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Meet Lisa Nicholson of Eastern Body Therapy / Balboa Park Holistic Wellness Center in Banker’s Hill

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Nicholson.

Lisa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.

I’ve always had a passion for helping people overcome physical and emotional challenges, along with a strong belief that every individual has the power to heal him or herself with a little guidance along the way. I grew up in a family of doctors, dentists, psychologists, and lawyers, and it was pretty much assumed I’d go to medical school. But somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to commit to the allopathic path of medicine, so I detoured and finished a MS in rehabilitation counseling. While working as a career counselor, I “tried on” every imaginable health career and kept coming back to East Asian medicine. It was the ONLY system I looked at which truly integrated psychology and physiology and looked at them as inseparable, so it had a strong resonance for me. Outside of my yoga practice which I’d started as a balance to competitive swimming and weight training, I had virtually zero exposure to Asian philosophy or culture, and I’d never experienced acupuncture in my life. But I looked at every school in the US, found a few which had herbal medicine programs as well as acupuncture, and one which also had a strong program in allopathic physiology and pathology. I applied, got accepted, moved from Albany, NY to San Diego, and started school in 1995. Acupuncture school is a 4 year master’s degree program, and that’s very full time. I worked all the way through school, first as a counselor then as a massage therapist, so it took me 4.5 years to finish. I received my license to practice acupuncture in June of 2000.

Eastern Body Therapy started in 1997 while I was in my second year of acupuncture school. I was laid off from a counseling job and decided to jump in to starting a business. I gave myself 6 months to be seeing at least 5 clients each week which would give me the absolute minimum income I needed to survive. I still don’t know quite how it happened, but I met that goal and never returned to working for someone else. I added Chinese herbal recommendations to my practice as I got further along in school, and actually had a waiting list for acupuncture once I finally finished the licensing process.

Has it been a smooth road?
Running a small business is never easy. Since I started in 1997, we’ve had economic ups and some serious downs. I’ve made the mistake of being too dependent on “systems” like Worker’s Compensation, and lost 25% of my income to a change in the Worker’s Comp laws in 2004. I’ve also made the mistake of being too dependent on a few individual patients and took big financial hits when they relocated or (in one case) passed away. I’ve always struggled with creating a marketing message and have fallen into the trap of trying to speak to everyone and thus resonating with no one. Because of this, most of my business has been referral-based which is great, but does have its limitations. In 2017 I hired a business coach, and I’ve been diligently working on overcoming this challenge.

6 weeks after I hired that coach, my own health became a HUGE obstacle and challenge. I found a small lump on my breast, and it turned out to be early stage breast cancer. The last year has been a wild blend of extreme medical treatment, emotional ups and downs, and all of that against the backdrop of working with my coach to find my message and my voice as a business owner and healer. As with every challenge, when you figure out how to overcome it and move on, it makes you stronger and more focused. I wouldn’t wish these particular challenges on anyone else, but I can say I’ve grown tremendously as a result of them, and going through my own treatment has fueled a massive passion for helping to make this journey easier for those others who are going through their own process.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Eastern Body Therapy / Balboa Park Holistic Wellness Center – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I’ve been a competitive swimmer, backpacker, skier, rock climber, and ultra-distance cyclist, completing events such as team Race Across the West and Paris-Breast-Paris on the bike. As an endurance athlete, I’ve historically focused on providing treatment to other athletes and worked mostly with people who have had athletic or work-related injuries. I healed my own back injury after a water skiing crash, so I knew I could help other athletes.

As noted above, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. Despite being very early stage 1, I had a high risk tumor and a time bomb in my genetics, so I went through not just lumpectomy, but chemotherapy, radiation, and ovary removal. As I went through my own treatment, I found it astonishingly difficult to find complementary services for myself. Other acupuncturists, massage therapists, and even chiropractors I talked to were afraid to treat me. It took a lot of research to assemble a team of practitioners who both could and WOULD help me on the journey to recovery. I discovered a world of chemically or surgically induced early menopause, bone density concerns, painful intercourse, chronic joint pain, systemic inflammation – all not just in “older” women, but even in women in their 20s and 30s. My own experience has led me to finding solutions to these issues which do not stimulate hormone production since many breast cancers thrive on estrogen and hormone blocking is a standard part of maintenance treatment.

So my business has a new mission and purpose, and Eastern Body Therapy is gradually being re-branded to Balboa Park Holistic Wellness Center. While I’ll always continue to work with athletes, injured workers, and the veterans I love to serve, I am building a holistic treatment center focused on helping breast cancer patients to navigate their way through allopathic treatment with all the support I can provide. Services already include acupuncture, nutrition support, Chinese herbal medicine, manual lymphatic drainage, and craniosacral therapy. And I’m really excited to be creating a whole program for managing vaginal dryness and pain, a breast cancer support group, and a series of community education classes, all of which will be launched this fall.

I’m super proud that my business is still alive and well after over 20 years. The things which set my practice apart from other acupuncturists are my background in craniosacral therapy which gives me an additional set of tools for figuring out what is going on and nudging bodies back to a state of vibrant health, and my willingness and enthusiasm for working with other cancer patients. Since I’ve gone through all the treatment, I know exactly what these patients are going through, which puts me in a unique position to help them not just survive their own journeys, but come out thriving.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the year-round temperate weather which lets me ride a bike or swim pretty much every day if I want to. I also love the diversity of our population. Living close to the Convoy St. neighborhood gives me easy access to all the Asian food I could want, and I love the variety available. What I like least is dealing with traffic and parking. I wish we had public transportation on par with cities like NY, Boston, or San Francisco so we could be less dependent on our cars.

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Image Credit:
All of the images were taken by Lisa Nicholson.

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