Brenda Oehler, 49 of Cedar Rapids, is a stage 2B lobular breast cancer survivor.
“My initial reaction to my breast cancer diagnosis was shock and worry,” Oehler said. “The team at the Nassif Community Cancer Center, St. Luke’s Breast and Bone Health and PCI Hematology and Oncology was very compassionate and patient with my questions. Once they outlined a treatment timeline, I was much more focused on the end of this journey. I had a lot of support from my family, friends and coworkers.”
For her treatment, she had to go through 16 rounds of chemotherapy and had a bilateral mastectomy procedure. She had some side effects from her treatment.
“I really for the most part handled my chemotherapy well. I was fatigued but worked throughout my treatments. I developed neuropathy about halfway through.”
For most patients, neuropathy is a short-term side effect. However, after six months post-chemotherapy, she was still experiencing a lot of discomfort in her feet. Her oncologist prescribed a few medications and vitamins to assist with the neuropathy, but there was little improvement.
“I was only able to wear tennis shoes and was tripping over my feet at times. I was starting to get anxious that this was going to be my new ‘norm’ and it was affecting how much I walked and did any type of activity.”
Trying Something New: Acupuncture
Her doctor then advised her to try something new for her neuropathy – acupuncture, which is part of the Integrative Wellness Program at the Nassif Community Cancer Center.
“One of the most common conditions I provide treatment for at the cancer center is peripheral neuropathy,” Dr. Nancy Lorenzini, medical acupuncturist at the Nassif Community Cancer Center, said. “Chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy is a life-changer for people. They lose their balance, they can’t button their shirts, they can’t use the computer. We have a nice protocol set up at the wellness center where patients can come in and get some treatments.”
“It really improves the quality of life for these patients. It gives them a sense of empowerment that they’ve gone through all this and now they see a reduction in these side effects. I love to see our patients get better and they do.”
The Acupuncture Process
It was a very simple process for Oehler.
“I would arrive at the Community Cancer Center and check in,” Oehler said. “Dr. Lorenzini would greet me and take me into a treatment room, with a comfy table to lay on. She shared that she would place three small, thin needles in each foot and leg. When those were placed, she connected me to a box that ran electrical current through the needles.”
Oehler admits that the acupuncture therapy was very different from what she expected. Specifically, the electrical current involved in the process.
“It was a strange sensation at first, but once I was used to it, I found these sessions relaxing. I had 30 minutes to sit in a quiet room with soothing music. I was told it would take a few sessions to see results, but I saw improvements within two sessions.”
Podcast Episode: Medical Acupuncture for Cancer
Dr. Nancy Lorenzini, medical acupuncturist at the Nassif Community Cancer Center, joins Dr. Arnold to discuss acupuncture and how it can benefit cancer patients.
Oehler’s Advice: Keep an Open Mind
Oehler was skeptical at first, but felt she had to try anything to see improvement with her neuropathy.
“After my experience, I would do this again if needed. I have a new appreciation for this type of medical treatment.”
Oehler also speaks very highly of Dr. Lorenzini.
“She is absolutely wonderful! She is very knowledgeable and personable to work with.”
Oehler’s message to those debating on getting acupuncture therapy is to keep an open mind.
“Don’t be afraid of the needles, the benefit is worth it and be open minded.”
To learn more about medical acupuncture and other Integrative Wellness services available at the Nassif Community Cancer Center, call (319) 558-4876 or visit https://www.communitycancercenter.org/support-services/integrative-wellness/