I am in the process of getting all the training and experience I need to teach other massage therapists how to do Oncology Massage. This is one of my specialties, along with Manual Lymphatic Drainage, and one of the things I am passionate about teaching.
When I talk to people about it, usually the first reaction I get is a slightly quizzical look, and a statement like, “I didn’t know there was such a thing,” or, “Is that just massage for people who have cancer?”
Well, there is such a thing, and no, it is not “just” massage for people who have cancer. It is so much more. Anyone who has been through cancer treatment knows that the treatment (not just the cancer) can change and challenge your body in so many ways. And often the treatment has long term, or lifelong effects. Oncology massage therapists are trained to ask about these effects and work safely within them. The Society for Oncology Massage has a great resource for patients and family members here. If you want to know more about Oncology Massage, or if you wonder why it might even need to be a thing, I highly recommend you check out this link.
For myself, I have been struggling with one of the exercises we give to students in the Oncology Massage Workshop. We ask students to come up with their own (short) definition of Oncology Massage. I struggle because I find it difficult to convey all the education and all the mental maturity required to do that kind of work. I struggle because the second reaction I usually get when I talk about it is, “Oh. I could never do that. It would be too sad.” Which puzzles me. Why is it sad to give someone respite, space to breathe, an hour to reconnect with their physical body as more than “cancer patient?” And how can I convey all of this in a short statement?
Here’s my best attempt. I’d love to hear yours, if you have one:
Oncology Massage is informed, mindful massage adapted to the effects of cancer and cancer treatment on the body. It combines all of a therapist’s education and training with an awareness of how cancer and cancer treatment change the body so that therapist can use their skills to create a safe, effective massage for anyone with a history of cancer treatment.