Millions of Americans seek the comfort, relief and relaxation provided by therapies such as massage, Reiki, acupuncture, yoga, Tai Chi, meditation and more, often as part of their daily, weekly or monthly health and wellness regimen. Though cancer patients may also enjoy the same benefits, they may also seek out “complementary” therapies to help reduce the often brutal effects of chemotherapy and radiation or to aid in healing following surgery.
In the field of integrative medicine, these evidence-based practices have been shown to help reduce such physical side effects as nausea and vomiting, fatigue, sleeplessness, pain, as well as numbness and tingling in the extremities. In addition, patients report reduced feelings of anxiety, a strengthened immune system and an overall enhanced sense of well-being. Patients receiving care at HealthAlliance Hospital’s Simonds-Sinon Regional Cancer Center and their caregivers have free access to numerous complementary therapies thanks to a generous grant from Angie’s Spa as well as additional the Reiki and Arts-In-Medicine volunteer programs. Disclaimer: These therapies are not intended to replace traditional medical care, but rather should instead be used in addition to, as a way to improve a patient’s quality of life by alleviating symptoms of cancer and side effects of its treatment.
Complementary Care Therapies
- Angie's Spa
Patients at the Simonds-Sinon Regional Cancer Center in Fitchburg are provided the opportunity to experience some relief from symptoms and side effects of treatment through the use of acupuncture, breathwork/meditation and hand/foot/chair massage made possible by a renewed grant from Angie’s Spa Cancer Foundation! With the exception of acupuncture, caregivers are also welcome to enjoy these services to help relieve their stress. Now in our fourth year our largest grant award to date, we are excited to now offer calming music provided by a Certified Music Practitioner.
Founded in memory of Angie Levy, Angie’s Spa is a 501(c)(3) charitable, cancer foundation that funds hospital programs across the country with the express purpose of providing free therapeutic spa services to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. These spa services are designed to alleviate painful side effects, provide relaxation to enhance traditional treatments and give cancer patients a self-esteem boost.
As a 100% volunteer organization, including all of the Angie’s Spa staff, legal counsel from Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP; advisors from the entertainment, financial industries and more, Angie’s Spa ensures that all raised funds go directly towards patient services.
A distinct aspect of Angie’s Spa is that everyone involved has been personally touched by cancer, and therefore has a unique and specific understanding of the needs and interests of cancer patients and their families.
As of October 2013, Angie’s Spa is funding SIX hospital programs. These programs are community-based, thus providing therapeutic spa services to economically under-served populations, among others. Feedback from acupuncturists, massage therapists, physicians, hospital administrators and testimonials from the patients have been incredibly positive and have pushed us even more to raise funds for additional hospitals across the county.
Learn more about Angie’s Spa or make a donation at www.AngiesSpa.org or www.facebook.com/angiesspa . For more information about accessing the services at the Simonds-Sinon Cancer Center, please contact Lynn Gerrits at 978-343-5098.
- Reiki Volunteers
Upon request, patients and their caregiver are invited to receive a free Reiki session provided by one of our specially trained volunteers, currently available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes and supports the body’s own capacity to heal. Reiki can also help reduce anxiety and pain. Reiki (pronounced “ray-key”) in Japanese means “Universal Life Force Energy,” which is described as the energy flowing through all living things. It is a simple, natural and safe method of healing and self-care that everyone can use.
After signing a consent form, the Reiki volunteer will place his/her hands lightly on certain points of the body (i.e. head, shoulders, arm or back) while you relax comfortably in your chair or bed for a period of 10-20 minutes. Patients commonly report experiencing profound states of relaxation, decreased pain and/or anxiety, and many often fall asleep.
Private hour-long or 30 minute sessions are available by appointment for a fee in the Simonds-Hurd Complementary Care Center located on the Ground Floor below the cancer center.
Individuals who are Reiki-trained (Level II or above) and would like more information about becoming a Reiki volunteer at HealthAlliance Hospital may contact the Reiki Volunteer Program Coordinator/Complementary, Lynn Gerrits, who is also a Reiki Master Teacher.
Please call 978-343-5098 for more information
- Therapeutic Massage
Evidence shows that massage can benefit many cancer patients and caregivers, both physically and emotionally. Research suggests that stress reduction programs tailored to the cancer center setting, such as massage, may help patients cope with the side effects of treatment and improve quality of life after treatment. The use of massage therapy for cancer patients has become more common in recent years as a way to reduce pain, anxiety and nausea. Patients and their caregivers in our Cancer Center may receive free brief relaxation hand, foot or chair massage, generously funded by Angie’s Spa, and may also schedule a private session (for a fee) in our complementary care center located on the ground floor.
Cancer treatment is a challenging and difficult time for patients and their caregivers. Relaxation techniques, guided imagery, and meditation can be used to reduce anxiety and stress. Many people use these techniques to calm the mind and reduce the stress caused by cancer. Learning to use these techniques will empower you to better cope with the stressors of your journey. Additional healing modalities available include breathwork, guided imagery and meditation, which promotes relaxation and healing of body, mind and spirit.
Generously funded by Angie’s Spa. Private, fee-for-service sessions are also available.
An acupuncturist’s role in oncology is to help maintain and restore health during cancer treatment. Acupuncture is useful in relieving many side effects of the therapy, reduce pain and improve quality of life. Free to patients receiving treatment at the Simonds-Sinon Cancer Center thanks to generous funding by Angie’s Spa.
Nausea/Vomiting – Certain chemotherapy agents can cause nausea and vomiting in cancer patients, even if they are given medications to prevent it. Current research acknowledges that there is evidence that acupuncture is helpful in preventing those adverse events.
Neuropathic Pain – Chemotherapy, in certain cases, can cause nerve pain often experienced as numbness or tingling in the extremities. Recent studies show that acupuncture treatments during or after chemotherapy can prevent or alleviate this type of pain.
Current research shows that acupuncture can reduce dry mouth (xerostomia) in patients receiving radiation in the head and neck areas. New data also suggest that acupuncture may also be helpful in treating “radiation sickness” (low grade fever, fatigue, low immunity).
Acupuncture can help post-operative pain and decrease recovery time after surgery.
In essence, by promoting health during cancer treatment, acupuncture can enhance the quality of life of patients, decrease the frequency of interruption in the treatment due to poor health and facilitate a successful outcome.
Generously funded by Angie’s Spa.
Aromatherapy has been shown to help cancer patients with symptom management such as nausea, fatigue, headaches and more.
Aromatherapy can be integrated with treatment in two ways:
1. Request a treatment chair in one of our treatment rooms outfitted with a room diffuser that gently releases blends of lavender and sweet orange, rosemary or peppermint.
2. For personal control over which oil you would like to inhale and how often, select from the oils listed below. A few drops of this oil will be placed on a clean cotton ball for you to smell at your leisure during your treatment.
Choose from the following oils:
Lavender: Relaxation & Sleep
Sweet Orange: Refreshing; reduces nausea; stimulates appetite
Peppermint: Reduces nausea
Expressing oneself through the use of art mediums has been shown to be healing and an outlet for emotional expression. A wide variety of art supplies are available for use upon request including looms, sketching, mandalas, Zentangle, paints, and more.
- Guided Imagery
Guided imagery in the form of CDs is available for use while being treated at the cancer center. Available topics for selection include: Chemotherapy, Ease Pain, Radiation Therapy, Fatigue and Healthy Immune System. Portable CD players and headsets are also provided should you need it. Guided Imagery uses soothing music and narrative to evoke multi-sensory memory, symbol and fantasy. This combination gently guides the overactive mind into a relaxed, immersive state of healing reverie. Many people who have trouble meditating or relaxing do really well with guided imagery.
- Lessening Side Effects Workshop
For patients having chemotherapy, the beliefs they hold about nausea and fatigue really do matter. Thoughts powerfully affect the body. Many have used Peggy Huddleston’s live steps to lessen the nausea and fatigue associated with chemotherapy. Some people have been so successful using it that after a session of chemotherapy, they were hungry and treated themselves to their favorite lunch. In addition, the program significantly helps to reduce anxiety experienced around treatment and in general. This free one-hour workshop is available by appointment with Lynn Gerrits. CD is provided.
Portable CD players and personal headsets are available upon request to listen to your own CDs or use CDs from our library specifically chosen to support a state of peace and relaxation. Movies are also available with DVD upon request.
Certified Music Practitioners provide therapeutic music in response to your individual needs, using their instruments mindfully to support healing. You may benefit simply by being physically present. Live therapeutic music helps create a healing environment and enhances the healing process.
Integrative Support Services
- Pastoral Care
We realize that as you journey through this time of medical care, you may experience feelings of loss, fear, anxiety or concern. A Pastoral Care Chaplain is available to listen, pray with you, or offer words of encouragement. Our chaplain is here to support your psychosocial, spiritual and religious needs with compassion, attentive listening and unconditional acceptance.
Deacon John Aliskevicsw 978-343-5366
- Patient Navigation
Our Oncology (Nurse) Navigators assist patients through the complicated journey of cancer care from diagnosis through survivorship. They advocate for the patient, helping to establish a seamless network of patient-centered care. The Oncology (Nurse) Navigation program improves patient outcomes as care is achieved timely, appropriately, and with added communication.
Diane Barnaby, RN, Oncology Navigator for Head & Neck, Pancreatic, GI, GU, GYN 978-343-5052
Laura Herter, RN, OCN, Nurse Navigator for Breast and Hematologic Malignancies 978-343-5362
- Nutrition Services
Eating well during your treatments may not always be easy. Both illnesses and treatments can cause symptoms that lower your appetite or limit types of foods you are able to eat. As a result, weight loss may occur and the body’s natural defenses can be weakened. Fortunately, there are ways to stay well nourished, even when you do not feel like having a meal or you can no longer eat the foods you are accustomed to. Our clinical dietitian is available to answer any question you or your family may have.
Liz Chin, MS, RD, LDN 978-343-5369
- Social Services
We understand that your emotional and social support are an important part of your care and well being. Social workers can assist you and your family in assessing the changing needs that can arise during medical treatment, provide information about various community resources, and also provide needed support to you and your family during this stressful time.
Elaine Ambrose, LICSW 978-343-5442
Karen Kazanjian-Silvia, LICSW 978-343-5442
- STAR Oncology Rehab Program
As a STAR-Certified site, therapists from Physical and Occupational Therapy, along with Speech Therapy work with patients who are going through or have completed treatment or surgery for cancer to create an individualized program – modifying and creating the optimal exercise and interventions to meet each patient’s individual goals. NP or Physician referral is required.