By Ginny Murphy
Lymphedema is one of the scariest long term side effects of breast cancer treatment. It can result when lymph nodes are removed or damaged by surgery and/or radiation. Disfiguring, distressing, and often disabling, lymphedema can only be managed and controlled, not cured. Those who have been treated for breast cancer are at risk for developing this condition, and that risk remains life-long.Many doctors don't have a great deal of experience with the diagnosis and treatment of lymphedema because medical schools don't teach the lymphatic system at all. A national survey conducted by Dr. Stanley Rockson, Professor of Lymphatic Research and Medicine, Stanford University, showed that the average time spent on teaching the lymphatic system during a four year medical school education is 15 minutes. Left untreated, lymphedema can worsen and cause severe swelling and permanent changes to the tissues under the skin, such as thickening and scarring.On Friday evening (7/29) will go over the basics of the lymphatic system in order to gain a better understanding of why lymphedema can occur, as well as risk factors and prevention. The last part of the evening will be spent learning self MLD techniques for lymphedema risk/history.Although there is no way to know whether you will develop lymphedema after breast cancer surgery and/or radiation, it is crucial to become educated on risk factors, risk reduction practices, symptoms, and treatment. Remember, knowledge IS power...
By Ginny Murphy
For ages, I've been thinking about writing a blog about cancer and integrative therapies. But what was holding me back was trying to figure out what to write about first, since there's so much information I want to share.
So here I am - ready to share my passion for oncology massage, which truly feels like my mission. In my blog posts I’ll talk about what originally led me to this work, what happens when one receives a cancer diagnosis, cancer and its side effects, living with cancer, end of life care, care giver support, research supporting oncology massage, and healing versus curing...
But where I want to begin is to talk about “healing versus curing." I bear witness to this all the time. I see it at Be Well. I see it with my patients in hospice and I see it with the kids at Tufts Floating Hospital. Let's face it, when one receives a cancer diagnosis, it's a game changer. After the initial shock, when the dust begins to settle, a cure is what one aims for. And because we are at an unprecedented precipice in cancer treatment (i.e. immunotherapy), this is a real possibility in many scenarios.
I've seen people cured - or more accurately the term NED (no evidence of disease) is used. Some cancers of the blood are deemed curable, in particular ALL (the most common form of leukemia in children), with a very high survival rate. In the short time I've been working in the pediatric hematology/oncology clinic at Tufts, I see this extraordinary chain of events played out weekly.
Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy - all lifesaving - come at a cost. The stories I hear from my patients and clients all share a similar theme; their bodies are not the same. Yet oncology massage can bring bodies to a place where they move easier due to an increased range of motion, it can soften tissues that are rigid and scarred, and it can decrease pain and help to relive feelings of anxiety. It can indeed begin to change the body. These bodies and minds eventually come to accept this as their new normal...and this can be called "healing."
The simple and timeless act of "laying of hands"on another, is for me what this is all about and where the healing occurs. There is something so profoundly sacred in this exchange. It does not need to be proven nor researched. I trust this process and I am beyond fortunate and humbled to call this my work.
"Touch was never meant to be a luxury. It is a basic human need. It is an action that validates life and gives hope both to the receiver and the giver." ~ Irene Smith