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The Unexpected Healing Power of Massage

July 12, 2013
Most of us think of massage for stress release and relaxation, and that is indeed a valuable gift for patients undergoing treatment for cancer. But massage can also enhance healing and treat specific medical issues.

That's what happened to Terah Young, who had her first experience with integrative medicine through therapeutic massage. Terah was recovering in the hospital following surgery for ovarian cancer when she developed serious stomach discomfort. Her stomach was not allowing food to pass into the intestines. St. Luke's MSTI massage therapist, Susan Stockton, used massage to relax and release Terah's duodenum. She felt immediate relief.

Susan, a neuromuscular and massage therapist, taught the technique to Terah and her mother, showing them how to relax the tissue with a soft, gentle touch, like massaging a newborn baby. "The level of Susan's expertise and her calming presence made me feel peaceful and relaxed, even in the hospital," Terah says. "Because of her, I healed quicker and was able to be released from the hospital sooner."

As an emergency medicine physician assistant, Terah knows the ER really well. But until she became a patient, she knew little about the practice of oncology, and even less about integrative medicine. That has definitely changed.

"I've learned there are more ways than pills and surgery, that everything has its place," she says. "I'm open to exploring alternatives: aromatherapy, healing touch, exercise, vitamins, walking."

Terah frequently blogs about her cancer experience and says it's made her want to be a better caregiver. "I'll be more sympathetic to my patients' pain, more compassionate," she says. "And I'm now willing to consider other alternatives; I'm definitely open to referring patients to integrative medicine. It has taught me to be open to change. With the help of the entire St. Luke's team, having an illness that could potentially take my life has been a blessing and a positive life-changing experience."

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