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Massage Therapy And Breast Cancer - Part 1; Guidlings for the massage therapist dealing with cancer patients

Massage Therapy And Breast Cancer - Part 1

Guidelines For The Massage Therapist Dealing With Cancer Patients

By Eeris Kallil Reg.C.M.T

During an exercise in a recreational acting class, I was selected to tell a personal story while the other class participants would each take on a character in the story and re-live it. I chose to share a story about a client of mine who passed away from breast cancer. Being a massage therapist and a survivor of breast cancer myself, this story came very close to my heart. As the actors began, they did an amazing job re-living parts of the story I had not even mentioned in my brief telling. Half way through, the teacher stopped the process, and asked if there was anyone there that had been struck by cancer. Out of the ten people in the room, four women, including me, raised their hands.

While it shouldn’t have surprised me, because I’m certainly not a stranger to the statistics as I lost my mother and a sister to breast cancer, it still stunned me to see facts and figures become real people right in front of me.

Breast cancer is not something that is happening somewhere else. It’s right here. It’s the woman you are standing next to at the grocery checkout line; it’s the lady showering next to you at the locker room; or a woman you just passed by on the hiking trail.

During my diagnosis, one element arose that took me by surprise. I felt extremely lonely. Not physically, because I had plenty of support from friends and family, but I was lonely. Lonely in making tough crucial decisions that no one else could have made for me. I was overwhelmed, emotionally drained and exhausted. I wanted someone to scoop me in their arms and literally carry me through this. Not possible. But what was possible was finding refuge, one hour at a time, by receiving loving, nurturing and healing bodywork. That gave me the strength to carry on, to stay centered and focused on the next baby step. And I am grateful for that.

A diagnosis of breast cancer almost always brings up torturous questions; What did I do wrong? What did I not do enough? What part of my life am I not living? Even though men are also susceptible to breast cancer breast cancer, the majority of people who are affected by the disease are women, and often associated with the female stereotypes of taking care of others before your taking care of themselves, giving too much and not receiving enough.

This is exactly where Massage Therapy can be so empowering and a crucial part of the journey back to health. One nurturing massage goes a long way in giving back to all mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and girlfriends.

As a seasoned massage therapist and educator once recovered, I decided to focus my massage practice on providing women and men with a safe nurturing place to be. I also developed a continuing education seminar for massage therapists specifically about breast cancer so CMTs can become knowledgeable and confident in providing an appropriate, safe and effective massage for their clients

This article will talk about guidelines for the massage therapist dealing with cancer patients.

These guidelines are true for all clients but when dealing with a person who is facing a life threatening illness, these guidelines are crucial.

Be there to listen and offer non judgmental support

When you meet your client, allow her to share her anxieties and fears, listen with compassion free of your own beliefs and agendas.

Be present.

Listen attentively and use your active listening skills. Most importantly, keep your own personal story to yourself.


Avoid taking the counselor/advisor roll (unless you have the training) but you can offer your objective knowledge and resources.

Provide a gentle caring touch

Part of being present is being able to listen to your client’s needs and meet them where they are. Be attentive to her body. Make her feels safe and cared for.

Be knowledgeable

Educate yourself about breast cancer so your work is effective and SAFE.

Remember that people come to you for massage not only because you are a skilled massage therapist and they like your technique. They come to you because they like who you are, they enjoy your presence and they TRUST you.


There are many benefits from receiving bodywork in daily life and especially during a time of stress and health crisis. Some of the benefits of massage are:

· Relaxes and rejuvenates

· Calms the nervous system

· Helps you cope with mental and emotional stress

· Relieves physical pain and fatigue

· Increases flexibility and range of motion

· Speeds recovery from surgery and treatment

· Reduces build up of scar tissue

· Improves circulation and immune system

· Improves skin tone

· Speeds the removal of metabolic waste.

Eeris Kallil Reg.CMT is an established massage therapist , healing-arts practitioner and a gifted instructor. She has been offering quality trainings since 1999 including nine years at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy. As a survivor herself, Eeris is dedicated to helping women during the different stages of living with breast cancer and to teaching other massage therapist about breast cancer, safe massage techniques and guidelines for clients with breast cancer. She is the founder of NCBTMB approved seminar Massage Therapy Supports Healing from Breast Cancer and been teaching it since 2001. Eeris is a member of the Society for Oncology Massage and has been in private practice for more than twenty years.

For the next NCBTMB approved seminar MTSHFBC (Massage Therapy Supports Healing from

Breast Cancer) check her website

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Comment by Marilyn St.John on October 25, 2010 at 7:54pm
Eeris, thank you for posting this--you say it so beautifully. One of the inspirations that led me to doing massage was my own mother, who lost her battle almost thirty years ago. These days, I see many women in various stages of recovery, and then some who are survivors of many years who don't even think to mention it at first. I definately agree that touch and the trust in our relationship is what helps keep them feeling safe and confident in their recovery, no matter where on the road they happen to be. Thanks for giving that part definition for me, and for the wonderful contribution you are making!
Comment by Pat Ward on October 21, 2010 at 11:14am
Eeris. you are doing wonderful work here and these guidelines are great...I too want to be of service to women recovering from breast cancer surgery and breast reconstruction. I am taking a workshop on scar tissue massage this weekend and next year I hope to take a course on oncology massage. There is a great need here for so many survivors and I hope to be able to contribute in some small way to help others get through this trying time in their lives.

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