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By Melissa Baun
We talk so much about the benefits of massage for the cancer care patient, of which there are many. In this article I would like to talk about the importance of massage to the world of caregivers out there.
As anyone knows who has ever been a caregiver, the stress it brings can become almost beyond incomprehensible. Similar to bringing a new born baby home, the physical demands of care giving are endless. Unlike bringing a new born home, the psychological demands are torturous as you watch a loved one struggle with either battling a disease to become well again, to transitioning to passing from this life to another. For all of those that have read my previous articles, you know that I have had the gift of being a caregiver many times over. The most recent was a 17 day round the clock vigil with my brother who was passing from head and neck cancer. And it was at this time that I really began shifting my focus from patient to caregiver.
I had never really thought in terms of the benefits that could be gained from massage or energy medicine until I began getting to know the families of other hospice patients where my brother was being cared for. Perhaps this is because all my other loved ones who had passed were able to do this at home and I never really got an up close look at so many other people whose circles under their eyes were darkening by the day as mine did. Due to a bleed risk that my brother had, we were unable to bring him home to pass.
So it was here I would watch all the other families, day in and day out, like us keeping vigil over their loved ones. I began to think how much good it would do if there had been a massage therapist or Reiki practitioner in that hospice center where family members could go and just receive some of the care and love they were giving all day.
The Gift of Massage
We’ve all heard how we store our emotions in our bodies. Or in the words of a massage therapist, “We hold our issues in our tissues”. We can’t rent a storage space to keep our feelings so if we do not deal with them in a healthy way and learn to release them; we feel them in our tight muscles and achy bones and nonstop chatter minds. How then can we be fully present for ourselves and the loves ones we are caring for? And in many cases, the rest of the family we are still taking care of.
Giving yourself the gift of receiving a massage during care giving, although sometimes seemingly selfish, can be the most selfless thing you can do. It is like putting the oxygen mask on yourself before you can put your child’s mask on in the airplane. In order to be present in your care giving and be able to remain strong and as energetically balanced as possible, you must first find that in yourself. And what a great gift for both you and your loved one.
An exhausted, sick caregiver is not nearly as effective as a more healthy (both physically and emotionally) caregiver. We often do not realize this, but the person we are caring for is usually as worried about us as we are about them. So taking care of yourself actually offers some small piece of mind to your loved one as well. It is when we feel we have to hold on the tightest that becomes the time we actually have to let go. This in one of the great paradox’s of life.
In our most challenging times of life, when we think that we do not have a minute to stop and care for ourselves it is in that moment that we should be stopping to do just that.
Mind and Body
After the crisis is over, no matter what the outcome, remember to continue to honor your self care. Understand the magnitude of what you have been through and all your body and mind have endured. Allow yourself the continued gift of receiving all you gave for as long as you need. To everything there is a season, and one of those seasons is giving, the other is for receiving.
Also be sure to speak with your massage therapist about what you are going through or have been through and just how your body is feeling secondary to the care giving. This will make a difference in the delivery of the massage. The application of strokes and pressures that are more soothing and anxiety relieving as well as energetically enhancing should be used. This would not be the time for a deep tissue massage.
Image by Unsplash
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Melissa’s primary work is devoted to oncology massage, which also includes mastectomy and lumpectomy medical massage, and pain management massage.
Working in health care all her life, mostly in administration, she began to look into Integrative Medicine while her father was in treatment for cancer.
After graduation, Melissa spent 3 years working with Abington Memorial Hospital’s Integrative Medicine Department, ( Abington, PA). The past eleven years, Melissa has worked in Integrative Wellness @ the Spa at Cornerstone in Warrington, Pennsylvania.
Having lost a large number of family members and friends to various types of cancer, Melissa has made it her mission to be an advocate for integrative massage to all health care professionals. Having witnessed firsthand, on an almost daily basis how massage can offer a better quality of life to the person living with cancer, she believes that everyone going through the treatment of this disease deserves nothing less than oncology massage (along with other integrative modalities) to help them feel better…..until we have a better way of treating this disease.
Melissa has just finished studies to become a continuing education provider for oncology massage to other licensed massage therapists.
Contact Melissa at www.cornerstoneclubs.com or at 215-918-5950.
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