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.”
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.
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.
It’s a typical day at the oncology clinic. Several patients distractedly thumb through magazines in the waiting room, not really interested in reading the pages. They wait anxiously for consultations and treatments. In one exam room, Susan, a 43-year-old artist and mother of two, receives the diagnosis she did not want to hear – malignant breast tumor. A lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation are the recommended course of treatment. In the chemotherapy room, a man sits silently while the nurse adjusts a catheter that will deliver the drugs into his chest.
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.
Each of us has the opportunity to go through life with courage and face our difficulties with dignity. This is a story about the forces of nature and the power of personal intent. After working within the beauty industry as a makeup artist and an esthetician for some time, I came to the conclusion — I was more than a beauty expert, I had become a healer.
We all have natural energetic healing abilities. My earliest recollection of this came from my mother Margaret. Whenever my brother or I had a “booboo,” she would rub it with her hands, and if it was really serious, kiss it. Somehow it always made us feel better. Of course neither she nor I understood about energetic techniques, but I learned from these experiences that touch could make people feel better.