And the doctor said
My wife Laurie is a firm believer that if Western medicine is good, then the simultaneous use of Chinese medicine is even better. So, with the herbalist’s address taped to the dashboard of our car, we drove to a tattered medical office.I was tempted to speed up as I drove by a canary yellow building alongside of a vacant lot full of old beer cans, broken bottles and the hulk of a rusting Ford Pinto station wagon. The office was somewhat unusual in that it was in a square wooden building of about 2,000 square feet that had been built sometime between World War I and II. It looked as though it had so many coats of paint that the last seven or eight had glued the termites together so it wouldn’t fall over.This was the office of Dr. Ronald Chin from Shanghai. He was educated at Oxford in literature, but chose to make a career as an herbalist. His credentials spoke of many things, none of which I understood. The friend who had brought us had recommended the good doctor because he had miraculously cured her of something that Western doctors had given up on a dozen years before. Upon entering the building, we were greeted by one of those couches you occasionally see beside the road after someone has abandoned it in the vain hope that someone else can use it. A large sign rather wisely warned, “Children are to remain seated and underparental control.” That put me at ease; the place couldn’t be all that bad.A thin plywood partition separated the doctor’s office from several hundred two-gallon jars of assorted, exotic looking herbs lined up on sagging shelves. If you looked at the herbs closely, it was hard toimagine that any of them might make you well during what remains of your lifetime, so I didn’t look too closely.I entered the doctor’s office and found him seated behind a $5 army surplus oak desk. The ceiling had a few long cracks in it from a leaky roof. A 25-watt light bulb hung from the ceiling and rounded out the decor.If you saw this doctor on the street, you might nod hello, but when I realized that he was going to prescribe some herbs and exercises that my future health would revolve around, I was a little edgy. Hewas slight of build, about 5-feet-4-inches, 142 pounds, and wearing a jaunty looking, old-fashioned, brown golf cap. His Seattle Mariners’ warm-up jacket seemed a little out of place as proper garb for a doctor at work, but what the heck, I was sitting there and I’m sure many people probably thought I was a little out of place.The doctor spoke with a mixture of English and Chinese, which our friend and guide understood. I didn’t understand anything after hello. My interpreter was frantically taking notes as the doctor spoke fast in Chinese with a British accent and some American slang.The doctor stuck out his tongue and motioned for me to do the same. He instantly declared that I had a liver problem, my heart was weak, my nose was plugged up and I needed to squeeze my ears to get rid of my cold. (I have had a cold for three weeks that apparently has outsmarted even the finest over-the-counter drugs.)Next, the doctor had me do an exercise where I stick my thumbnails into the tips of each of my ring fingers. “Do this as much as possible and the circulation in your hands will get better,” my interpreter told me.I was a little taken aback when he told me that my current bout with cancer is because I had a bad liver. He promptly prescribed half a dozen different herbs. Hey, whatever works!Laurie met with him after I finished and she volunteered to pick up our prescribed herbs at the Chinese Herb Store in downtown Seattle. I figured that I had lucked out with that deal and I went to the driving range to hit some balls during the balance of the rainy afternoon.When we met back at what has become our home away from home during these two months of radiation treatment, Laurie had a shopping bag full of herbs, each one in a separate small brown bag with different Chinese writing on it. The herbs and the directions were scary looking, but I figured I had nothing to lose by tryingthem.We are now doing strange things such as streaming all of the fresh fruit we eat. Today, I had white rice mixed with steamed bananas for lunch because they are on my special Chinese diet and I discovered a really great meal. (Especially after I snuck in a peanut butter sandwich while Laurie was talking on the phone in the other room.)Warren Miller has been a ski filmmaker for more than half a century. He lived in the Vail Valley for 10 years, and is now director of skiing for the Yellowstone Club near Big Sky, Mont.