For Sonia Sanchez and Nitza Lipp, alternative medicine was their last attempt to improve their quality of life. They had tried everything else.
Sanchez, 45, was diagnosed with lung disease and a rare form of muscle dystrophy.
“I was in a lot of pain all the time,” she said. “I had pain in my joints. I couldn’t move. I became depressed.”
When a doctor was finally able to diagnose her, she was taking eight to nine medications and still suffered from joint pain.
Sanchez began treatment at Operation Samahan in National City two months ago after a friend referred her.
Samahan, which is a Filipino word that means working together, uses a holistic and natural approach, focusing on curing illnesses through hypnotherapy, yoga, dance, acupuncture and energy medicine.
“I started reading about integrated health,” Sanchez said. “I started acupuncture and it helped me a lot. My breathing got better.”
At the center, Sanchez also participates in yoga and qigong, a way to strengthen the body’s life energy.
“I learned a lot about nutrition and how to be positive,” she said. “Now I do not look sick. I do not feel sick. The depression lifted. I’m really glad I found this place because it really has made a difference for me.”
Lipp, 47, was battling leukemia at the same time she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.
Lipp was depressed and felt defeated.
“Operation Samahan gave me back what cancer took away from me — my power and quality of life,” she said.
Lipp has been going to the center for nearly one year and practices acupuncture and qigong.
The nonprofit organization provides alternative medicine to those living in underserved communities of South Bay and San Diego.
It offers affordable and alternative medicine with conventional medicine to naturally reduce the symptoms of cancer treatment, stress, insomnia, depression, hypertension and other chronic and degenerative illnesses.
Operation Samahan’s integrative health and wellness director Erendira Abel came to the organization in June, having already built her own program, A Woman’s Wellness Center in Chula Vista, seven years ago with her husband.
Abel contacted Samahan’s chief executive officer, Joel San Juan, to bring her services to the organization.
“Joel and I had a similar vision, to provide the community with holistic healthcare at affordable levels,” Abel said.
On Sept. 28, patients, community members and local elected officials gathered on Highland Avenue in National City for the opening of the first community- based integrative health and wellness center in the South Bay.
Assembly member Ben Hueso spoke on the benefits of combining conventional medicine with alternative and complementary health practices.
“The majority of the population is suffering from chronic illness,” Hueso said. “We need to bring affordable healthcare to families. We need to continue to make investments in this area … especially in low-income communities.”
Hueso also spoke to the importance of treating patients at the time of the their illness.
“Waiting until a person is on their deathbed will only exacerbate healthcare costs,” he said. “The challenge that we have is in providing access. I believe strongly in this.”