The short answer is “Nothing and Everything”!
“Nothing” – is the simple answer – because in its simplest form Oncology Massage is gentle massage – we use our hands on peoples’ bodies in a sequence and variety of techniques just as in any form of massage.
“Everything” is more complex.
One very significant difference is Oncology Massage is in no way habitual. Every client requires a massage tailor made to their unique physical experience in the present moment.
On a practical level Oncology Massage is different because the training (provided by the not-for-profit Oncology Massage Training) imparts specialised knowledge specific to cancer, its treatment and impact. This allows the therapists to confidently adapt and deal safely with the many and varied situations that may arise during the illness and its treatment, including lymphoedema, lowered blood counts, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, wound sites, and surgical devices such as catheters, ports and stoma bags. During the training, the principles of “do no harm” , “less is more” , “keep it simple” and “inch forward” are emphasised to the point where they become second nature.
Oncology Massage training teaches therapists to look holistically at a person and adapt literally moment by moment, to what they observe as they work with a patient/client. Emphasis is not placed on “fixing” something, it is place on being fully present with their patient/client for the duration of the treatment allowing them to feel safe and nurtured and giving the space to just “be”.
An analogy would be a piece of music, a duet, a harmony of two parts where at times the therapist initiates a sequence and the body responds, and at times the therapistis reponding to the body’s unspoken communication. When it flows the results can be both profound and subtle.
Recipients of Oncology Massage are often surprised by the depth of relaxation and other benefits such as improved energy levels and improved sleep and relief from nausea and pain – all gained through a deceptively simple massage. These observations are backed up by international research that reports a 47% improvement in pain levels, 42% improvement in fatigue levels, 59% improvement in anxiey levels, 51% improvment in nausea and 48% improvments in reports of depression. Other problems like shortness of breath, memory problems, dry mouth or disturbed sleep showed an overall improvement of 48% (Ref : Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, NY, 2004). If there was a drug which gave us all these results, wouldn’t we be hearing about it on the news?
Oncology Massage training in Australia is the brainchild of Eleanor Oyston who commenced ten years ago, after spending some time and training with Gayle MacDonald in the US. Using her medical knowledge gained by years in cancer research laboratories and a degree in Cytology, she retrained in massage and developed the program while facilitating the Quest for Life program for philanthropist Petrea King. Oncology Massage Training (OMT) is now an internationally accredited and acclaimed traing regime preparing massage therapists to work with clients with cancer or having a history with cancer.
In July 2013, OMT will become a registered not-for-profit charity and aims to continue to offer world class training and to support OMT’s both nationally in Australia and internationally with the help of donations and support from the complementary therapy community.