Potential Benefits of Bodywork for Cancer Patients
 
   + Moisturizes the skin and prevents problems such as bedsores.
   + Relieves muscle soreness due to prolonged bed rest.
   + Increases circulation. Lymphatic flow is stimulated, which helps in the elimination
      of waste products; vascular flow is also stimulated, bringing fresh nutrients to the area.
   + Increases range of motion.
   + Increases relaxation.
   + Decreases edema and lymphedema.
   + Sedates or stimulates nervous system, depending on the modality used.
   + Encourages deeper respiration.
   + Improves bowel activity.
  + Increases alertness and mental clarity.
  + Improves sleep.
  + Provides pain relief and reduces the need for pain medication.
  + Decreases symptoms related to chemo and radiation, such as fatigue,
     nausea, diarrhea, and loss  of appetite.
  + Stimulates faster wound healing.
  + Provides faster recovery from anesthesia.
  + Shortens hospital stays.
  + Increases patients awareness of stress signals.
  + Decreases anxiety and depression.
  + Provides distraction.
  + Provides relief from isolation.
  + Offers meaningful social interaction.
  + Provides a doorway to greater intimacy with family and friends.
  + Provides relief of touch deprivation.
  + Provides a forum for patients to express their feelings.
  + Re-establishes a positive body image.
  + Gives patient a sense of participation in the healing process.
  + Re-builds hope.
 
    Source: “Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People With Cancer,” by Gayle MacDonald

      Nearly ten years ago, I had an experience that helped focus my intentions as I trained for a career in bodywork: I gave a massage to a friend struggling with breast cancer. 
      At the time, Susan was in the midst of a punishing chemotherapy regimen. Only milkshakes brought a modicum of comfort or relief. Together we discovered that massage was better than the best milkshake. She could relax, let go, find some peace and pain relief, and I no longer felt helpless, scrambling for words or gifts to help ease her discomfort.
       Since then, I have pursued additional training in modalities, like acupressure, that can be useful in working with people living with cancer. My most significant training, however, has 
been with Gayle MacDonald, a teacher and mentor who has given massage and trained massage therapists on the oncology units of Oregon Health and Science University for many years. Gayle literally wrote the book for massage therapists seeking to work with cancer patients: “Medicine Hands: Massage Therapy for People with Cancer.” She also travels the country teaching courses in oncology massage.
        I work with cancer patients in clinical, hospital and home settings, giving massage that takes into consideration appropriate protocols and the specific needs of each patient. I can work where the person is most at ease -- on a massage table, in bed, in a recliner -- in the position that is most comfortable at that point in time. I have learned that skilled touch, even a light hold full of warm intention, can bring comfort.