It’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves the way we used to. We feel so tired and fatigued; overwhelmed with so many things to think about. However, we must not underestimate the power of touch while we’re in treatment-a hug, a neck or back massage, even a facial. When we’re trying to heal, these little touches provide hope, love and strength.
Even better, studies have shown they help us cope with the side effects of cancer, while facilitating a deep restorative state where healing occurs.
“Physical contact has very dramatic effects upon psychological health,” says Dr. James Lynch, professor at Baltimore’s University of Maryland School of Medicine. “It lowers blood pressure. It relaxes you.”
Ferrel-Torry & Glick examined the effects of therapeutic massage with cancer pain. They found it reduced pain perception by an average of 60%, decreased anxiety by 24%, and enhanced relaxation by 58%.(1) A University of Minnesota study looked at the benefits of massage therapy in breast cancer patients and found that those who received 45-minute massage sessions once a week for a month took eight fewer doses of medication than those who didn’t receive the sessions.
Vicky Weis, founder of Faye’s Light, a non-profit organization providing free spa services for cancer fighters and caregivers, understands firsthand. “There are so many benefits of touch-it can help relieve pain, get circulation going, and relax pinched muscles. After a few spa treatments you can just see patients open up. Fear and anxiety melt away.”
If you’re considering touch therapy, Weis suggests looking first to the people around you. Those that feel comfortable hugging or holding hands may be more than willing to give you a neck rub or hand massage with some nice-smelling natural lotion. (Be sure to avoid anything with chemicals that can hinder your body’s defenses.) Sharing touch can be healing for you both. “It’s a time to be together, to talk, and to bond,” Weis says. “It’s free, and it benefits both of you.”
If you’re looking for professional spa services complementary to cancer patients, check out Weis’ site to see if she may have a satellite service near you. Other centers that offer at least some complementary services are available in Los Gatos, CA, and Long Branch, NJ, among other locations. According to a recent survey, over 30% of hospitals also offer alternative medicine services for free. If you can’t find one near you, Weis strongly suggests looking for a holistic practitioner-someone experienced in treating cancer patients. “Make some phone calls and ask some questions. Do you use chemicals or synthetics? I have cancer-do you have products that are good for sensitive skin?”
Have you found any holistic spa centers in your area that focus on services for cancer patients? If so, let us know.
Note: If you’d like to make a donation to Faye’s light, please send to 1416 W. 175th St., East Hazel Crest, IL, 60429, or donate online at http://www.fayeslight.org/help.html.
(1) Ferrell-Torry AT, Glick OJ. The use of therapeutic massage as a nursing intervention to modify anxiety and the perception of cancer pain. Cancer Nurs. 1993 Apr;16(2):93-101.