Every day at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center, Darren Johnson, LAc, uses techniques from a 2,000-year-old discipline to help patients suffering from some very modern maladies.
From migraines to sports injuries to the side effects of cancer treatment, Darren’s skill, compassion, and acupuncture techniques often work wonders where other treatments have failed.
That’s certainly been the case for Catherine Rowe, whose personal battles with cancer left her miserable, in pain, and on extended medical leave for most of the last two years, until she found herself in Darren’s care.
Catherine’s ordeal began in 2016, when her older sister died from colon cancer shortly after being diagnosed. With that experience as a cautionary tale, Catherine, then only 52, decided to have her first routine colonoscopy, a test she now urges everyone to get. Much to her dismay, test results came back positive, so she underwent a 10-hour surgery followed by heavy-duty chemotherapy. But a mere six months after completing treatment, Catherine’s cancer returned with a vengeance, affecting both of her lungs. Specialists at an unrelated hospital removed part of Catherine’s left lung in an attempt to stop the disease, but, in the process, inadvertently severed a major nerve.
With bad neuropathy in her hands and feet—a common reaction to chemotherapy—and searing pain on her damaged left side, Catherine couldn’t return to her lifelong work as a school speech-language pathologist. Adding insult to injury, attempts to control her pain made her feel worse.
“My traditional pain medications were making me violently ill, clearly counterproductive to the healing process,” she notes.
But luckily for her, a sympathetic case manager noticed that Catherine’s insurance policy covered integrative medicine, including acupuncture. She suggested Catherine try it, relaying her own successful experience with the technique for fibromyalgia.
“I was skeptical,” says Catherine, who has a Master of Science degree. “I was schooled in a science-based discipline and really had my doubts that acupuncture could or would work.”
But at that point, she was willing and open to try anything and contacted MedStar Montgomery’s Center for Integrative Medicine.
“After my first acupuncture treatment with Darren, I walked to my car, slid in to my seat and moved around, like a normal person,” she says. “And that’s when it hit me: I’m not in pain!”
Catherine estimates that her first session reduced her pain by at least 75 percent; after her second, the pain had virtually evaporated. Now back on her feet and undergoing cancer treatment once more, she periodically returns to acupuncture for relief from new side effects.
“When my neuropathy was at its worst, I couldn’t open a water bottle, count change, or bear to wear shoes,” she says. “Today, I’m working part time, driving, and walking. Acupuncture helped me when nothing else did. I still can’t believe it!”
Catherine’s response doesn’t surprise Darren, however, who has witnessed hundreds of other patients regain their health, mobility, and quality of life through the age-old approach. “At its most basic level,” he says, “acupuncture just reminds the body how to heal itself.”