In this second installment about the power of therapeutic massage, Margaret Lawrence shares the effects and benefits of touch.
JTD: You mentioned massage evoking a flow of emotions…
ML: Yes. It is not uncommon for women to set aside her emotions during her treatment for cancer. The focus is often on ” just getting through ” treatment. When she gets on the massage table, and a safe place is established, a permission of sorts is given to “undefended” and open up to what the body has experienced.
Often a gentle touch can release a well of emotions. Sadness, fear, and anger can burst to the surface. I provide a neutral space to process these feelings. I am also a witness to their experience, which is vital in their healing process. Issues of mortality, isolation and facing the unknown are common themes that arise.
JTD: I wonder why more women don’t include massage in their healing regimen?
ML: I think there is a multitude of reasons. On the emotional level, many women just “want to move on and get on with life.” There is a shuttering that often occurs. That was my experience. Just keep moving and everything will be okay. Sometimes, there is an inclination to go away from a body that has “betrayed” you. It takes a bit of courage to allow others to touch what has been so recently wounded.
On the healthcare delivery level, doctor referrals are not made as often as they should be. Physicians often neglect to tell women of potential side effects of various treatments, especially of surgical procedures. So when side effects arise, there is no container to address them.
Women might feel that their symptoms are insignificant and therefore may not feel comfortable telling their doctors about them. Information between women and their doctors does not get communicated. So many women are left to suffer in silence and to adapt to the discomfort.
Slowly, more and more physicians are recognizing the benefit of the different modalities that massage can offer and are referring women to this work. There is a growing movement to network amongst all practitioners such as surgeons, oncologists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, massage therapists and manual lymphatic therapists so that there is a continuous flow of care to women recovering from cancer.
We need better education between caregiver and care receiver as to what the entire process of recovery entails for women.