Months ago—when my hearing and other symptoms were at their worst—I rested in the hospital’s cancer center for one of my first Remicade treatments. Sarah sat across from me during this early infusion session, vigorously working on her laptop, but wholly with me. Due to the severe case of vertigo, I have been forced to wield all of my energy into focusing my eyes; similarly, my hearing loss has demanded that I spend most of my efforts honing in on people’s lips in order to understand conversation. These symptoms of the disease that have caused such turmoil to my body alone can be quite exhausting; however, spending five hours at a hospital, hooked up to an IV, as medication surges through my body, is taxing to say the least.
In and out of sleep, my head falling back and then slumping forward, I awoke to find a short, older Asian woman near my feet at the end of my reclining chair. Under her arm was a clipboard and in her hand she held a small boom box. Through hazy eyes, I noticed her speaking to Sarah, but I couldn’t make out anything they were saying to one another. I caught Sarah offering a smile, mouthing something to the woman, and shaking her head. The woman then turned to me and spoke.
“Hello,” she said, “my name is Cindy. Would you like a Reiki treatment?”
“Ummm…” I said, shifting my body upwards and squinting my eyes. “I’m not sure what you said. Sorry. Can you repeat that?”
“I have hearing problems. Can you tell me what it’s called again?” I looked past Cindy toward Sarah and noticed her glancing up from her work and smirking at me.
“It’s called Reiki,” she said, moving in closer to me. “It is a medical practice and relaxation technique in which I place my palms on different parts of your body, transferring universal energy into your body, allowing the medicine to flow through you fast and more efficiently.”
I stared at her for a moment—totally lost.
“Would you like to try it?” she asked.
“Uh, Sure,” I said, able to make out that last part, but unaware of what I was actually getting myself into.
Cindy hooked up the stereo next to me and pressed play. Sarah told me later that the music which I was supposed to be hearing included flutes and nature sounds to help relax me during the process.
“I’m not going to be able to hear that,” I said.
Cindy looked at me, puzzled.
“I’m deaf. I can’t hear music. It’s very faint.”
“Oh,” she said, her body frozen and eyes wide. “Okay. We will try to turn it up.”
She proceeded to move the volume dial to the right and spoke: “Now, close your eyes and try to imagine a place where you are happy and at rest.”
Contorting my face, my eyes squinted open after several moments of silence, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.”
“Do you still want the Reiki treatment?” she asked, awkwardly but concerned.
She repeated herself again.
“No, I don’t think so. Sorry. I just don’t think it will work out that well.”
“Okay. Not a problem,” Cindy said.
As she unhooked the stereo, she said something to Sarah again that I couldn’t hear. Then Cindy turned to me to say goodbye.
“Bye. Thanks anyway.”
She left the room and Sarah looked at me.
“I have no idea what that was all about,” I said.
Sarah shook her head and smiled. The man next to me receiving chemo therapy chuckled and scoffed,
“Reiki on a deaf person!” He then continued to laugh. I didn’t hear him, but Sarah told me later.
* * * * *
Today, September 24th, I had another Remicade treatment. I wasn’t sure why, but I had been dreading this for days. It was worse than usual. I was not looking forward to being practically knocked out and losing a whole day hooked up to tubes and drifting in and out of slumber. And there is, of course, always the somber undertone in the place, regardless of the wonderful and friendly staff. Sarah was at her office today, so her mother dropped me off. I slept throughout most of my time there; however, about an hour before I finished up, I woke up to find that a tall, mature blonde woman had entered the room.
“Hello,” she said. “Are you Max?”
“Yes, I am,” I said. My hearing has been doing quite well recently—I understood her immediately.
“My name is Joan. Your nurse, Caitlin, told me that you might be interested in a Reiki treatment. Have you ever done Reiki before?” she asked.
“No, I haven’t,” I said with a smile, thinking back to the first time I attempted Reiki. “I am hard of hearing, but today is actually a good hearing day, so maybe we could try.”
“Yeah? Okay. Let me just get set up,” she said.
Joan placed the boom box on a table next to me and plugged it in. She pressed play and I could hear soft, earthy tones. It reminded me of those old Pure Moods CD compilations that were always advertised on television when I was a kid. I thought that kind of music was strange back then, and I still do today.
“I’m going to place my hands on different parts of your body,” she said, looking me directly in the eyes. “You’ll feel some hot and cold sensations.”
“Okay,” I said warily.
“I’ll start with your feet. Can you take off your shoes?”
Immediately, my nerves ran wild. I had worn my Sperry boat shoes today—without socks! I knew that my feet smelled awful. I could practically smell them while the shoes were still on. This is bad, I thought.
“Oh boy,” I said, “I feel terrible. I don’t have socks on. My feet probably stink.”
This didn’t shake Joan. She was dedicated.
“That’s no problem,” she said, unconcerned. “This will really help.”
“Alright,” my eyebrows lifted as I tilted my head down and then reached to take my shoes off.
“Now, lean back and close your eyes. Imagine a place; a place that you go to find peace and tranquility.”
I closed my eyes and imagined that I was at home with Sarah, lying down on the couch, holding her tightly. I didn’t know exactly what to expect when Joan began. I had never actually seen this enacted before. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of universal energy streaming through my body, but if it could help me relax more, why not? I thought.
I felt her hands gently grasp my right foot. She’s going to need a lot of soap on those hands after this. She wasn’t kidding about a cold sensation. That was the initial shock, but just a moment later, my feet warmed up. She continued this process on my left foot about a minute later, and then onto my knees.
Apparently, Reiki did the trick, because I fell asleep in the middle of it—completely knocked out—and woke up about a half an hour later to find that my treatment had almost entirely finished and Joan was nowhere to be found. I’m not sure about the scientific facts behind Reiki, but it did ease me in to a calm and peaceful state of mind. Odd as the practice might seem, it allowed my infusion session to go much smoother than I had hoped for or expected. I think I’ll try it again.