Founding Dean & Chief Medical officer of the medical school at Buckingham University
Touch is so important in our lives from childhood to old age. When facing a life threatening illness such as cancer, massage of all types can be a useful adjunct to focus the mind. Overcoming the fear and dread of treatment is an important component of dealing with cancer. And touch can be of tremendous benefit.
We must dispel the myths that somehow massage spreads cancer – there is simply no evidence for this assertion. Let’s use it to give full benefit to our patients alongside all other cancer treatments. Cancer affects body, mind and spirit. Whilst modern medicine takes care of the body we need to use everything we have to improve the mind and spirit. Massage and touch therapies are key components of an integrated approach to healing.
Professor Karol Sikora
MA, PhD, MBBChir, FRCP, FRCR, FFPM
Consultant Oncoplastic Breast and Skin cancer Surgeon
Polly trained at the Royal Free Hospital in London qualifying in 1997. Her surgical training has included an MD in enhancing recovery after surgery, and time overseas in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney. She was awarded a Hunterian Professorship in 2006 by the Royal College of Surgeons for her work on enhanced recovery. She has specialised in breast and skin cancer surgery since 2009. More recently, in 2019, she was awarded a Trust Leadership award and has been appointed as a Professional and Clinical Advisor for the breast screening programme by Public Health England
She is committed to providing the highest quality of care for her patients. She believes passionately in listening to patients, excellent communication skills and data collection to ensure high standards are maintained. She believes in high quality evidence based medicine and is the Principle Investigator locally for a number of International research studies. However, she also believes in the holistic nature of health care and the multidisciplinary approach towards improving survivorship and the delivery of patient centred safe therapies
Polly loves surfing, anything to do with the sea and being outdoors, as well spending time with her husband, teenage children and Labradors.
“I am delighted to endorse and support the work of the SATCC in their endeavours and goal of ensuring that both spas and individual therapists can access training and skills that enable people living with cancer to have spa treatments.
As a practicing oncology surgeon I am well aware of some of the scars, both physical and mental, that cancer may leave. Being able to enjoy activities including visiting a spa or salon to boost your wellbeing is essential for everyone, especially those recovering and living beyond cancer.”
Miss Polly King
BSc MBBS MD FRCS
Being turned away from a spa for fear that a therapist might, in some way, adversely affect my cancer and my recovery is pretty humiliating and traumatising.
As a cancer patient you are desperate for any calming and soothing complementary therapy you can get since the rest of our lives is spent being prodded and poked. It’s so vital that ALL therapists are brought up to speed on the actual science and benefits of touch therapy so we don’t continue to feel like the outsiders. I can not wait for every single spa to welcome people like me with open arms!
A Spa treatment was my santuary
I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 40. Had a mastectomy and finished chemo a year last October. Then I got diagnosed with the braca gene so went on to have another mastectomy, hysterectomy and ovaries removed. Whist all this was going on I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and finished treatment in March for this.
I’m now 43 and living life to the full!!
Back working in a job I love as a nurse.
Going for a spa treatment was my sanctuary. A place I could feel normal. The power of touch is underestimated especially when people are undergoing treatment. Just that hour to be calm and still inbetween all the the madness of the conveyer belt of cancer treatments and appointments.
An hour where I felt an individual and not a diagnosis.
My Cancer treatment
It was 2012 not sure all was right with me. Doctor sent me for an emergency scan, on the phone to me the next morning saying to go straight to the hospital they were waiting for me. Did not think much about it was just glad was seeing me quickly to sort things out.
Arrived at the hospital had a scan and you know when the doctors look at the scan say nothing to you but say going to talk to a consultant you start to think oh ! oh.!
Well as it turned out I had ovarian cancer which needed a operation asap. Everyone is different when they get this news, mine was ok so what are you going to do about it, brain went into not happening to me watching it all happening to someone else in a film.
Had the operation did not go as brilliant as expected so needed a course of chemotherapy, well here the fun starts, black tongue and gums, tingling hands and feet, no sense of taste, or feeling for food or drink, pain, after each treatment unbelievable, brain gone cannot string a sentence together, cannot settle to read or even watch tv ,blood transfusions ,pick line in and out of hospital like a yoyo, and all the hair from my body gone, a plus no bikini ,legs or underarm waxing. However, it is important to remember everyone’s journey is different some are no real effects some a few and me the lot.
I felt I needed something to just be my own and cut off from everything, shut down the brain. A cancer nurse suggested a cancer massage, my thoughts where however I was very sensitive to touch and no real patience for anything for a long time, will they treat me as any normal person as up to here with being treated different.
The treatment the best thing I did! The therapist treated me just like any other client, lots of questions but was okay. A clear understanding after discussion on how the massage would progress. The first good thing for me was the wonderful smell of oil used I could have had a no smell oil if needed. The massage was heaven the therapist when I said not there or stop and when the emotions got high and the tears came was excellent, for the whole hour I probably had only had 30 mins of massage but this was excellent at it was at my pace and needs.
How did I feel after, like a normal individual who had been able to go somewhere and be just me, more relaxed and just happy, worth every minute for a chance to be Kim.C.A.Ford for once.
I am a Cancer Massage Therapist
I have been a therapist for over thirty years, with a real passion for massage, I had trained in many different types of massage, Swedish, lymphatic, ayurvedic, Indian head, baby massage, aromatherapy, sports to name a few.
After being touched by cancer and experiencing how massage helped me, I wanted to learn how to do a cancer massage to give back and help others on their journey.
So, I researched where I could complete a course. A colleague of mine had an academy which offered training the course was recognised and accredited by reputable industry and cancer bodies and information on insurance coverage.
The course was extremely informative and some great practical skills and knowledge learned now I was ready to give back.
I have now been doing cancer massage for about three years, with clients touched by cancer of all different types. I ensure that the client feels safe and understand clearly what their needs are. I work to the pressure, movements and positions they feel comfortable with. Are they too hot or cold, do they want silence or music? I am aware they may not want me to touch certain areas, may become emotional, and may need to stop at times, and even just want to talk through all of the treatment, and may not feel be able to have all of the treatment time.
All this is absolutely fine this is a time for the client to have their own space, and just be treated like any other client adapting to their needs and/or medical conditions. Being treated by a therapist that is fully trained in this treatment that completely understands their needs and how they would like to be treated.
Many of my clients have said this had made such a difference to how they feel mentally and physically, this make me so happy to be able to give back, and often say to me at the end of treatment,” I feel like me”!
Treats to help me through the treatment
When I developed non Hodgkins Lymphoma and had to undergo chemotherapy, I felt that I needed some treats to help me through the treatment. With the blessing of my oncologist and the guidance of my therapist, some gentle massage sessions and other treatments were organised to make me feel good about myself.
Throughout the period of my chemotherapy, I had various gentle treatments and, in the relaxed atmosphere of the treatment room, I always felt able to chat to my therapist about my condition and my fears. She, in turn, would help me to feel positive about things. Sometimes I would simply nod off to sleep but, no matter how I felt when I arrived, I would always return home or to my office with a very positive attitude and feeling totally refreshed.
I am now in remission and, because I found my sessions at the salon so beneficial, I continue to have treatments and, most importantly, I still feel special and immediately relaxed immediately I enter the salon.
Massage for those with Cancer
When I noticed something was wrong, fear uncertainty and a feeling of uselessness was paramount in my mind.
On diagnosis fears became real and life takes on a different focus. Not only do you rely upon family and friends to be there for you but also someone with whom you can share your fears and hopefully plans for the future.
I was lucky, not only did I have a very loving family network including a sister who has survived breast cancer, but also a therapist who had the most reassuring touch anyone could wish for.
Hands which just knew where the massage would be most effective for my needs that day; sometimes warm, other times cool. So many different experiences in one massage was amazing and gave me such a feeling of wellbeing.
I had been going to John Holman for Hydrotherm treatments on an ad hoc basis for many years. I played squash on a regular basis and found there were times when I had overstretched, pulled muscles or just felt the need for a relaxing massage.
It was during one of these relaxing massages that a lump was noticed in my abdomen. I knew my abdomen was getting larger and had decided that going to the gym was the answer – it was not!
I went to my doctor who took blood tests and sent me for both x-rays and ultrasound and following these I had an operation to remove a very large tumour from my abdomen. The consultants did not initially know what type of cancer it was and could only tell me that it was attached the peritoneum.
I continued to have my massages with John as it was a source of great comfort to me as it provided continuity in my otherwise chaotic life. I began a course of chemotherapy on the 11th of June 2008 but radiotherapy was ruled out because of the proximity of major organs.
One week after my first course of chemotherapy I had severe pains in my left leg and thigh and spoke with John to see if I could continue with my massages, he agreed which was a great relief to me and a complete joy as it appeared that the pain was taken down my leg and out through my toes, I had every confidence and trust in John and his skills and I was now a regular with my treatments of every four weeks and booked a year ahead, a practice that I have maintained to this day.
John was the link to a “normal life” and after my session I always able to do most things and felt confident and relaxed, I did note that I was not as tired as my fellow “inmates” seemed to be.
When my Son phoned and asked “Mum, if I could get you a little treat what would you ask for?” My answer was simple “A treatment with John please”
I had no adverse effects from any of my massage treatments from John throughout my diagnosis, treatment and recovery and I had every confidence in John and trusted him unconditionally.
I have no doubts that receiving a massage every four weeks was a major part of my recovery and as mentioned I continue this practice today
I would recommend massage to anyone undergoing cancer treatment for the comfort of touch and sense of wellbeing it delivers.