatening condition but got some relief for menopausal symptoms. And I know many people who have gotten much relief during cancer treatments. Good luck and you have my prayers also.

  3. Wendy Says:

    “raising like hope” indeed! Xoxo

  4. Stephenie Says:

    All good thoughts to you and Shel.

  5. Nim Says:

    You and Shel will be in my prayers.

    While it isn’t exactly the same, my friend Kira has had very good results from Chinese Medicine. She’d tried everything with Western Medicine, but they couldn’t help her and her husband have any kids, and the doctors told her to adopt. She started seeing a TCM doctor and conceived her daughter a couple of months later.

    Like I said, it’s not a 1:1, but still, it’s hope.

  6. Jill Says:

    Hope, faith and love to you both.

  7. Lori Says:

    Shel and Abra –
    You are in my thoughts and I am wishing you miracles. As a scientist, I was not a big believer in alternative medicines until I went through chemo. The new anti-nausea drugs that work for most people did not work for me and I lost 12 lbs in 3 weeks, not good for someone with a small frame to begin with. Then I happened to read about electric acupuncture and what a difference it made. They hook up electricity to the needles. The american acupunturists only used small amount of electricity, the one chinese doctor would say tell if you can’t take it but would really help if you take high level. I always felt best when I got her and it made me a big believer.

  8. Madison Bleu Says:

    I am praying for Shel and you. Healing, peace & blessings overflowing to you both.

  9. Debra Lane Says:

    sending you healing thoughts and warm hugs!

  10. Sue Says:

    My thoughts and prayers for you and Shel both. It’s not an easy road to travel for either of you.

  11. Tamara Says:

    Wishing bai ji hope for you.

  12. heidih Says:

    Sending you good thoughts and positive energy. Bill Moyer did a series years ago on Chinese medicine/alternative treatments, and it was very enlightening. Years of history and results. Take care of yourself as well.

  13. Heinz Says:

    Good thoughts, hopes and best wishes from the bottom of our hearts to you both.

    Christine & Heinz

  14. Jan Says:

    It doesn’t matter what I believe about this, I just know that I am holding out high hope that the stuff helps stop the bleeding. It looks like potpourri.

  15. Karen K. Says:

    Thinking of you, wishing you all the best, with rising hope.

  16. Lucy Says:

    We’re all thinking of you here. Lots of love from Lyon.

  17. Nina L Says:

    Prayers and hopes rising together.

  18. Nan Says:

    Good for you, I have faith in Chinese medicine, but sending thoughts and prayers your way. Nan

  19. Stephanie Says:

    Charles & I are sending our hope filled thoughts from the east coast Washington to you and Shel out west.

  20. spamwise Says:

    I hope everything works out for both of you.

  21. Nancy Says:

    Blessings, improvement and continued faith be with you both.


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