Over the half term, I thankfully put my ‘lockdown homeschooling’ to one side. Instead, focusing on my own learning to become a certified oncology massage therapist. When it comes to my yearly required Continuous Professional Development, I choose carefully which courses will significantly benefit my clients. As well as, those that will help me to stay up-to-date with the latest research.

Susan Findlay’s oncology massage course is no exception. One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Therefore it is not surprising that so many of us have been affected by this disease; either directly or indirectly.

As I work more and more with clients that are recovering from surgery, I felt that this Oncology course was an important progression. Especially as 45% of cancer patients have surgery as a form of treatment.

Cancer massage – why it is important to seek treatment from a certified oncology therapist

When I first trained as a therapist, many many years ago, we were told that we should never massage a client who was diagnosed with cancer. We were told that cancer was a contraindication and that massage would contribute to spreading the disease through the body.

This mis-information held with me until, thankfully, I took to further reading. I soon came across Susan’s work and that of other brilliant oncology specialists. Learning that there is no evidence to support that cancer can be spread by massage and that safe treatment comes with significant benefits. However, safe treatment also entails significant modifications and considerations. Cancer is still a contraindication and treatment adaption or referral needs to be carefully considered. For example, therapists who have not completed specialist oncology training should not naively massage a client living with cancer. In the clients best interest, and with kindness, they should be referred to a specialist who can fully support their cancer journey.

There is no evidence that massage will spread cancer

A massage treatment for a person living with cancer should be focused on them and their recovery. To facilitate the wonderful benefits that massage can bring.

Benefits of cancer massage

Some of the possible benefits of massage for a person living with cancer includes (these have all been noted in research):

  • Reduce the length of hospital stays
  • Relief from touch deprivation
  • Helps create a sense of control
  • Improves the effectiveness of medication, physiotherapy and other medical procedures
  • Restore a positive body image
  • Decrease the symptoms of chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • Surgery recovery- lessen the long term effects of anaesthesia and promote wound healing

A massage therapist is not there to ‘treat’ but to support, hold space and promote the wellbeing of their client. Allowing the body to guide and dictate how it needs to heal and for the therapist to be a facilitator of that recovery process. The recovery process that the person needs in order to move forward through their cancer journey.

Completing Susan Findlay’s Oncology Massage course – my personal experience

oncology massage therapist training

The course is accredited, thorough and research founded which are the main reasons why I chose it above any others offered in the UK. Susan is a fountain of knowledge with no unnecessary fluff; everything that is discussed adds value. Having lifetime access to Susan’s library of online oncology webinars and presentations really supports the principle that, as therapists, we should continue to keep up to date with research.

Originally the practical element of the course was to be held in Bristol but, due to lockdown restrictions, Susan and her team efficiently adapted it to be delivered online. High praise to their efforts as I didn’t feel it depreciated the course at all.

Being candid, this course made me feel all my emotions: I have cried, laughed, empathised, and felt so much gratitude. Emotions are far from being a negative, but I have had to seriously question whether I am emotionally strong enough not to bring my own unresolved feelings to an oncology treatment. As Susan would say: “The treatment is all about the client, it is not about me”. I am a big believer in addressing your own mental health before you can support someone else so I will be making full use of my friend Karen at New Leaf Counselling.

Processing my thoughts

In the UK, every 2 minutes someone is diagnosed with cancer. It is not uncommon and, unfortunately like so many people, we have experienced our own cancer rollercoaster in the family. Hindered by the added frustrations of covid, my brother-in-law’s diagnosis early last year knocked us all for six.

Talking openly, I didn’t really know what to say or how to support Scott. All I wanted, and still want, to do is jump on a plane and give them all a hug. (If you didn’t know – my lovely sister and her family live in Australia.) With travel being far from possible, we are so very thankful for the technology to video call and check in. However, even regular video calls will never replace the human need for touch and it’s beneficial effects on the body and mind for recovery. This pandemic has highlighted touch deprivation and given us all first hand experience. Enabling us, in someway, to empathise with those currently going through treatment who are isolated in hospitals with drastically restricted visitor allowances.

Therapeutic touch [is used] as a non-invasive intervention for improving the health status in patients with cancer. It also seems that this method can be used as a safe method in the management of physical function, pain, anxiety, and nausea in cancer patients.

Tabatabaee A, Tafreshi MZ, Rassouli M, Aledavood SA, AlaviMajd H, Farahmand SK. Effect of Therapeutic Touch in Patients with Cancer: a Literature Review. Med Arch. 2016;70(2):142-147. doi:10.5455/medarh.2016.70.142-147

To the future

I look forward to being able to facilitate the beneficial effects of touch for those living with and surviving cancer, through massage therapy at The Wellness Hub Oxford and online coaching. To support, hold space and promote their wellbeing whilst taking into account the considerations necessary at all stages of cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

To book a free chat with me, head over to my appointments webpage.

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