From my first memory, I have known the comfort that human touch can bring, but never have I appreciated it more than when caregiving for my husband Brian during his mesothelioma illness.
The grief I suffered knowing there was no cure for his asbestos-related cancer sometimes became so overwhelming that my body would ache, especially between my shoulder blades.
Although nothing could take away the pain of losing the love of my life, a loving hug from a family member or friend never failed to bring some comfort.
Losing Focus and Finding It Again
When Brian died, I felt like a ship without a rudder. For more than 30 years, he was the center of my universe.
Now with nothing to focus on but my loss, I walked aimlessly around my empty house missing him in every room. Despite my grief I came to understand the only way to find meaning in my life was to find something worthwhile to focus on.
Deciding to get back into the workforce, I began looking for a position that would challenge and reward me.
I was fortunate to be offered the position of volunteer coordinator at Solaris Cancer Care Centre, a nonprofit organization in Australia that offers a range of integrative complimentary therapies — free of charge — to cancer patients and their caregivers.
My decision rewarded me in more ways than I could ever have imagined.
Working with Cancer Patients, Caregivers
Prior to taking my role at the center, I was invited to try some of the therapies and was not surprised to discover a touch-based therapy among them.
Though I knew from experience the comfort that touch can bring, my reaction to my first session of healing touch took me by surprise. Unaccustomed to having someone focus entirely on my well-being, I found myself relaxing more than I had in a long time.
Under the practitioner’s caring hands, I felt a sense of wholeness and peace that lasted long after the session ended, and I couldn’t help thinking about how wonderful this would have been for me on my caregiving journey.
Seeking to understand why healing touch had a positive effect on my body, I researched further.
Therapy Focuses on the Body’s Energy Field
The positive effect of touch as a healing modality was first put into practice by registered nurse Janet Mentgen, who began using her energy-based healing skills in 1980.
She formally created healing touch as an energy medicine program in 1989 and certification of healing touch practitioners by the American Holistic Nurses Association began in 1993.
Healing touch is one of several energy-based or biofield therapies that focus on the energy field surrounding the body, and it is intended to be used in integration with traditional medical procedures as a noninvasive and safe method of treatment for people of all ages.
During a session, the practitioner uses their hands on or above the body to clear, energize and balance the energy fields and initiate an auto-healing response.
Healing Touch for Cancer Patients
Research has shown that healing touch therapy can be beneficial for people who have cancer, including those with mesothelioma. Though not intended as a treatment to improve survival, it is a proven method to improve quality of life.
Known benefits of healing touch for cancer patients include:
- Improved immune response
- Improved pain management
- Healing of wounds
- Illness prevention
- Pain reduction
- Reduction of anxiety and depression
- Enhanced spiritual development
- Self-care support and maintenance
- Complimentary support for back and neck pain
- Management of treatment side effects
- Improved preparation for medical treatments and procedures
Healing Touch Benefits Caregivers, Too
Caregiving for a loved one with cancer, especially a cancer as demanding as mesothelioma, is a physical and emotional challenge that often results in the caregiver not maintaining their personal health and well-being.
If this continues unchecked, it can lead to a state of exhaustion known as caregiver burn-out. Taking some much-needed time to undergo energy-based therapies, such as healing touch, can be an excellent way to enjoy some relaxation while replenishing the energy bank needed to continue the caregiving role.
If healing therapy takes you away from the location of your caregiving duties, ask a friend or family member to sit with your loved one while you relax. Temporarily shifting responsibilities will alleviate any concerns you may have about leaving your loved one unattended.
During the six years I worked at Solaris, I met plenty of caregivers who told me the center’s healing touch therapies had improved their quality of life. Their positive feedback meant a lot to me and my fellow workmates.
I wore many hats during my tenure at Solaris, but I always made time to serve caregivers a hot cup of tea and lend them a listening ear. I understood what they were going through.
When this sometimes brought them to tears, I readily provided what would comfort them the most: Hugs to warm our hearts.
I found purpose and fulfilment in my life while working at Solaris. It was just what I needed to heal from the grief of losing my beloved Brian.