In our previous column, we discussed the results of several studies from Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Fla., showing positive effects of massage therapy on immune function, anxiety, and depression in subjects diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Similar results have also been documented by TRI researchers for breast cancer patients, expanding the potential application of this modality to support and enhance healing in life-threatening illnesses.
Diagnosed with breast cancer, Mary Ellen Havard of St. Louis, Mo., was facing the known (a regimen of necessary, but painful and debilitating medical treatment), and the unknown (the outcome). “The doctors told me when they outlined my treatment that it was going to be rigorous,” she says. “I knew I needed to do something to help myself feel better as much as I could while I was having chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.
Starting to rebuild the body after cancer treatment is an arduous process. Aquatic therapist Mary Essert has developed an exercise program specifically for breast cancer patients and their physical and emotional needs. Below are three exercises from her water fitness program that has been helping cancer patients across the country for years.
Breasts are body tissues with their own health needs. At some point in time, most women will experience breast congestion, breast pain, discomforts of diagnostic or surgical procedures, and anxieties about lumps or other changes in their breast tissues. Pregnancy and breastfeeding have their set of associated breast tissue needs. Unfortunately, many women experience physical and psychological trauma related to their breasts. And then there is breast cancer — impacting directly on the lives of many women, and indirectly on all of us.
Besides decreasing headaches, heartburn, constipation, fatigue and kidney stones, getting your fair share of water each day may help prevent serious illnesses including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma. One study at the University of Loma Linda, California, showed that people who drink five or more glasses of water every day cut their risk of suffering a fatal heart attack in half. Researchers believe because water, unlike other beverages, is absorbed immediately into the blood stream, it thins the blood and reduces clot risk.
Kate was 35 years old when she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in her left breast. A modified radical mastectomy was performed and the breast was gone forever. It was several weeks later when the emotional shock set in. She thought, “Oh, God, what did they do to me? Where is my breast? In the hospital trash? Is it in a jar of embalming fluid? What did it look like? Was it in pieces or chunks? Couldn’t I have taken it home and buried it?” She felt the need for closure with her loss. She wanted a mourning process with her breast.1
Like most attorneys, Jo Anne Adlerstein is a fiend for the kind of research that can make or break a case. So when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 1998, she used her research skills to find out all she could about how to fight the disease that invaded her body.
One in 10 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her life. This is one of the most frightening, potentially lethal experiences a woman can have. Massage therapists can be of service to women during this critical time in their lives. This is the story of how massage therapy benefited one such woman.
Legal and ethical issues often provide a controversial backdrop to the subject of breast massage. Further fueling the debate is the question of who exactly is qualified to perform this technique. While there may be many schools of thought, the fact remains there is an appropriate and practical manual technique — Lymph Drainage Therapy — that can be used by trained therapists for specific conditions and indications relating to breast care.
Each of us has the opportunity to go through life with courage and face our difficulties with dignity. This is a story about the forces of nature and the power of personal intent. After working within the beauty industry as a makeup artist and an esthetician for some time, I came to the conclusion — I was more than a beauty expert, I had become a healer.