Martha had just completed many months of treatment for breast cancer and was on a cruise to relax after the arduous experience. What she was most looking forward to after boarding the ship was receiving a massage. For weeks beforehand she had anticipated it. But when the time finally came, Martha was turned away. The massage therapist had been taught never to massage clients with cancer. Unfortunately the therapist didn’t know that a cancer diagnosis is no longer an automatic contraindication for massage.
"Every child, no matter the age, should be massaged at bedtime on a regular basis.” So says Tiffany Field, PhD, of the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Florida. Field and her associates at TRI have worked diligently over the past decade to prove the benefits of massage for children. But this is not a new concept. Infant massage has long been a common practice in many cultures. Many indigenous tribes use some form of bodywork to soothe, relax, and heal their little ones, sometimes including scented oils and herbal remedies as part of the experience.
Q: I have a client who just started chemotherapy. Are there special issues I should keep in mind when I treat her skin?
A: Absolutely. Dr. Christine Rodgers, a Denver cosmetic surgeon who works with cancer patients, says: “Women going through chemotherapy definitely have more sensitive, drier skin. Skin turnover is more rapid—that’s what chemotherapy does.” A lot of chemotherapy or drugs like tamoxifen (prescribed to help prevent breast-cancer recurrence) throw a woman into menopause, creating hormonal imbalances that also affect skin.
A compound in green tea has been singled out by Spanish and British researchers for its ability to fight certain types of cancer. The active agent, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is found in high concentrations of green tea. EGCG has long been known as an anti-cancer beverage, but it wasn’t understood exactly why. Now, researchers have discovered that EGCG binds to and inhibits the proliferation of an enzyme called dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), which is found in both healthy and cancerous cells and appears to contribute to cancer cell growth.
It’s a calling, a commitment, and a challenge, but it’s not for everyone. Massage for cancer clients has moved from the “no-touch” zone to center court, bringing with it an increasing number of compassionate, dedicated therapists. But there is a caveat to this trend. Although the bodywork profession, supported by scientific research, now provides a wealth of modalities to soothe, rehabilitate, and renew hope in those enduring the ravages of cancer, it’s not a matter of simply putting hands to skin.
Once on a flight to San Francisco, I sat next to a woman who revealed she had received chemotherapy for cancer. The clinic where she had received treatment had a massage therapist who rubbed patients’ feet as they received their IV medications. My seat mate raved about how glorious it was. I asked if she could describe why the foot massage was so wonderful. It was difficult for her to put into words except to say, “It restored my confidence in the goodness of humankind.”
Starting to rebuild the body after cancer treatment is an arduous process. Aquatic therapist Mary Essert has developed an exercise program specifically for breast cancer patients and their physical and emotional needs. Below are three exercises from her water fitness program that has been helping cancer patients across the country for years.
Like most attorneys, Jo Anne Adlerstein is a fiend for the kind of research that can make or break a case. So when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 1998, she used her research skills to find out all she could about how to fight the disease that invaded her body.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates about 563,100 Americans will die of cancer and 1,221,800 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 1999.
One in 10 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her life. This is one of the most frightening, potentially lethal experiences a woman can have. Massage therapists can be of service to women during this critical time in their lives. This is the story of how massage therapy benefited one such woman.