Alternative therapies help cancer patients

Reiki, Healing Touch, Yoga help patients relax
October 14th, 2015

It’s no secret that cancer treatments can be tough on the patient. There’s fatigue, nausea, depression and sometimes pain.

Reluctant to rely too heavily on narcotics or other drugs, Memorial Hospital’s oncology providers offer alternative therapies that may help ameliorate some of those symptoms. “We have options,” said Daniel Lenard, manager for Radiation Oncology.

Lenard manages day-to-day operations for the department, including staffing issues, scheduling, strategic planning and working closely with physicians and patients. What are some of the therapies they use to ease the discomforts of cancer treatments?

Healing Touch program

“All of our alternative cancer care focuses on promoting health and wellness by relieving some of the symptoms of pain, fatigue, depression and anxiety,” Lenard said. That used to include massage, but no longer.

“We don’t actually do massage anymore,” Lenard said. “It’s too invasive.”

Instead, a nonprofit Denver company called LifeSpark provides Healing Touch and Reiki to cancer patients at no cost. Healing Touch is a very light technique in which a therapist places his or her hands on or above areas of pain, like lower back, abdomen or wherever it hurts.

“It really works. It’s very relaxing,” Lenard said. “A lot of people swear by it.” Healing Touch and Reiki are both energy-healing methods. They reduce pain and anxiety and invite relaxation. Annie Pai, a Reiki master/provider said Healing Touch and Reiki “are different for everybody.

There’s no scientific explanation for it, but we do know the therapies provide good results. Some people feel a warmth or tingling sensation. Some people don’t feel anything at all.

“Reiki also is a noninvasive therapy that involves very light or no touch. “But Reiki focuses on following the path of the body’s endocrine system, so it focuses on major organs, especially the liver, and the immune system,” Pai said. In both treatments, the patient is fully clothed, lying on a massage table or sitting up, if preferred, in a darkened, quiet room.

There might be soft music and low lighting, she added. To receive Healing Touch or Reiki treatments, patients are encouraged to commit to coming for a one-hour session one day a week for 12 weeks to receive the full benefit of the treatments.

Though the treatments are free, the commitment is essential, she said. Call 303-425-5670 to arrange treatment.

A therapist will do a short interview to learn what the patient is seeking from the treatments, and schedule an  appointment. Pai comes to Memorial on Mondays. Other providers come on other days.

To find out more about the therapies, visit LifeSparkNow.org.

Yoga also soothes

Yoga is not just for the fit, said Kara Sloan, licensed clinical social worker, certified oncology social worker and registered yoga teacher, who works at Memorial. In February, she started yoga classes in the oncology outpatient clinic. 

The classes are offered once a week, at 5:15 p.m. Mondays at the clinic. (She also leads weekly classes for staff.) “It does a lot of good things for patients,” she said. “It relieves symptoms of cancer and its treatments. It helps with fatigue, anxiety, difficulty sleeping – and also improves flexibility, balance, mobility and overall recovery from cancer treatments.”

Yoga also reduces stress hormones, decreases symptoms of depression and improves spiritual well-being, said Sloan, who knows from first-hand experience: She’s a cancer survivor herself. “I do use gentle stretching and some flow (movements), breathing exercises and meditation, too,” she added.

Yoga is for every body, she said.  “I always try to explain to people, it’s for every body type, no matter where you are in your physical (status),” she said. “It really tries to improve your relationship with your body – the one (you might feel) has betrayed you.”

She helps patients in all stages of treatment, including survivors who are trying to recover their formerly fit bodies.  “We concentrate on relaxation,” Sloan said. “It really improves quality of life for our cancer patients.” Call her at 719-365-6710 to sign up for a class.

These auxiliary treatments for cancer patients  “are just things we have found that help people though a tough time,” Lenard said.

Any adult cancer patient being treated at Memorial Hospital is eligible for any of these programs, free of charge. For more information, call 719-365-6845.

About the author

Linda DuVal is a freelance writer based in Colorado Springs who writes articles for UCHealth.