Way back in 2008, I joined my local health and beauty academy to learn the art of massage. I was working full time then as a Personal Assistant in the telecoms industry, and am still not quite sure why I signed up for the course. I was reasonably happy in a comfortable job, and wasn't looking for a new career, but something caught my attention and drew me there. I think I wanted to learn a new skill, and I wasn't finding my hi-tech telecoms job particularly challenging or fulfilling.
One of the first things I learnt in my therapist training was how to conduct formal consultation with a client before a treatment. That is, a fact-finding session on why the client has come to you, what they expect from a treatment, and their medical history. We want to know their medical history because there are a number of physical conditions that are considered "contra-indicated" for massage i.e. might restrict the way a treatment is performed, or totally prevent it. Cancer is one of those conditions. If someone had cancer, they couldn't have a massage. And that's how we were taught back then. It wasn't fully explained why but we assumed it was because they thought massage might spread cancer, and the insurers simply wouldn't cover it. If the client got a letter from their doctor saying it was ok, then that might be a different matter. But we weren't trained in massage for people with cancer. Even if they had a doctors note.Confusing. The "c" word was more than just a bit taboo.
Today, times have changed, thankfully. Professor Karol Sikora studied medical science and biochemistry at Cambridge and stated:
"The contention that massage is always contraindicated because of the idea that it might cause cancer cells to break off and spread is simply wrong. There is really no evidence to support this."
Cancer cannot be spread by massage, or any other movement that squeezes blood and lymph around your body. Otherwise people with cancer would need to go home, lie down, and stay very very still the whole time until a cure could be found. However, what we know now to be true is quite the opposite, as clarified by Dr Carl Simonton of the Simonton Cancer Research & Counselling Centre, California:
"Rather than making demands on the immune system, massage actually supports it."
Hospices throughout the UK provide massage therapies to the benefit of their patients. Penny Brohn Cancer Care supports massage as safe and beneficial for those with cancer when practised by a therapist with appropriate experience and/or training. In treating the person holistically as a whole, the Amethyst Trust says that in their experience, regular massage can:
- Lead to improved physical and emotional confidence
- Help people express emotions and deal with anger
- Reduce isolation and reduce fear
- Reduce nausea
- Restore a sense of balance and wellbeing
- Provide a sense of calm
- Reduce symptoms of pain and discomfort
- Improve sleep
- Help people to feel special
There are still a plethora of myths surrounding whether massage is safe whilst undergoing treatment for cancer, and the reality is it is perfect safe, providing the necessary adaptations are made. It is more than just a little heart-warming to know that there are a number of organisations who have stepped up to take on the task of re-educating the industry and putting training courses in place so that therapists in spa's, health centres and private practice can confidently and safely carry out a massage for someone in treatment for, or recovering from, cancer surgery or treatment.
The first that I encountered was the Amethyst Trust who teamed up with Penny Brohn Cancer Care and John Holman Therapy Solutions to provide training on the Hydrotherm massage system (see elsewhere on this site") with a treatment called Hydrotherm Tranquil Sea massage. This is a spa-style massage that is adapted as appropriate. A typical adaptation might be where lymph nodes have been surgically removed or weakened, or if PICC lines are in place in the arms.
Imagine if you always loved a regular monthly massage before your diagnosis. Then were told you can't have a massage for at least 5 years because you got cancer. How would you feel, especially at a time when you probably need a massage the most?!
In addition to the Hydrotherm Tranquil Sea, a friend of mine in treatment for cancer had recently volunteered to have a treatment for students learning Cancer Touch Therapy™. After hearing her glowing testimonial, and realising that I personally knew the Instructor from a previous health coaching training we'd both attended, I accepted the nudge from the Universe to look into this too, and must say am so glad I did.
Cancer Touch Therapy™ is not massage, but is a deeply relaxing spa ritual that combines gentle touch with smooth, slow, rythmic Tui Na Chinese movements. It uses Made for Life 100% organic preparations, providing a lovely connection with nature and creating a complete window of stillness in time. This is a treatment in its own right but I also combine it with the Hydrotherm Tranquil Sea on occasion.
Clients who have these treatments give wonderful feedback. It isn't just the treatment itself, but also the one to one care, the supportive touch, and complete time out all really help.
For more information on these services, please get in touch via the contact page on this website.
For additional cancer support resources, please click HERE to visit a brand new area of my website I'm developing for people on their cancer journey.
Treatments are available from centres in Heanor, Milford and Uttoxeter.