“I hope to help a client get through a tough time by giving them some relaxation, so their bodies can heal,” says Beth Brett, who has been providing the comfort of Certified Oncology Massage to guests of Cancer House of Hope since 2014.
Beth was certified in Oncology Massage in 2013 and has been a Licensed Massage Therapist since 1999. Back when she was initially trained as a massage therapist, Beth says she and her peers were taught not to even touch a cancer patient. “The belief then was that massage pushes fluids through the body and people were afraid it would spread the cancer,” she explains. “It turns out that’s not the case, and new studies prove that you can’t spread the cancer because it doesn’t work that way.”
Because everyone in her oncology massage training was already a licensed massage therapist, the class focused on the special needs of cancer patients. “There was less attention paid to massage technique and a lot more emphasis on learning how to take a good medical history and using it to help the patient,” Beth says. “For example, the medical history might reveal that a patient is experiencing nausea from any drugs they’re taking, so you wouldn’t want to do anything during a massage that could cause or worsen nausea.”
What brought Beth to Cancer House of Hope? “I had a client with Multiple Sclerosis in my private practice,” she recalls. “I had been seeing her for several years. In 2010 she was diagnosed with cancer and started using services provided by Cancer House of Hope. She was always telling me about the wonderful things that the people there provided for her, like opportunities to talk with others going through cancer treatment and getting help with wigs. She passed away in November of 2012, and not long after I saw there was a course available in oncology massage. I thought this type of training would have been nice to help me help my client more before she passed away. That motivated me to take the class. After completing the 40-hour training, I sought out the right placement to practice my new skills. A colleague told me that Cancer House of Hope was looking to start a massage program. I thought what a great way to honor my client by setting up a massage program with the organization she used and cherished.”
As Beth works with a cancer patient, often she learns a lot about them personally. “I enjoy getting to know my clients. I not only learn about their disease, but I truly learn about them—their families, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, jobs, even their pets. I feel honored that I’m able to put my hands on them, and for a while to help them feel relaxed and help relieve some of their stress.”
Beth says she is amazed by the resolve of some people who have cancer. “I look at a single mom who has cancer and three kids, who gets up in morning and gets her kids off to school and goes to work and comes home and takes care of her kids—and then does it again every day. That’s why I say, please come to the Cancer House of Hope and let us help you through your difficult time. We can connect you with others who are going through similar situations. We can help your body and mind to relax through meditation, yoga, reiki, massage and support groups. We are all here to help you. When people get off the table and say, ‘I’ve not felt this relaxed in such a long time,” I see the difference I can make for people who are dealing with cancer. And I love the fact that Cancer House of Hope can do all this for you without charging you one penny for our services.”
Cancer House of Hope, 1999 Westfield Street, West Springfield, MA 01089, 413-733-1858, chd.org/chh