Last year, Louise N. and her husband Larry of New Ulm got the worst news possible when Louise was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer.
"The tumor was big enough they had to do something right away; they gave her two weeks to live," Larry N. said. "Her type of brain cancer is the worst there is, the kind that keeps coming back."
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester operated last June, and Louise has been undergoing a regimen of chemo and radiation therapy, but they decided to pursue a two-pronged strategy in fighting a recurrence.
Photo by Steve Browne
Roger Benson leads Scott Beech through the Wu style tai chi form recently. Benson has been a student of Qigong Master Wu Jit for three years now. Beech is learning the Chinese healing arts at Helping to Heal Studio in Tracy. Tai chi is an ancient Chinese practice that is both a martial art and a form of healing exercise.
Larry and Louise began coming to the Helping to Heal Clinic in Tracy, where Louise supplements western medical treatment with a combination of diet, heat therapy, meditation and the ancient Chinese practice of Qigong exercise.
The clinic was founded 13 years ago when Qigong Master Wu Jit moved his electronics business to Tracy from St. Paul.
"I saw this card in an auto repair shop that said Qigong," Wu said.
When Wu called the number, he reached Charles Reinert, a former physics teacher and researcher at Southwest Minnesota State University, who retired to pursue his interest in natural healing methods.
"When I got a call from this person I could hardly understand him," Reinert said, "except I could make out 'Qigong master.'"
Wu is from north China where he studied Chinese internal medicine.
When asked what brought him to America, he answered, "war."
Wu's family moved to Laos. Driven from Laos by the war, they became refugees in Thailand, then Poland and then to the United States.
In Connecticut and Rhode Island, Wu studied electrical engineering and furthered his study of kung fu, tai chi and traditional Chinese medicine with the Chinese community.
After retiring, Reinert studied energy therapy, hypnotherapy, nutrition and something called Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).
"It's sometimes called 'acupuncture without needles,'" Reinert said. "It's a gentle finger tapping. EFT takes care of 75 percent of emotional problems. Hypnosis takes care of the other 25 percent, it's usually much slower and deeper."
The clinic is organized as a corporation with each therapist an independent contractor sharing the facilities which include massage rooms, sauna, and an exercise room upstairs where Master Wu teaches tai chi and Shaolin kung fu to a few students.
In addition to hands-on therapy, Wu also teaches Qigong exercises which are slow and gentle movements designed to move the internal energy, called "chi" in Chinese around the body through the acupuncture meridians bringing the body's internal state back into harmony and aiding the patient to cure himself.
When asked what he thinks of the Chinese notion of chi from the viewpoint of a western-trained physicist, Reinhart said, "You can feel this stuff, feel its effect, and you can see it."
Reinert made it clear they are not proposing their therapy regimen as a replacement for traditional cancer treatment but as supplement. Even otherwise skeptical physicians say improving diet, taking nutritional supplements, sweating toxins out in the sauna and above all, a positive attitude are powerful weapons in the fight against cancer.
"The thing we keep hammering into her is believing absolutely she is going to beat this," Reinert said.
Louise admitted the recurrence of the tumor after surgery was a disappointment, even though expected, but persists in training with Wu in meditation and guided imagery, building her confidence in her body's ability to throw off the malignant cells.
"I'm not against western medicine," Wu said emphatically. "The relationship of East and Western medicine, they should be open to each other. The west should be open to internal medicine - it's been practiced for 5,000 years in China."