Safe Haven

HEALTH Naturally MAGAZINE
Massage Therapy
for Cancer Patients –
a safe haven
By Marcia Degelman, Integrative Medicine Specialist
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What can you
expect from
having
massage
therapy during
or after cancer
treatment?
HEALTH Naturally MAGAZINE
I may ask her what’s on the top of her list today,
what is she hoping to get out of the massage. Her
answers will guide my treatment. If she has recently
had chemotherapy I will start with lymphatic
drainage, a very light touch modality, designed to
help the lymph system process metabolites in the
body.
If she’s had radiation, I will do a very gentle form of
Swedish massage to encourage blood flow to the
surrounding tissues. If she’s experiencing nausea, I
know some acupressure points that can help, and I
will teach her how to find them for herself.
Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients – a safe haven | Marcia Degelman, Integrative Medicine Specialist
The young woman
comes into my
treatment room
shyly, and isn’t sure
if she should take off
her wig. I tell her it’s
up to her, whatever
makes her more
comfortable, and
she takes it off,
transformed from a
blonde with a bob,
to a nearly bald
head with fuzzy
patches. I will ask
her at what stage
her cancer was
diagnosed, where
she is in her
treatment, and if
there are any areas
of her body that
have pain. I will ask
her even if I’ve read
her chart. I want to
hear from her about
her own experience.
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I return in a few minutes with my coconut oil and my Himalayan salt lamp,
that casts a warm even glow over the room. Soothing music is playing in the
background.
I start by gently holding her head. I may turn her head slightly from side to
side, to get a sense if she is starting to relax. Some people need to talk some
before they can truly relax into the massage. If she has constipation, I will do
some abdominal massage to get things moving in a gentle way.
HEALTH Naturally MAGAZINE
Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients – a safe haven | Marcia Degelman, Integrative Medicine Specialist
She shows me her scars. The area around her breast incision is red and
angry. She can’t lay on her stomach because of her port, and her feet
and fingers alternately tingle and ache with neuropathy. She’s clearly
nervous and hasn’t had much experience with massage therapy. I tell
her she can take off whatever clothing she’s comfortable taking off, and
step out of the room, so she can slip under the covers.
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All of us have an innate ability to heal
ourselves. Just cut your finger and you
don’t have to do anything, but your body
knows how to send out white cells to fight
infection, and fibroblasts to create
connective tissue to heal the wound. Your
immune system can fight cancer cells, until
for some reason, the cancer cells get out of
hand. Then we need to do things to stop it.
Hopefully in the near future we will have a
greater understanding of how we can better
assist the body to mount a defence against
cancer.
HEALTH Naturally MAGAZINE
But my intention the whole
time will be to treat the
person, not the cancer. I
want to connect with her
innate healthy self. She is
not her cancer, cancer is a
condition she has, that
hopefully she can overcome
and survive. I’m interested in
helping her body to heal.
Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients – a safe haven | Marcia Degelman, Integrative Medicine Specialist
I will most likely end the
session with craniosacral
techniques that will calm her
entire nervous system.
38
HEALTH Naturally MAGAZINE
Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients – a safe haven | Marcia Degelman, Integrative Medicine Specialist
Massage therapy is one thing a cancer patient can do for herself:
What can massage therapy do ffoorr aa ccaanncceerr ppaattiieenntt??
• to help the body cope with the treatments
• to help her remember that there is a healthy person in there,
not just a cancer patient.
• to help build resiliency, through deep relaxation.
• to allow the body to reset;
• to reclaim health and wellness.
• to provide a safe place to experience deep relaxation
• to let go of emotions.
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She continued her healing journey west and landed in San Francisco in
1980. Her advanced training includes Lymphatic Drainage, Craniosacral,
Orthobionomy, Pregnancy- pre-and-post partum, and British Sports
massage. She has a certificate in Community Health Work, a foundation in
public health, from the City College of San Francisco.
She works as an Integrative Medicine Specialist at the UCSF Osher
Center for Integrative Medicine in San Francisco, specializing in stress
management and massage therapy. She published Explaining Health:
what you need to know to stay healthy in 2012. She is available to speak
to groups in the Bay Area about healthy lifestyles and stress management.
HEALTH Naturally MAGAZINE

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