For people going through cancer treatments and who are frequently poked and prodded, there's a gentle touch available to provide comfort and calmness for them.
Cancer massage and bodywork are clinically safe sessions that are therapeutic for people with cancer or a history of cancer, according to a fact sheet provided by Marjorie Hoeven, a licensed massage therapist with a specialty in oncology massage and bodywork. Cancer massage and bodywork are tailored and designed to meet the unique and changing needs of people during treatment, recovery, and in the years after, as well as ensuring that people with cancer work within a framework of clinical considerations.
Massage is the manipulation (rubbing, kneading and movement) of skin, muscles and soft tissue, the fact sheet said. Bodywork is an all emcompassing term for modalities working with the body. Hoeven offers modalities including oncology, energy work and touch therapy, reflexology, shiatsu, deep tissue, pregnancy and Swedish, and relaxation bodywork.
Marjorie Hoeven, licensed massage therapist with a specialty in oncology massage and bodywork, gives a foot massage to Joanne Stein, laying down, while husband Craig Stein looks on. Joanne Stein was in for her last cancer treatment on Tuesday, Oct. 9, and was all smiles as she received a massage. Hoeven volunteers her time giving hand and foot massages to people going through cancer treatments and offered classes to people interested in providing the same service.
Hoeven, who has recently moved to Minot from California, started a program where volunteers offer hand and foot massages to people with cancer. While in California, Hoeven was a member of a non-profit organization called Greet the Day that emphasized cancer massage while people received cancer therapy. The organization works in the scope of the medical program, only helping with the side effects of cancer treatments, not providing massage as a treatment for cancer. Hoeven said she wanted to bring cancer massage to Minot by offering classes for people interested in giving hand and foot massages on a volunteer basis for people receiving cancer treatments.
Classes for volunteers were held in October at Trinity Cancer Care Center and will be again on the Saturdays of Nov. 10 and 17, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Trinity Cancer Care Center. "We're hoping to get the volunteers comfortable enough after three weeks for them to offer massages to their families and friends," Hoeven said.
Since the program is just starting, they'll have to first find out if there are enough people interested in volunteering, Hoeven noted. Massages typically would last 15 to 20 minutes and it's recommended that people volunteer for two hours, she added. Hoeven said she'd like to have three or four volunteers a day in order to have someone available for massages for the whole day while people are there receiving their treatments.
The idea to offer massage classes to people receiving cancer treatments came from classes offered with the Greet the Day organization, Hoeven noted. She wanted to bring the classes to North Dakota, she said, and next year hopes to bring it to massage therapists.
From this new cancer massage program in Minot, Hoeven said she hopes people will feel good about helping someone who's going through a tough time. She's never left the center feeling like she has taken more than she has given, she remarked. "You learn to appreciate life after this and you see an immediate benefit for the help that you do," Hoeven also said. "A lot of times (the massage) brightens their day and makes them feel better."
There are many benefits of massage and bodywork, according to Hoeven's fact sheet. Massage and bodywork are a proactive way to create a healthy body, they promote restful sleep and healthy digestion, they help reduce pain and fatigue, reduce anxiety and calm the body, and rejuvenate and restore. Other benefits of massage and bodywork include reducing insomnia, constipation and nausea, increasing serotonin and dopamine levels in the body, and boosting the immune system.
During all massage and bodywork sessions, special consideration is given to positioning, pressure, site and pace, in order to ensure the session is tailored to meet the unique needs of each person during his or her treatment.
There have not been any difficulties in getting this program off the ground, but Hoeven said she has received amazing support from the oncology department and social workers at Trinity Cancer Care Center and was able to meet with all of the doctors and nurses at the center.
People who have received the massages have given extremely positive feedback, Hoeven noted. The massages give them feelings of relaxation. "A lot of times people with cancer get handled a lot and their families and friends are afraid to hug them too hard and the massage helps the person feel better."
If a volunteer still felt nervous about giving massages after having attended the classes, Hoeven said there will be other classes available and Hoeven or another mentor would work with the volunteer before being left to do it on their own. They want to make sure it's a well prepared and safe environment for everyone involved, she added.
To find out more information or sign up for massage classes, people can call Trinity Cancer Care Center at 857-3535 or Carol Mohagen at 857-2829.
"If you've ever wanted to make a difference and impact someone's life, this is the way to do it," Hoeven said.