As 2021 draws to a close I am taking time to reflect not only this year, but ten years in business. I thought, therefore, I would share my first chapter in my book which came out 1st April 2021 exactly five years since my mastectomy. As a teenager I always heard from my English teacher there was a book in everyone. Never in a million years though, did I think I would I say this….
So, here is the start of mine…
How I became an acupuncturist
It started back in 2006 after having William, my son – who is now, by the way, 15 years old and a proper teenager. Those of you who have children will know what that means! As long as he is fed and can sleep in most days (apart from school days) till midday, he is happy.
My pregnancy with William was quite good, with no major problems, no ongoing morning sickness and no sudden visits to the doctor. In fact, everything went really well, right up to the point when he was breech and I knew I was going to have to have a C-section. The birth didn’t go to plan, as three attempts at a spinal block didn’t work, so off I went to “La La land” under a general anaesthetic.
Waking up in the recovery room is something I will never forget, in both a bad way and a good way. In front of my eyes was Jonathan cradling William in his arms, a sight that turned me to tears because my little baby who I had carried all this time was healthy. The bad bit was that I couldn’t feel my right leg. The feeling of joy became frightening. The midwives kept telling me that the feelings I had were normal and to get on with it. When I collapsed three days later it became clear to them that I had a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in my right leg, following which I was immediately put on Clexane injections. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had to inject yourself with anything, but let me tell you, this became an awful nightly ordeal, one which Jonathan could barely watch. I hated it and felt abandoned by the medical profession as there was no end in sight for this daily nightmare. Eventually, however, I complained to the doctors and, after expressing their surprise that I was still on them (no one had thought to provide a clear end date), they agreed that this torture should stop.
Shortly after this had finished, when William was four months old, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Certainly, the stress of the birth hadn’t helped.
Over the following year I managed my ulcerative colitis with western drugs such as steroids but I still wasn’t getting any better. When I look back now, every aspect of my life was very stressful at the time: the impact of William’s birth, the subsequent injections, my stepfather was dying of cancer, I had a very stressful sales manager job and William was still dependent on me every day.
Sounds like a normal life for a woman, eh?
Working for Yellow Pages, managing a Field Sales team in Merseyside and South Manchester, was a high-pressure job. You were expected to not only achieve targets, but to overrun them.
I wanted to prove that, just like any other woman, I could do the consistent 12-hour days and work at weekends to catch up on paperwork. So, every morning I left the house around 07.30 and travelled to our offices – which were 15 miles away – to prove I was invincible. The job meant you were expected to hit the deck running and keep powering through to the end of the day, which could be as late as 9pm some nights. Not only was the job stressful, but I also had a family and household to look after. I’m sure some of this will sound familiar to many of you.
On one checkup for my ulcerative colitis my consultant suggested that I needed to take some time off as I was having a very bad flare-up at the time. In my usual “Supermum” mode, I thought, ‘I’ll have a couple of weeks off and then go back to work.’ I wasn’t one for taking time off work. I thought I would just take a little time off and get back to being Supermum quickly.
Unfortunately, two weeks turned into two months, which then turned into six months, and eventually twelve months. It seemed like once I had stopped, my body was getting worse and almost shutting down. I remember sitting on the sofa one afternoon (I hadn’t washed and was still in my pyjamas), crying and rocking to myself. How could I be so ill? This was one of those moments when I wondered if I was ever going to get better. Things could not continue the way they were, and after lots of research I decided to take a sabbatical from work and start a biomedicine course at Manchester University. Unfortunately, I couldn’t continue with the course as was too poorly to even attend the lectures. It was someone on this course, however, who suggested I tried acupuncture. My first thoughts were, “What on earth will that do for me? Surely it’s all mumbo-jumbo, all modern day voodooism!”
With nothing to lose at that point though, I put aside my apprehensions and thought why not? I was on four different medications, including a delightful anal steroid foam. Oh, the joys of applying that every night was not only emotional but sometimes hilarious, as you can imagine.
So, I picked up the Yellow Pages and searched for “acupuncture” – even in 2009, this was still the best way to find local businesses as most of them had yet to get online. With no expectations (and a head full of preconceived ideas), I went to see Rosie in October 2009. Rosie was a fully qualified acupuncturist and had been practicing for about ten years or so. She immediately made me feel at ease and started to ask me lots of questions about my overall health, habits and emotions, and much more. She also looked at my tongue and listened to my pulses. During that first session of acupuncture, I felt very relaxed and calm. After the first few sessions of acupuncture I started to feel a difference in my symptoms. How could this be? How or why was I starting to feel better? Surely it couldn’t be acupuncture?
Five months later, in February 2010, I sat in my consultant’s office and heard the impossible news that I had gone into remission with my ulcerative colitis. It was either a miracle or it was acupuncture. In my mind, I already knew the only thing I had changed, so it was at this point I fell in love with this ancient Eastern art.
I remember coming home after a session of acupuncture soon after this point and declaring to my husband, Jonathan, that I wanted to become an acupuncturist. The look of horror in his eyes as he nearly fell off his office chair will stay with me forever!
By not going back to work I would be forfeiting my AMG Mercedes, sick pay, holiday pay and a stable income. Jonathan, rightly, was concerned whether we would be able to cope with significantly less money coming into the household. Little did we both know that this was the start of an amazing journey.
Researching a suitable course turned out to be a lot more difficult than I thought. There were so many to choose from and, to be honest, most of them were two to three years of training, which I just couldn’t commit to as they were so far away and I still had a young, now four-year-old, to look after.
However, after extensive searching, I finally found the perfect course at the Healing and Acupuncture College in Bath taught by Jamie Hedger. This was a condensed course over 12 months where you attended the college every other week for 3-4 days depending on the content you needed to cover. It was shorter but much more intense than the other courses I’d looked at and, as you can probably tell from my previous roles and behaviours, I was up for the challenge.
I have to say, it was hard being away from home every other week. However, the course suited me as there was no real downtime with studying. I was, in fact, continuously learning. Those who know me well know I get diverted very easily. In fact, it was always written in my school reports:
“Emma could work harder if she wasn’t easily distracted.”
But despite this, a year later, after much hard work and commitment, I qualified as an acupuncturist. Woo Hoo! I could now officially stick pins in people and was proud to have letters after my name – Cert Ac. AHPR
It is funny how the universe sends you down a path. As luck would have it, Yellow Pages were looking to cut roles, so my boss and I came to an agreement and I left the business.
At this point I was qualified, but had no company name, nowhere to treat people and I was also missing one other ingredient – patients. So, what to call the business? After all, I was at this point because after all the pills Western medicine could throw at me, the only thing that worked was acupuncture. It wasn’t a massive leap from there to the name, and so Acupuncture That Works was born.
Now I had a name and qualifications, but could I honestly run my own business and be successful at it?
I started on one day a week in the same room as Rosie, who if you remember was my acupuncturist. Although we never actually spoke about it directly, she became my mentor and someone I highly respected, someone I looked to for advice when I needed it.
Steadily, I built up my clinic from my first patient to then filling that one day a week. From there to three days a week was quite a slog, but within six months of grafting as hard as I could, I was up to full time.
Rosie, as always, helped me with advice when I needed it, and with her guidance, the clinic became a viable and thriving business. Keen to learn more, I continued my studies and added additional professional qualifications. Training at Shulan College in Manchester, I gained the next level up from Cert.Ac and become a Dip.Ac in 2013.
I was on a roll at this point and determined to increase my knowledge and understanding, so I trained and qualified in Tuina (Chinese Medical Massage) in 2013. I then started to explore the spiritual side a bit more, and over the next five years explored the world of Reiki, finally becoming a Reiki Master in 2019.
Fast forward to 2020 and I have been in business for nine years, run two clinics with seven other staff and treat between 30-50 patients a week. In 2019 we were awarded ‘Global Health Pharma Acupuncture Clinic of the Year – UK’ by the Alternative Medicine and Holistic Health Awards, which remains, to this day, my proudest moment in acupuncture. Now, far from just being an acupuncture clinic we are now seen as a health and wellbeing clinic, offering Physiotherapy, Reflexology, Reiki and Massage as well as Acupuncture, which still forms the core of the business.
Acupuncture inspired me in ways I had never felt before. It is a mission, a crusade, and once I was up and running, I was fascinated to see what the next adventure would be, where my acupuncture journey would take me.
The next step was quite unexpected, but then when fate is your guiding hand it can lead you anywhere.
Shaun, a fellow Parish Councillor at Lostock Gralam Parish Council, suggested I gained some experience after qualifying as an acupuncturist by volunteering my services at St Luke’s Hospice in Winsford. Shaun had been having complementary therapy there after his operation for throat cancer.
So yet again, the great universe steered me there, as randomly, the following week, I was on a course in Crewe – and guess who I was sat next to? Pauline, the coordinator of all the complementary therapies at St Luke’s Hospice. Fate was again guiding me.
Pauline is one of those people in life you meet for a reason. I now know that reason. She gave me the opportunity to shine as an acupuncturist. Pauline is the best boss I have ever had in my career. Why? Well, she is one of the good ones, always has your six1 and I feel truly honoured to have her as a friend these days.
After volunteering at St Luke’s Hospice for about a year or so I noticed that most of my patients who were referred to the acupuncture clinic were sent there following breast cancer surgery. The main symptoms they presented were hot flushes, sleep disturbances and needing pain relief after their surgery. It was then I first saw a pattern emerging, so I experimented on acupuncture points.
The main objective was to get the hot flushes reduced, and in almost all the people I treated, it worked. Hot Flushes – or as I call them, “Tropical storms” (because not only do you get hot, you get a little bit of hurricane attitude – come on girls, we all know what I am talking about here!) – were a real issue for most of my patients. Getting some relief from these was a godsend for most of them.
After a few months of testing, I came up with the Guy Protocol, which was the combination of those acupuncture points that seemed to have the most positive impact on my patients’ symptoms.
Looking back, it’s clear now that this was the real birth of The Menopausal Godmother, as the discovery that acupuncture could help so many women in such a profound way paved the way for what was to come next. And what did come next was completely unexpected.
I hope you enjoyed Chapter one of the book and if you want to find out more about what did come next, it’s available from a range of good bookstores online.
Whilst I’m reflecting on what has happened over the past ten years, here’s a timeline of some of my highlights as an Acupuncturist:
- 2011 – Acupuncture That Works was founded in Northwich and Chester.
- 2012 – Started volunteering as an acupuncturist for St Lukes Hospice.
- 2013 – Qualified with my Tunia Massage and attained my Dip. AC
- 2017 – First radio appearance (I have done many more since)
- 2018 – Running a clinic at the Hospice of the Good Shepherd.
- 2019 – Winning the Global Health Pharma UK Acupuncture Clinic, Attaining my Reiki Master and my first TV Interview on Granada Reports for Prevent Breast Cancer.
- 2020 – The Menopausal Godmother was born and the book completed and the reclassification of acupuncturists to health care professionals.
- 2021 – Published Author – gained Number 1 Best Seller on Amazon in the acupuncture category, Opened my new three treatment room clinic and was a finalist in the Eva Awards, the biggest awards outside London for women. Oh, and nearly forgot, my honorary doctorate for entrepreneurship.
I would also like to give two special mentions to people and organisations that helped to shape 2021 for me. Firstly, to Sue France for letting me realise a dream I had which was to be one of her speakers at her renowned Literary Lunch. Thank you! Secondly, I am immensely proud to have become an ambassador for Prevent Breast Cancer, a role I champion every single day.
Emma’s Final Thought
It is estimated that 2.3 million acupuncture treatments are carried out in the UK each year, yet this is still barely recognised, despite us being reclassified last year as ‘health professionals’. Nonetheless, I would like to finish by giving a massive ‘thank you’ to all our patients who have supported us and helped us grow over the last 10 years.
Pictures by Aga Mortlock & Andrew Collier