Bali Ha’i

Bali Ha’i may call you,
Any night, any day,
In your heart, you’ll hear it call you:
“Come away…Come away.”

Bali Ha’i will whisper
On the wind of the sea:
“Here am I, your special island!
Come to me, come to me!”

Sometime in January I started to have hot flashes. Micro bursts of temperature that made me glad I was bald so I could take advantage of the air conditioning to be had simply by removing my hat. Mostly the temperature spikes have been entertaining, especially so to the boys when I whoop and holler. I have tried using them as opportunities for visualization- at first I tried imagining myself infused with healing solar energy. Which worked when I remembered to do it. Now that it is summer, and my hair is (Yeah!) growing back, and I have started Tamoxifen, they are a bit more fierce. Blast furnace fierce at times, with an insta-sweat-feature. And what girl doesn’t love being covered with sweat?

Of all the body modifying that has been going on, it is comforting to have something normal-ish happen. Hot flashes are part of the menopause journey for most women, and despite taking on menopause ten years early, at least it is something I would experience eventually in the natural course of things.  I have heard hot flashes described as the Kundalini, the life-force, rising from the womb to the heart. Transforming from my years of mothering energy to a time of grandmother or crone energy.  To quote the Wee Free Men of Terry Pratchet “‘She’s new to the haggin’.”  My hag years are upon me, and that is not a bad thing.

self heal on our hike
a posy of self heal on a solstice hike

I know that unless the heat gets tons worse, I hope to weather it without taking additional pharmaceuticals. In my ongoing obsession with learning herbal medicine I have been reading about natural things which may be of help.  Self Heal with her modest purple flowers is ostensibly a good remedy for hot flashes when taken as tea. It feels like I am seeing it everywhere this summer. While on a hike with the boys and their cousins last week I filled my apron pocket with enough to make tincture.  On a second adventure with Joe and Martin I got more to dry as tea.  Self Heal is a generous plant that grows in many places.  It is one in the category of plants that I believe like to “follow” us around, offering healing. Dandelions, plantain, yellow dock, chickweed, burdock and purple loosestrife are other examples. I like adding Self Heal to formulas, as a little encouragement for the body’s own self healing mechanisms.  I haven’t tried it yet for the hot flashes.

Balinese Ceremonial procession 1930
Balinese Ceremonial procession 1930

The other night while hanging out with Joe we were joking that the hot flashes are just a quantum transportation to Bali.  Joe suggested that whenever I arrive there is always a Yeah Iris festival in full swing. I imagine the beautiful dancing, singing and tropical surroundings.  Eventually the cool ocean breezes blow me back to the more temperate North Coast. This has been the best hot flash remedy so far.  Who doesn’t want to go to Bali several times a day?

I am trying to learn the Rogers and Hammerstein song from South Pacific as a sort of soundtrack to my hot flashes.  I worked on the community theatre production of it while in high school.  One of the actors happened to be a volunteer fireman.  During one of the performances the siren calling all the firemen to the station went off. Some brilliant person yelled “Air Raid- Hit the Deck!” at which time all the actors flattened themselves on stage, and the one fireman sprinted off to duty.    In the later scenes needing the fireman/actor the other actors used ad libbing to cover his absence. The show must go on! This always seemed to me a wonderful example of making an asset out of a potential problem.

When in discussions with my western doctors they have often been quick to offer medications to address side effects of other medications. This approach concerns me, in that sometimes the drugs used to address a potential side effect, might actually be worse than just dealing with the side effect.  The last chemo treatment cycle I received the Neulasta shot, a bone marrow stimulant, to counteract the effects of the chemo, and then was instructed to take two over the counter drugs to address the possible negative effects of the Neulasta.  It was a week of feeling very altered, in ways different from the prior cycles.  So when they told me about the potential hot flash ramp up from Tamoxifen, and then attempted to reassure me by offering additional pharmaceuticals, I declined them. The western medical model doesn’t have any explanation for why hot flashes happen, and it isn’t reassuring to me that low doses of antidepressants seem to lessen them. Luckily so far I seem to be tolerating Tamoxifen fairly well.

Considering the ways in which our body deals with multiple chemicals at once seems to be strangely absent from western medicine. There are a usually a few things listed as being a contraindication – but in no way addressing all the possible combinations.  The art and science of creating formulas seems out of use in the complicated pharmaceutical world.  Left behind somehow in the days when the last wholistic medical schools closed in the 1930’s.

What I like about herbal medicine is that it is really all about creating synergy.  There might be hundreds of astringent herbs, but only a few which are right for you at a particular time.  Treating the whole person is a higher priority than treating the specific symptoms.  I like to imagine what it would be like if we had more community based herbal health care to address our everyday aches, pains and flashes. Perhaps such individual attentions would prevent us from getting major illnesses.

The roses that climb all over our chicken house, have been ignored by the deer this year.
The roses that climb all over our chicken house.                 Roses are used in Ayurvedic hot flash remedies.

If the little trips to Bali prove to be impractical I will try out an assortment of gentle nutritive herbs to address my hot flashes.  Treating hot flashes seems like something better suited to subtlety. Though I am not seeing any Ayurvedic practitioners I found this explanation of hot flashes from that tradition interesting, and totally in line with my Bali remedy.  For right now, I have to go- my special island awaits.

 

Here is the Song Bali Ha’i from South Pacific – feel free to sing along.

“Most people live on a lonely island,
Lost in the middle of a foggy sea.
Most people long for another island,
One where they know they will like to be.

Bali Ha’i may call you,
Any night, any day,
In your heart, you’ll hear it call you:
“Come away…Come away.”

Bali Ha’i will whisper
On the wind of the sea:
“Here am I, your special island!
Come to me, come to me!”

Your own special hopes,
Your own special dreams,
Bloom on the hillside
And shine in the streams.
If you try, you’ll find me
Where the sky meets the sea.
“Here am I your special island
Come to me, Come to me.”

Bali Ha’i,
Bali Ha’i,
Bali Ha’i!

Someday you’ll see me floatin’ in the sunshine,
My head stickin’ out from a low flyin’ cloud,
You’ll hear me call you,
Singin’ through the sunshine,
Sweet and clear as can be:
“Come to me, here am I, come to me.”
If you try, you’ll find me
Where the sky meets the sea.
“Here am I your special island
Come to me, Come to me.”

Bali Ha’i,
Bali Ha’i,
Bali Ha’i!”

 

 

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ned and Lulu Heavenrich says:

    Oh how I wish I had been able to read this when I was wringing out my nightgown nightly. You are amazing!

  2. Eileen says:

    Your knowledge is amazing. Today I am a little down with the crud. Wish you were here to take care of me with your plants and positive energy. Ironic, eh? Sending love to you and yours.

  3. gretchen harris says:

    Iris, I just heard about your being diagnosed with cancer and I felt so worried and concerned. Your posts radiate positivity. Thank you for sharing your story. I will be thinking of you often. Your boys are so big and handsome! Wow! Hi to Joe.
    Love from Gretchen and Lev in Arizona
    We hope to come out to Astoria again this summer.

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