Just over ten years ago now, when I was on my knees and my very narrow, miserable, dark world was about to kill me, I met an amazing woman. I was riding the appalling rollercoaster that is IVF and an acupuncturist, Justine Hankin, came to my rescue. Oddly, when you are injecting your own arse cheeks with progesterone, jabbing your own thighs and stomach with daily shots of clexane (blood thinner) while shovelling down the steroids and having a nine hour plasma transfusion, turns out what you really need is MORE needles.
I used to go to Justine on a weekly basis. It is all a bit of a hormonal blur now, but I imagine I used to sit there and cry. I remember there being a lot of crying. I also remember being very tired and very vulnerable and also really quite cross. It’s the steroids. They make you livid. I used to carry a card saying ‘This Patient is on steroids and should not be stopped.’ From doing what, it never exactly said. But anyone or anything that got in my way during that period was duly neutralised.
During those very intense two years, Justine treated both me and my infertility. Which, anyone who is going through the process at the moment will know, is a first. IVF is all about protocol and not about the person. I do remember one doctor I met who, for the sake of convenience, used to put his pant-less lady patients in stirrups only to commute between two consulting rooms at the same time, leaving the door wide open. It was easier and quicker, you see, to do two ladies at once, not to mention twice as lucrative.
Anyway during that period Justine was amazing. She would use her magic needles to nourish my blood, support the egg growing process and when it came to implantation, she would thicken the lining of my womb in order for the embryo to have somewhere more comfortable and pillow-like to land. In the end, she was the one who knew I was pregnant. She could tell by my pulse, apparently. I had no idea. But she didn’t tell. She was far too discreet. She later said it was my good news and I should find out when the time was right. I eventually had a little girl, who will be ten years old this month.
The reason why I am sharing this is because I am now back with Justine. The past ten years have clearly been a little kinder to her. She looks fabulous and she glows with a shiny, happy health. I, on the other hand, am still furious. Furious with my husband. Furious with my children (I had two in the end!). Furious with the traffic. Furious with the lack of parking spaces. Furious with bills. Furious with my inability to work. Furious that I find it so hard to concentrate. Furious that the day is so God damn short. Furious with life in general.
However, this time I can’t blame the steroids. This time, whisper it quietly, I suspect it might be ‘the hormones.’
So here I am again, in her practice, in a GP’s surgery in Fulham, lying on the familiar paper sheet as if nothing has changed. Actually, quite a lot has changed, even the size of Justine’s needles, which are finer and less painful than before, although you would not know it from the song and dance I make as she puts them in.
But guess what? I have been going once a week for the past three months and it is working. I am singularly a lot less furious. My concentration levels have increased. I now work harder, for longer, and am much more productive. Also I find I shout a lot less at my husband and my children. Although traffic and parking spaces are still fair game.
So after exactly three years of doing this column, could acupuncture be one of my more effective beauty investments? Let’s face it, there is nothing more attractive than someone who is on form, in a good place, and happy. And there is nothing more ageing than a grumpy old harridan who shouts!
Find Justine on www.justinehankin.co.uk or call her on 07973 655 527