25 April, 2012

The Dance

When I am with her, there are moments when our energies mingle, sometimes ebbing, sometimes surging in a spiral of forces quite difficult to describe. It is an encounter as unique as it is powerful, a rendezvous that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Maybe you have.

"Okay," you have to be wondering, "what is he talking about now?" First, let me be clear that it's entirely professional - although taken out of context those words could describe a lot of things, I suppose. In this case, it's about a physical therapist I have been seeing for almost twenty years. There have been significant gaps in that history, but I always return because it's obvious I am healthier when I am treated, at least once every few weeks.

Secondly, it's about my Neglected Left. Nerves scarred by five courses of radiation therapy, adhesions from multiple surgeries, damage from repeated septicemia. Each did its share of harm, and from my left shoulder to my left hand, all one will notice is major atrophy and occasional swelling from lymphedema.

My sessions are one-on-one, and my therapist is hands on. She is not overseeing several patients at once while they work out on machines. There is touch, human touch, and the treatments are usually focused on my neck and chest rather than my arm. I wouldn't describe it as massage since there is little muscle-specific stroking, but there is pressure, stretching, and stroking - sometimes lightly and superficially, sometimes intensely and deeply. This attention to the scarring and adhesions has also helped with breathing, with lymph flow, and with my skin’s elasticity in the affected areas.

My reactions in these sessions are somewhat transcendent. I usually melt into the table and have to be scraped off - although for most of the session I am off soaring somewhere and need post-session time to become grounded again. Earth to Thom. Fans of eastern medicine would understand.

We have become good friends over the years, and in these sessions there is a special connection between our spirits that I have experienced with only one other. I can't explain it, and I have given up trying. Today I just accept it for the gift that it is.

I am a doctorally-trained neuroscientist, but in spite of a left brain screaming scientific aphorisms that echo about my neurocranium, I cannot deny the reality of these experiences just because they are difficult to explain from a Western medicine perspective. If life has taught me anything, it is that there are multiple paths to truth, and we should be open to all of them.

My physical therapist calls it “the Dance” – this intermingling of energies. It's a perfect metaphor. I can use more of this medicinal music.