Oncology Massage and Healing Arts Conversations

The benefits of oncology massage, reviewed and researched for as long as I have been working in cancer centers as a Massage Therapist, encourage us, as Massage Therapists, to become vital support team members. Research indicates the possibilities of helping with the side effects of cancer treatment when patients, staff and physicians recognize what massage can do throughout treatment. Just as important is engaging with survivors and asking them the question, “What hobby gives you peace and comfort in difficult times?”

During massage therapy encounters in a chemotherapy unit I often have conversations with individual patients in regards to their art or craft history; painting, pottery, knitting, scrap booking, music, jewelry making, weaving, dance and other healing arts that are equally important. These conversations allow us to share our creative endeavors and serve as distraction therapy during their chemotherapy treatment. A simple lesson on the mindfulness of creative arts helps patients to realize how important it is to maintain their interests during treatment. Engaging in art keeps our brains busy with good feelings. I share how my time at a pottery wheel or on a dance floor allows me to be in the moment to be fully present to the experience which I believe for me is as good as yoga or a sitting meditation. I love inspiring each patient to fully understand how their creative energies are truly healing for them. Their creative energies can be a source of comfort and control as they go through cancer treatment. The ability to be in the moment, can brings feelings of comfort and control. The feeling of joy increases while using their creative energies, which can temporarily decrease the anxiety of cancer treatment. The hopeful end result can be good feelings of determination and recovery.

In one recent conversation a new patient told me she use to paint but with three children and a new cancer diagnosis she doubts that she will have the time. I offered a simple idea of bringing a sketchbook to her treatments and using that time in chemotherapy to draw in the sketch book. She loved the idea and I hope to see the sketchbook filled with images of what is most important to her soon. Another patient sings professionally and it is the highlight of her week to sit at a local tiki booth and sing. During her treatment cycle she might not have the energy to set up her speakers or tear her equipment down. However, she does have a supportive husband who can be her one man crew, and with that help she can still sing to her heart’s content. Another patient shares her love of art and I share how much I love creating my pottery pieces and sharing photos of my work. Conversation about art and craft history, creative energies, and being in the moment make time spent with a patient fly for both of us. I always leave a few minutes for quiet massage after we share our passions with each other. Conversations and encouragement to continue an arts and craft hobby that centers us on what we are doing at the moment, helps patients realize the importance of being in that moment during cancer treatment. With massage therapy and conversation they smile with gratitude and continue the good fight. I always encourage the Massage Therapists that I train to understand the value of these conversations with their clients, as well as have creative moments of joy for themselves.

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