Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Healing Arts - Alternative Therapies for Cancer

A stack of brochures sits on the counter in my breast surgeon's office among other information packets from the American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. This brochure is actually a calendar folded in thirds. I am an information junkie so I grab one of everything available.

At home, I have a pink fabric bag filled with helpful goodies and more pamphlets from my oncologist's office. These trinkets feel like lame prizes for winning the cancer lottery. I put my new stack of papers into the bag and drop it at the foot of my bed. I'm not ready to own my illness. I don't want to be a pink warrior. F**k that. (excuse my language but sometimes f**k says it all.)

Days before my first chemotherapy appointment, I resentfully jerk the bag off the floor. Dumping the contents onto my bed, I sift through the pile.

A pink slinky. Really? Okay.

A pink ball to squeeze during the hundreds of times I am poked with a needle.

A pink bandanna to cover my soon-to-be-as-bald-as-a-baby's-bottom scalp.

A white rubber bracelet stamped with a pink ribbon. Date night jewelry maybe?

A pink folder bulging with information I am supposed to read before my first treatment. When I am finished reading them I will know enough about my disease, my financial obligation, my treatment plan, and the expected side effects to make me hyperventilate.

Lastly, I notice I have two of the calendars folded in thirds. My oncologist had thought it important enough to add to my goody bag. I open it and read the title. The Caring Place, September 2010 schedule. The blocks are filled with notations for jewelry and art classes, support groups, and yoga classes. There are times set aside for reflexology, reiki, massage, and healing touch sessions. What the heck is healing touch?

I immediately call The Caring Place to find out more about them and after a short conversation with a cheerful volunteer I am on the schedule for an hour with a reiki practitioner. This is new to me but so is everything else I have coming down the cancer pipe.

It turns out that The Caring Place is an oasis for people touched by cancer. It is somewhere I can go to meet people like me, find support, and professionals who volunteer their time to promoting my mental as well as my physical well being.

Having someone attempt to manipulate my body's energy field and align my Chakras seems a little woo woo but I am game. I'm not going to turn my back on anything that might contribute to my survival.

The energy inside the Caring Place is like the warmth of my mother's arms. The staff welcomes me as if I am an old friend. The director gives me a tour of the library filled with books to help me on this journey (and a large selection of novels too). She shows me the treatment rooms where the healing professionals will work on me and the large room where the yoga class meets.

One of the rooms is furnished in plush couches and chairs, soft lighting and muted colors. Sunlight streams in through the floor length windows. She tells me to wait here for my reiki session. I attempt to relax into the sofa cushions. I can't. My shoulders ache. My back aches. My head aches. For the first time since suspecting I might have cancer I take the time to feel the stress in my body. It's crushing.

A lovely, slight woman comes to retrieve me from the lounge. "Hello, I'm here to help you."

I struggle to hold back my tears. My emotions are so raw that kind words make me cry. She smiles and seeing my face, she doesn't say a word. She's one of those peaceful people who instinctively knows that less is more.

I lie back on her table. She places a blanket over my body. "Most people close their eyes during the session. It helps with relaxation and visualization. While I work on you, breathe deeply and see yourself as a whole and healthy individual."

I almost laugh. This is so out of my comfort zone but I do as she asks. I can feel the movement of her hands as they alternately hover over and wave across my body. I feel the warmth when she places her hands on my stomach. I feel heat building when she holds them just above my chest. Tears trickle down and pool in my ears, a reaction to the slow release of emotions I'd held in for so long.

The room is silent except for her rhythmic breathing. I feel safe and vulnerable at the same time. An hour passed in what felt like mere moments to me. She whispers, "Slowly open your eyes. Lay there as long as you like. You were very blocked. Take some time to let your emotions settle before you get up. I'll see you out front when you are ready."

She closes the door behind her and I sob. For a very long time I sob and it is freeing, regenerative, and healing. I need this as much or more than surgery and chemical compounds. Thank you. Thank you God for leading me to this place. And it's free. Thank you.


  1. Numbness has its place...keeps the nervous system from overloading. But, like cancer, there's no getting around feelings, you can only move through them. I'm so glad to hear that there are sanctuaries like The Caring Place out there to help people cope. Great post, Lisa.

  2. Carrie,

    For people who live in the Vegas valley this is a great resource. They helped me so much. I regularly went to yoga until I got to weak to do it. I had healing arts sessions a few times a month. They strive to give the people currently in treatment the first access to the providers who volunteer their time. It's a great place filled with wonderful people.


  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Linda. I got your message about yoga tomorrow. I'd love to go but guess what I did this afternoon? I broke or maybe just severely bruised my toe. Isn't that grand?! Not.

      Love you,


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