The Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic

Acupuncture at CMCC

In my healing practice I have watched Healing Touch sessions make a remarkable and dramatic difference in the lives of my clients who were going through chemotherapy and radiation. Because of this, I would like to see every person with a cancer diagnosis have access to Healing Touch treatments.

That’s why I have been a volunteer at the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic in Oakland since 2008.

The Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic (CMCC) is a state licensed primary care clinic and a community of healthcare practitioners dedicated to bringing low-income women alternative healthcare. Designed to work alongside the services of a primary care physician, CMCC is also a center where women with a cancer diagnosis can find consistent physical, emotional and spiritual support through healing modalities.

The Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic was named after social worker Charlotte Maxwell, who died of ovarian cancer in 1988. Charlotte was an extraordinary woman who found that complementary therapies greatly enhanced the quality of her life, especially in the final months. Her healthcare practitioners were so inspired by her spirit that they founded The Charlotte Maxwell Clinic. They wanted to make acupuncture, energy work and other complementary modalities accessible to women who otherwise would not be able to afford them.

Navigating our healthcare system, even with insurance and a strong emotional and financial support system, can be overwhelming. Navigating our healthcare system without insurance can be devastating. At CMCC, it is so rewarding to see a women who looked fatigued and exhausted, walk out or her Healing Touch session with a smile on her face so much more relaxed.

At CMCC I have worked with women of all ages and diverse cultural backgrounds. I find it so exciting to work in a clinic where the value of complementary modalities is understood and put into action in the community. The Charlotte Maxwell Clinic is a working model of how people with cancer are benefiting from alternative medicine in our healthcare system.

Volunteering at CMCC is a rewarding experience. As a volunteer, I received a weekend of orientation and training, and was then scheduled for one shift a month with clients.  I see three clients during my shift. I get there thirty minutes before my first client to look over the medical charts. Everything about the client is in the charts: when she was diagnosed, what kind of cancer she has or had, what Western treatments she is currently going through, and any contraindications. I can look at what modalities or treatments the client has had in the past and read the notes from those practitioners. If the woman doesn’t speak English, that is also in the file and the clinic usually provides a translator.

Sessions with clients are 50 minutes each.  At the end of each shift all practitioners and staff support gather to check in. Check-ins have been extremely educational for me. I have learned so much more about cancer and the current Western medical therapies. By listening to the other practitioners, I have also learned the amazing benefits of other complementary modalities such as Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Therapeutic Imagery, Feldenkrais and Western Herbs.

At the check-in, if circumstances warrant it, practitioners can write referrals for their clients to the CMCC staff. This could be for a woman who needs special preparation before an upcoming surgery or a client who needs special care due to an infection. Appropriate staff members will then call the client and make sure the client is taken care of.

The Charlotte Maxwell Clinic also has presentations and workshops for volunteers on each modality the clinic offers and lectures on topics such as “The Basics of the Biology of Cancer.” I attended two separate talks on chemotherapy by oncology nurses from the Bay Area that have been extremely helpful while working at the clinic and in my private practice.

Since volunteering at The Charlotte Maxwell Clinic I can picture how our healthcare system can integrate Healing Touch and other complementary modalities into our medical culture. It is inspiring to work in a community with so many caring and committed women coming together to help each other. Working at Charlotte Maxwell gives me the hope to believe we can change our healthcare system to a culture where everyone is cared for emotionally, physically and energetically.

The Charlotte Maxwell Clinic has an office in San Francisco and an office in Oakland, California. To find out more and to support the work of CMCC click here.

Jeri Lawson is a Healing Touch Practitioner and Clarity Breathworker in the Temescal Area of Oakland, California.

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