Beating Cancer & Thriving Via Traditional Chinese Medicine with Dr. Akemi Korahais
Akemi overcame ovarian cancer at the age of 22 through a combination of surgery and Chinese medicine and since then has dedicated the past 12 years of her life to learn everything she can to facilitate healing for her patients.
In this Conscious Conversation, we’ll be exploring how to overcome dis-ease and imbalances in the body via Traditional Chinese Medicine principles. Akemi is a licensed doctor of oriental medicine and practices acupuncture and functional medicine with a soulful twist.
Visit her: http://www.doctorakemi.com/
- “So, that was when I first saw the word cancer and my name together because I had requested the results be faxed to me directly and I actually got the results when I was at the clinic at the college I was in. I was observing patients and I looked at this piece of paper and it said, at the time my name was Akemi Borjas, it said: Akemi Borjas, Ovarian Cancer.”
- “With Chinese medicine one of the things I love about it is people get things from the perspective of there’s the root cause of the problem and then there are the branches. You know, so you can do a branch treatment. A branch can be like a result of a problem.
So, the cancer is the manifestation, for me it was a manifestation, a root problem – something had gone wrong and it just showed up as cancer. Or, most often is headaches is a prime example of a manifestation of something else that is going on more deeply.”
- “We came up with a diagnosis, you know this is what’s going on in my body and these are things that we need to get in balance so that the body starts to repair itself because that’s what the body is designed to do. It’s an incredible, elegant, brilliant system.
One of the other things that I love about Chinese medicine is that they would never separate the emotional component from the physical – it’s just not possible. It’s woven into the medicine so when we say we treat the liver, we are treating the liver for both physical, energetic, and emotional component.
So, that whole journey for me was managing the emotions that had got stuck and I was a master of, you know, emotional repression because I did go through a lot of trauma as a child and that I think really was one of the things that triggered that response that created the cancer.”
- “Also for me, the practice of realizing that death isn’t the end because I’ve come face to face with my own mortality and my own suffering and also overcoming the impulsive thinking.
What I wanted to go to was, my body betrayed me and my body is bad … being very angry at my body and I had to transmit that and learn how to love myself and my cells because I did really struggle with the, you know, “Oh my god, my body is trying to kill me.
- “This experience just forced me to choose to surrender, to choose to trust the people around me that I was going to be taken care of, that I was capable of completing my graduate program, that I would be capable of having a clinical practice and help people, that I could heal myself, that there was purpose and meaning to this suffering. It really was a situation that triggered the metamorphosis, I think.”
- “Chi energy can be… it’s very complicated because you know it’s hard to define and we can use the word energy and we can throw the word energy around, but what does that really mean?
That’s one of the things that I am slightly blessed and cursed with a very analytical brain and I remember going … at my college we were learning all these amazing things, there’s these new paradigms that are blowing my mind and I remember learning new things every day at that college … this energy flows here and it goes from one organ to one organ and from one meridian to the other.
Your energy moves throughout your entire body in a 24 hour period. If you have a blockage or stagnation in a particular area that can effect something on another part of the body.”
- “Emotions should flow and my husband is known for saying that the only bad emotion is a stuck emotion. It’s a natural part of our process and even biochemically, if we just feel our feelings and are able to go through it, these feelings don’t get stuck in our body and don’t cause problems for us.”
OSMARA: Welcome to Calm With Yoga.
In this Conscious Conversation we’ll be exploring how to overcome disease and imbalances in the body via Chinese medicine principles with Dr. Akemi Korahais. Akemi is a licensed doctor of oriental medicine and practices acupuncture and functional medicine with a soulful twist.
She overcame ovarian cancer at the age of 22 through a combination of surgery and Chinese medicine and since then has dedicated the past 12 years of her life to learn everything she can to facilitate healing for her patients. She specializes in chronic difficult decisions and most of her patients have seen dozens of physicians before connecting with her. Akemi loves to unravel the puzzle of a patient and has an uncanny ability to see the big picture and important, but often overlook details which could be anything from an issue in a genetic pathway to a deficiency at play.
Welcome Akemi, welcome. How are you?Read full transcript
AKEMI: I’m doing great. How are you doing?
OSMARA: I’m doing great. I’m excited to talk to you and share your story with our audience because I think it’s a very inspiring story to go from reactive slave to sovereign creator which is what this is all about.
AKEMI: It’s been a … it’s been an interesting and long journey and I’m happy to share and try to help as many people as I can.
OSMARA: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s go right to the start.
AKEMI: Okay, so … I started Chinese medicine school college, it’s a graduate program, and I think I was about 19 at the time, so I was quite young and “fairly” healthy – what I call normal American healthy which meant that I got sick a few times a year, I had gained the freshman 20 and was pretty tired, I didn’t eat well, and I didn’t realize I had these blood sugar issues, but I was healthy.
In the middle of my graduate program I actually ended up getting rear ended and I had suffered from some whiplash and I started to get care. I was in college with all this awesome stuff, so of course I wanted to try it so I ended up seeing a professor at the school for treatment for just musculoskeletal issues and just kind of anxiety.
She was treating me for a few months and there was just something not quite right, you know, and we couldn’t quite put our finger on it. I was kind of gaining weight and my pelvis was starting to shift, my immune system seemed even weaker than normal – I had always been a sickly child, you know, I loved being outside and I didn’t let that stop me, but things just kind of got weirder. I was also getting a little lightheaded. Nothing that would scream the word cancer out to anyone.
One of the things that was amazing is that through the diagnostic process that we used in Chinese medicine, which is you know, you’re looking a person, you take their pulse, you look at their tongue, we do palpation – we actually touch the patient – just getting a sense that there were some systems that weren’t working correctly. She just really said, “Akemi, I need you to go get health insurance and I need you to go see a doctor for an exam.”
I was like, “ah huh, okay,” nodded my head and totally not going to do that. Right? She really insisted. In fact, she paraded me in front of a bunch of professors, she had them palpate my abdomen, and there was just something weird going on. It wasn’t painful, but finally I gave in and I went to a gynecologist for a pelvic exam, I hadn’t had one for a couple of years, and he just proceeded to do a quick exam. You know, they palpate the breast, the tummy a little bit and he just completely zoomed past it – he just didn’t feel what everyone had reported that they were concerned about.
At this point I was a little, of course, concerned because I was being urged to get this exam. I did speak up for myself which I will say took a lot of courage because my heart was pounding and I was like, “Can you please check again because you know I’ve really been told that something might be wrong in my abdomen.” He went back and he did it slower and more deeply and his eyes got kind of big and he ran out of the room and brought in an ultrasound machine which, if most of your listeners might know, at least here to get an ultrasound you have to schedule it out and go somewhere else, it’s very complicated.
He performed an internal ultrasound and proceeded to find a mass about the size of a grapefruit.
AKEMI: Yeah and that was kind of scary because that totally could have … if I hadn’t gotten rear ended, I would have never gone to this doctor of oriental medicine who… you know there’s just so many things. So, that’s kind of how that big wakeup call happened. That’s how it started for me.
OSMARA: And, you were 22? Were you?
AKEMI: No, I was actually a little younger. 22 is when I had the surgery and this was the fall where I was 21 years old about to turn 22. So, yeah, still a baby, I think.
OSMARA: Total baby. So, they find this mass and then what happened?
AKEMI: So, they found the mass and you know immediately it’s let’s do some blood work. They did a CA 125 which at the time was one of the labs they did as a tumor marker, not completely accurate because it can also just indicate a lot of pelvic inflammation, which did cause me some cancer scares in the future. We did some blood work and proceeded to do a CT scan with contrast, which you know, is a little intimidating just to be in a machine.
So, that was when I first saw the word cancer and my name together because I had requested the results be faxed to me directly and I actually got the results when I was at the clinic at the college I was in. I was observing patients and I looked at this piece of paper and it said, at the time my name was Akemi Borjas, it said: Akemi Borjas, Ovarian Cancer.
I said, “What, oh my gosh.” I was actually furious because I was convinced that they had given me the wrong results. I was like, how dare they scare somebody and just diagnose them with cancer when obviously I must have had just a fibroid or something. I just remember handing this paper over to one of my mentors at the time, he’s a medical doctor and a doctor of oriental medicine and he just looks at the CT scan results and I just saw him deflate – he just sank down and then it just kind of hit me, oh this is bad, this is really, really bad.
From there on, and anyone who has been on a journey like this, it’s almost like you enter … I don’t know if the analogy is like you get on a rollercoaster or you get on a carousel, but it’s some sort of ride that just … that you just put your foot on, you get on the ride and you just go, you just have to go because it’s from one appointment to the other appointment to this appointment to seeing the surgeon, you have to schedule the surgery– there’s all this stuff going on.
It’s really … it was really hard, but it was kind of … I learned a lot from it. The surgery itself was terrifying for me because I had to sign this piece of paper that would basically give the surgeon carte blanche to do whatever he wanted and I was really not okay with that. I was not okay with having my uterus taken out and my other ovary taken out – the mass was in my right ovary – just for any reason, I just wasn’t okay with that. They presented me with this piece of paper, like right as they were about to roll me into the surgery which I’m still kind of really upset about to this day because I felt a little ambushed by that.
The surgery was about 5 hours long which is a really long time to be under anesthesia. I woke up a few hours later in a terrible hospital room … I mean, I was sharing the space, the room smelled of fecal matter because my roommate was having issues and I felt so, so terrible – I wanted to die. As honest as I could be with you I was just like, “If this is what life is going to be like, I don’t want to be here … this just is not what I was meant for. This isn’t thriving, this isn’t living, this is sickness and negative energy.”
It was just awful and I didn’t do very well after the surgery. Actually I wasn’t responding the way they wanted me to. My surgeon, I managed to call my surgeon on my cell phone and luckily he took my call – he’s a very kind man – he took my call and I was crying and I told him I couldn’t do this. Somehow he got me into a private room with a view of this gorgeous oak tree and it was … I mean it always makes me tear up because I think trees helped save my life because that gave me the desire to fight and to live … to just, okay, there’s life out there and the whole universe isn’t in this horrible smelling place that just feels like not life.
I proceeded to get better. I finally got out of the hospital a few days later and one of the … one of the very neat things that happened was I had used homeopathy post therapy to manage my pain. You know, this was a very invasive surgery because the tumor was about the size of a 5-month pregnancy at the time, so you know the scar goes well above my belly button and all the way down. It was just really intense and so I was expected to have a lot of pain and I did have quite a bit of pain, but I took 0 prescription pain medication after the surgery, after I was discharged from the hospital.
I really believe it was the homeopathy that helped me with that along with some herbal teas and some gentle massage – really made a huge difference. So, once I got out of the hospital and I started this journey of, what do I do now that I want to live? I ended up at an oncologist’s office who because of the size of the tumor and because it was so aggressive, they wanted to do some preventative chemo and that didn’t make sense to me and I politely declined, we negotiated, I don’t think he was expecting me to negotiate with him and I just said, “No, if it’s not absolutely necessary, my lymph nodes are clear” … my body had developed this single cell layer around this gigantic tumor that prevented it from attaching to my vital organs.
OSMARA: Wow, that’s so good.
AKEMI: — which the surgeon literally ran in … that’s one of my earliest memories after surgery – he ran into my room with this picture of the tumor, which is very gross and I don’t think he should have done that, but he was giddy and said the pathologist had never seen this. My body created this little membrane to protect it from … you know that could have easily attached itself to my liver or my pancreas and I just think my body ended up saving my life.
Now, I had been doing, the second we figured out there was something really wrong going on, potentially cancer, I immediately started doing every immune regulating herb I could figure out, I was getting acupuncture, I was doing everything. So, I really kicked it into high gear and my body really responded. So, that’s a major part of my journey.
OSMARA: Quick question for you, what kind of homeopathy treatments or what exactly were you taking, just so we can get an idea?
AKEMI: Well, you know at the time I wasn’t really trained in homeopathy, but what happened was I … one of my closest friends who’s an acupuncturist went to a classical homeopath —
OSMARA: What is homeopathy just overall for those of us that haven’t heard of the term?
AKEMI: Yes, so homeopathy is actually … you can think of it as nanopharmacology and you know what it does … it’s a couple hundred years old and it originated in Europe. It’s very, commonly used in Europe. You can find homeopathic tablets in pharmacies and now lucky at some of ours and basically what it is, is we are working with the bodies own innate healing capabilities.
Homeopathy works a little on the theory of opposite, so kind of like vaccine theory in that we might make a remedy to help a body cope with allergic reactions by doing a micro dose of something that would give you something like an allergic symptom. An example would be like when you cut onions it might make your eyes feel red or water or something that might make you sneeze. A homeopath would take a substance like that and would dilute it many, many times – sometimes hundreds or thousands of times – to where that substance is no longer in, we will say the water, but the energy is charged with it so it gently stimulates and reminds your body of how it’s suppose to react to that particular stimulus – something that would give you an allergic reaction.
Yeah, so the case for me … I remember that the homeopath picked remedies that would facilitate and help with a lot of gas and nerve pain and things like that. I think that really … I do have to say that made a difference because there’s no way I should have been able to not have any medication after such an invasive surgery.
OSMARA: Yeah, wow. The body’s ability to adapt is so beautiful. So, here you are and the surgeon came in and showed you your beautiful tumor with the wonderful membrane covering it, which is again body’s wisdom … so, what happened then?
AKEMI: So, after I was discharged and I went to the oncologist … that experience at the oncologist, I just had to say, it’s so strange to go into an office like that as a 22 year old because really everyone there is, I think, they were in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and I did develop a conditioned response to that office because every time I went in my heart would just start going. Like I said earlier they wanted me to do preventative chemotherapy even though nothing had spread, even though my body had shown this amazing capacity to protect me from something that was challenging me with.
I just said I didn’t think it was a good idea to weaken my immune system even more when clearly it was having a hard enough time as it was that it couldn’t handle the mutation of some of my cells. I asked him what we could do and if we could compromise on very, very regular monitoring. So, what we agreed on is that every 3 months we would do blood work, that CA 125 that I mentioned earlier – it was high when I had cancer – so, it was a somewhat accurate marker for me and a CT scan.
So, for the first year I had 4 CT scans, which is a little excessive, but I just felt that it was better than chemotherapy and possibly losing my fertility. So, that’s kind of what we did and at that time I just said, “I really want to work on my immune system and figure out what it was that created this situation and environment in which my body thought this was the only way to go.”
So, lucky for me he agreed. My husband still is astounded on how a 22 year old girl can be strong enough to say no to something like that.
OSMARA: With conviction … with the conviction that you sound like you had.
AKEMI: Yeah, I just … no. It just didn’t make sense to me and I’m going to believe, I’m going to believe in myself, I’m going to believe in my body and I did and it served me well because this year will be my 11th year after the surgery and you know, getting healthier and healthier as time goes on.
OSMARA: Amazing, amazing. I wasn’t aware of the timing. So, you were already in oriental medicine school when this happened?
AKEMI: I was, I was actually … the surgery was the semester before I started my clinical rotations, before I started seeing my patients. You know, my … I met my husband at that college and he told me that nobody expected me to come back after that because they just heard it was such an aggressive form of ovarian cancer and you know they knew the surgery was very intense.
There was one thing that I had conviction about and it’s really interesting the power of what someone can say to you. I had seen a woman for some guided imagery meditation maybe, you know, a few weeks before my surgery and she just looked at me and said, “Akemi, there are thousands of people waiting for you. There are people waiting for you to be yourself and to become the healer so they can comfort you and comfort their own healing.”
That just became that clarion call and I just said, you know what, no matter what I’m going to go back and finish and help as many people as I can. Literally 4 weeks, 4 weeks because I had to be in bed rest for 4 weeks after the surgery, 4 weeks later I went back to school. I was about a week and a half into the semester and I actually started seeing patients. I went to classes, I made up all my exams that I had missed. You know, I finished that school – I was not going to stop.
OSMARA: That’s amazing. What got you into oriental medicine in the first place?
AKEMI: Yeah, you know I was born in Venezuela and my family … my mother’s side of the family had always been into more of the alternative health care side, in that I was born a little premature so I always had some slight lung vulnerability, I was asthmatic as a child. My mother’s sister, my aunt, is a medical doctor who actually started practicing acupuncture in the 80’s believe it or not. That’s pretty amazing and forward thinking of her.
So, when I was quite young, I think I was probably between the ages of 6 and 8, I received a lot of care from her in terms of acupuncture, she did moxibustion which is another technique – it’s an herbal warming therapy over acupuncture points—she did food therapy on me, she modified my diet and really helped my asthma. So, I’d really kind of been familiar with it.
Now, when we moved to the states when I was about 10 or 11 I just decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur – that was my whole thing here. So, I just wanted to be in business, that was my entire thing. In 2003 was the first time I had gone back to Venezuela for the first time since I had left it in 1991/1992 and I just had this really, kind of, soul opening heart-opening experience there just feeling myself in my country with my people. I spent a summer there and I took an acupressure course and you know, I was on an international relations track, that’s actually what I wanted to do, but it just shifted some sort of something in me – some sort of knowing came into play that I needed to be in the healing field.
This cracks me up because my mother had always wanted me to be a doctor and I was always like, “Absolutely not, never, never.” I ended up being a doctor anyway. So, I just felt this call to do something … to just bring out this innate healing power that people have in themselves and I came back to Gainesville, Florida where I live and I just started … I didn’t know what kind of career I wanted. I looked into becoming a naturopath which it’s not, it’s not something – we don’t have a license for it in Florida; other states have really good licensing programs for it. I looked at massage school, but that just didn’t call to me.
One of my mother’s family friends … I spoke to her on the phone and she said, “Have you ever thought of going into acupuncture?” And I was like, “Uh, no. What do you mean?” She said, “We happen to have a college here in Gainesville and I happen to know the owner and she’s great and you can probably call her and go visit.” I called her up and she just said, “Yeah, come on down. I finish my clinic shift at 6 o’clock.” So, I stopped on by, I toured the college, and I just saw the people there, I saw here and I knew this was just where I needed to be.
I knew nothing about how much money I was going to make, how much it was going to cost, the logistics of it. You know, I am a planner, I’m obsessive, I like to know what’s going on and two weeks later I was enrolled in this program. It was crazy. It was such a impulsive, but that move came from a very deep spiritual place. I’m just so proud of my soul for speaking up at that time.
OSMARA: Yeah and for you being able to hear it.
AKEMI: Yeah and I totally did it and that’s how I ended up doing this amazing thing.
OSMARA: Amazing. Alright, so let’s go back to you had the surgery to get this beautiful mass removed and then you were going to be going back regularly all the while keeping up with the traditional Chinese medicine route. Tell us a little bit about that … about that side of the recovery.
AKEMI: Yeah, so you know with Chinese medicine one of the things I love about it is people get things from the perspective of there’s the root cause of the problem and then there are the branches. You know, so you can do a branch treatment. A branch can be like a result of a problem.
So, the cancer is the manifestation, for me it was a manifestation, a root problem – something had gone wrong and it just showed up as cancer. Or, most often is headaches is a prime example of a manifestation of something else that is going on more deeply. Being at the college was great because I had a lot of experienced practitioners and a lot of students willing to check my pulse and do custom herbal formulas.
We came up with a diagnosis, you know this is what’s going on in my body and these are things that we need to get in balance so that the body starts to repair itself because that’s what the body is designed to do. It’s an incredible, elegant, brilliant system.
One of the other things that I love about Chinese medicine is that they would never separate the emotional component from the physical – it’s just not possible. It’s woven into the medicine so when we say we treat the liver, we are treating the liver for both physical, energetic, and emotional component. So, that whole journey for me was managing the emotions that had got stuck and I was a master of, you know, emotional repression because I did go through a lot of trauma as a child and that I think really was one of the things that triggered that response that created the cancer.
It was a lot of different things between acupuncture, herbal therapy, I did start to get chiropractic care which I love because that also helped my immune system, I also received massage therapy – one of my favorite forms is using himalayan salts and they really worked to protect me against adhesions – and then I had a pretty strong spiritual practice because, you know, that is one of the things that kept me centered in what mattered and not get too hung up on all the external stuff because it’s really easy for me to get … I’m a pretty highly sensitive person so I get wound up pretty easy by what’s going on in the outside world.
OSMARA: Well, spiritual practice is very personal to everybody, but can we get an idea of what that was like for you?
AKEMI: Yeah, for me it’s more – I’ve been blessed in that I was raised in a little bit of a melting pot of traditions, but the essence it’s a lot of universal teachings of unity and you know, god and the cosmo of being of everyone. Also for me, the practice of realizing that death isn’t the end because I’ve come face to face with my own mortality and my own suffering and also overcoming the impulsive thinking.
What I wanted to go to was, my body betrayed me and my body is bad … being very angry at my body and I had to transmit that and learn how to love myself and my cells because I did really struggle with the, you know, “Oh my god, my body is trying to kill me.” So, there was a lot of … I did a lot of mantras at the time so I’d actually wake up at 4/5 in the morning and do my chanting. I also wrote a lot of poetry which for me is a spiritual practice because it’s a sense of flow and connection to something greater than myself.
OSMARA: Beautiful, beautiful. So, obviously it worked because we are talking here today.
AKEMI: Yep, it really did work.
OSMARA: And so, was there ever a point, and I know the journey is never ending, but was there ever a point of demarcation of sorts, “Okay, I beat this thing and I’ve got this under control” or any kind of awareness post that? What did it look like?
AKEMI: You know, it took about 2 years for me to kind of really be able to come down from that really stressful event because remember I was getting these CT scans every 3 months so it was just like every 3 months my nervous system, my adrenaline, my cortisol went up thinking, “Oh my god, we could die because this test result could tell us something terrible.”
It was about 2 years in and you know I had been practicing … one of the biggest parts of my recovery was the practice of Qigong which is a branch of Chinese medicine which is a mind … it’s a moving meditation and it also moves the energy, but I had really been practicing that very diligently. About 2 years in I realized, “This is kind of counter-productive, this constant… there’s 0 evidence that’s there’s anything bad going on, but it’s almost like I’m torturing myself.”
So, I went into the office and I broke up with my oncologist, just like this isn’t working for me, do you see anything wrong and he’s like, “Oh you know there’s like a 20% chance that it’s going to come back in the other ovary,” and I was like, “Okay, but nobody can tell me why I got this in the first place so I’m just going to do what I’m going to do and we will go from there.”
So, that was a demarcation point for sure. You know, of course I’ve always … if anybody has had this kind of diagnosis or something … you know, western medicine likes to say that things are never cured, they’re just – they use the world remission – which just implies that it’s going to come back. I don’t like that word. I’ve been trying to fight that.
It’s so much better now where I just have so much trust A. in my body and B. in myself and just my ability to cope because I did cop magnificently with what happened to me and I was able to thrive and then C. it wasn’t, it wasn’t the worst thing, you know. I learned that … it took me awhile to get to this state that cancer is just a thing that happened to me. If it happens again, I need to learn something from it and bond, but it’s not such a big scary thing anymore.
OSMARA: Well, when you face it … when we face our fears, whatever they may be … I mean for you it was manifestation in health and body, but it could be in any life area, but when we face our fears, they transform us don’t they?
AKEMI: Yeah, that really … yeah.
OSMARA: And they transform us in the process. So, back to this … You broke up with your oncologist and took matters into your own hands and had a sense of understanding … Would you say you had this strong conviction and knowing who you are as a person … is it something that you were born with and learned early on in your childhood or did this particular story awoke that within you?
AKEMI: I think it did awaken that within. I had always been very quite anxious, I wasn’t a very trusting person because of the trauma in my immediate family and I suffered a lot of loss. There was always a sense of holding myself back and looking at the world … I was very weary of everything and everyone. I was a warm person, but I really held myself very tightly contained.
This experience just forced me to choose to surrender, to choose to trust the people around me that I was going to be taken care of, that I was capable of completing my graduate program, that I would be capable of having a clinical practice and help people, that I could heal myself, that there was purpose and meaning to this suffering. It really was a situation that triggered the metamorphosis, I think.
OSMARA: Yeah, I think it’s quite beautiful and this is the wounded hero archetype. You … the thing is with healer and healer meaning whatever capacity you are in – it could be yoga teacher, qigong teacher, doctor of oriental medicine, you name it, the whole gamut – with the healer the important thing is you can look at the patient in the eyes in the moment where they are facing their mortality or their biggest fear, they’re in shock, they’re in fear, they don’t know what to do and they’re in that panic mode, that reactive slave mode.
For you to be able to look at them in the eye and say, “I see you, I am you, I’ve been where you’ve been, take my hand.” I’m getting goosebumps right now because it’s so powerful for the other person and it’s powerful to be able to give that offering to someone and it’s powerful for the person on the receiving end to have that lifeline in the moment of darkness.
AKEMI: It’s really all about having that connection with the person and those are my most sacred and cherished moments with my patients is where I can witness and I can say, “Yes, this is where we are, I see you, I’m here, we will get through this because you are not in this alone, you are not alone,”
OSMARA: Yeah and I think we all are very close to illness in some form. We all know somebody or someone close to use that had cancer and now we have all these autoimmune dysfunctions, disorders … so many things that are signs and feedback that the body is going haywire and so to be able to be there for someone … the thing that really gets me and I love stories like yours because it activates our mirror neurons to say, “Okay, I am her, I can do this too or the person that I know that’s going through this can do it too.”
It’s hope. That’s the thing we need most in a world where when we hear cancer we are conditioned to think death, we are conditioned to think that our bodies are attacking us and we are screwed and that’s why I’m very happy to have you on the show because you’re bringing in a new paradigm with how do I deal with whatever is perceived as “wrong” in my body, whatever feedback I’m getting, how do I deal with it in a way where it’s not necessarily death. There’s a lot of that and it’s just, I think it’s natural for our brains and minds to go to that fear mode and not remember what you said – our body’s brilliant, wisdom and capacity to regenerate and how it’s all tied. The Chinese, the ancient Chinese sages, the Ayurvedic… and all of these ancient practices and modalities. They knew that it’s just not about the body as this separate entity, but that it’s a flow happening, merging and flowing and swimming and dancing with the mental, emotional, spiritual.
AKEMI: Mm hmm… Absolutely.
OSMARA: Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. So let’s change gears a little bit and talk a little about traditional Chinese medicine and you know when your husband was here we talked about the chi flow and chi energy, but tell us a little about the oriental medicine perspective of the role that our chi energy plays in our health and wellbeing.
AKEMI: Yeah so you know, the chi energy can be … it’s very complicated because you know it’s hard to define and we can use the word energy and we can throw the word energy around, but what does that really mean? That’s one of the things that I am slightly blessed and cursed with a very analytical brain and I remember going … at my college we were learning all these amazing things, there’s these new paradigms that are blowing my mind and I remember learning new things every day at that college … this energy flows here and it goes from one organ to one organ and from one meridian to the other. Your energy moves throughout your entire body in a 24 hour period. If you have a blockage or stagnation in a particular area that can effect something on another part of the body.
We can hold that space and just look at it from an energy perspective. I heard a doctor once try to describe what we talk of as chi in a very interesting way. He was being asked by a surgeon, “well you know what is this chi that you work on” and he told the surgeon, “Let’s pretend that you can put glasses on and you’re looking at it like an x-ray and what can you see? You see bones. Okay and you put another glasses on and what you can see is an MRI and what do you see? You can kind of see the organs. You put another set of glasses on and it’s like an EKG and we can see the electrical activity of the heart” and then he said, “Okay what if you put quantum glasses on? So what would you see? Energy.”
So, I personally believe that a lot of this life force chi energy is in this quantum realm, this realm of potential.
OSMARA: The subatomic realm.
AKEMI: Exactly, the subatomic realm. So, there’s energy flowing in and out of our body’s – we are not physical beings. So, what happens with acupuncture and stimulation of acupuncture points which can be done through acupressure as well is … these are kind of gateways that we can activate and it stimulates the body so we are working at it both at the physical levels – we know physiologically certain acupuncture points activate nerve pathways, the light up the brain in particular ways so you get a biochemical response – I believe there’s also this subatomic realm of energy flow that’s happening simultaneously.
That’s one of the reasons why … one of the most famous points why headache is between the big toe and the next toe over because we are working at the other end of the spectrum. It’s not like we are literally just massaging the head to get rid of the headache because the energy is connected. Does that make sense?
OSMARA: Yeah, the meridians are such an interesting thing. Let’s talk about that a little bit in terms of the role they play in chi energy.
AKEMI: Yeah, so Meridians are these pathways. We can think of them as rivers. That’s actually a good analogy of these rivers of energy – we have 12 main Meridian pathways and they have names like the spleen meridian and the liver meridian and the gallbladder meridian. People tell me they don’t have a gallbladder, well you still have a gallbladder meridian. If you don’t have a gallbladder, you definitely have a problem with your gallbladder meridian because I’m sure the surgery didn’t fix that.
The currency of energy flow through these meridians, you know like these rivers, and if you can think of like a stream or a river that has a lot of debris that is blocking the flow of energy … you know sometimes it creates the water isn’t as healthy, you might get growth on the water, that’s an example of stagnation and that blockage in that river can cause problems way down the line, the areas down the pathway may experience low water levels. This could be an example of …
Sometimes people come to me and say, “I’m really tired, you know, I need you to give me more energy” and I’m like, “Well, actually you need the opposite. You need to move your energy because it’s the stagnation that is causing you to feel that fatigue and that weakness. We are removing the debris through acupuncture, through herbs or massage or whatever technique we may use at the time and then you know you’re taking out the debris and the energy flows and suddenly the area down the pathway is suddenly getting the water that it needs so it can thrive.”
OSMARA: That’s so interesting because we don’t really think about it like that in the west with the classical medicine paradigm.
AKEMI: No, no, we don’t. They’re getting a little closer with the functional medicine concept because they’re realizing there’s all these axis like the intestines and the liver work together and that affects the brain and I’m like well you know there’s classical Chinese medical theory that talked about that a few thousand years ago, but they’re getting there.
OSMARA: Let’s talk about the role of the emotions in the body according to Chinese medicine.
AKEMI: Yeah, so there are associations, emotional associations with different organs and one of the things we haven’t talked about is something called five element theory which is in Chinese medicine. The five element theory we’ve got water, we have wood, we have fire, we have earth and we have metal. Each of those elements house different organs/meridians.
The lungs are in the metal element and they’re associated with the emotion grief. I use a range of emotions, there’s grief and sadness and crying and anguish. If you have too much energy stuck in that lung, emotions can show up. Also, if you have too little energy stuck in the lungs, then emotions can be stuck — either end of the spectrum. The whole goal is to have that nice balance, that nice flow.
Emotions should flow and my husband is known for saying that the only bad emotion is a stuck emotion. It’s a natural part of our process and even biochemically, if we just feel our feelings and are able to go through it, these feelings don’t get stuck in our body and don’t cause problems for us.
I think part of the issue is, is that as part of a society we are conditioned … we don’t want to feel weak so I think we really suffer a lot of shame and we don’t really know how to handle, properly handle anger or sadness, or crying. You know, everyone needs to cry, men or women. There’s a lot of cultural issues that I think contribute to a lot of these issues that we are seeing now.
OSMARA: Yeah because repressed emotions can lead to physical manifestations in the body, right?
AKEMI: Yes, 100%. That’s the majority of what I do in my practice which is help people move emotions.
OSMARA: Tell me more about that?
AKEMI: Well, you know Chinese medicine itself … we’ve got acupuncture and a lot of acupuncture points we can use mentally and emotionally to help, but I also use a technique called Neuro Emotional Technique which was developed 26-27 years ago by a brilliant man, one of my dear mentors, Scott Walker. He was a chiropractor and he was just so sick and tired of banging on the bone to get it back in just over and over again and he figured out … there was a woman he was treating and I believe she’d be in a car accident and somehow he just had her think of the car accident and he adjusted her and the subluxation, it went away and it helped for the first time in a really long time.
He just started researching, you know, what do emotions in the body and all this stuff and he kind of stumbled on Chinese medicine in the medical theory – this 5 element theory and developed this wonderful technique, NET is what I call it for short, and basically it uses the theory that we bind where the emotions are stuck, which meridians the emotions are stuck in, what part of the body it’s affecting and it’s just this very simple, beautiful technique which the stuck emotion is resolved.
Not only are people feeling the emotional shift, you know, in the procedure itself which can be as short as 2 minutes, it can be 5 minutes. I’ve had people say they’ve done 20 years of therapy and they got more out of these 5 minutes than they did in all that time. It’s really amazing because what I believe is happening is really pinpointing where these blockages are in the body physically.
Sometimes I can start with a person that has a chronic problem … say you come in to me and say, “I’m just always nauseous all the time” we can check the stomach meridian or the meridian access point to see if there’s an emotional component – to see if there’s some sort of stress that’s stuck and it’s a trigger in that area and then we can find it, fix it and you can move on with your life. You know, that’s what I like to do with my patients.
OSMARA: That’s great. That’s awesome. So, where could they find out about you. We are going to have a resources section with your DoctorAkemi.com, right?
AKEMI: Yes. It’s doctor spelled out: D-O-C-T-O-R-A-K-E-M-I
OSMARA: A-K-E-M-I. Great and we are going to have the link and the podcast episode posted along with the transcription of this and the Spanish translation — we are just starting with those. Maybe we can do another episode in Spanish! Wow, okay. I know I’ve learned a lot. Is there anything that you would like to leave our listeners with in terms of the topic and what we talked about and your journey, your story?
AKEMI: Yeah, don’t give up. If something doesn’t work for you or if you’ve ever tried Chinese medicine or any alternative care and you didn’t have a magical fix, don’t give up. There’s the right combination of supportive therapies for everyone, I believe. Not one thing works for everybody, but everybody deserves the opportunity to experience that power that the body has of healing.
If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.
OSMARA: Awesome, awesome. Akemi, it was an honor and a pleasure. Thank you so much for being here tonight.
AKEMI: Thank you.