I’m always looking out for trends and innovations in reflexology. If reflexology and cancer isn’t the biggest one today, I don’t know what is.

In the days of my early bodywork training (Polarity Therapy – yes, there was a time in my life before reflexology!), students were cautioned about working with cancer patients – even when working off the body!

Thank goodness compassionate touch has won the day. It’s better to comfort with gentle touch than to deny the stress relieving comfort and nurturing that it affords.

As with all medical situations, you need to get an okay from a doctor in order to work with anyone who is very sick – whether from an illness or from the treatment of a disease.

However, if the opportunity arises to work with someone who has cancer, consider yourself lucky because they’ll already have a variety of medical supports. This will be a team of one, or many, of the following: doctors, nurses, osteopaths, physical therapists, acupuncturists, etc. Becoming a member of that team is a privilege.

Now, everyone on the team needs to know about each other. This only makes sense. Call the doctor(s) and introduce yourself, say that their client has asked to receive reflexology from you and find out whether this is okay and if there is anything you need to know.

I’ve never once had the experience of a doctor being dismissive. On the contrary the response has been positive, although you do need to be prepared to explain what reflexology is.

Here’s some useful information, research and resources currently available for reflexology and cancer:

1. As I’ve mentioned before, the University of Michigan received a 1.3 million dollar grant from the NIH (National Institute of Health) to study reflexology as a support for the effects of the treatment breast cancer. As their website states:

“Breast cancer patients turn to reflexology for comfort”

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Researchers at Michigan State University are finding that many women who are receiving chemotherapy while in the late stages of breast cancer are turning to a complementary therapy known as reflexology to help them cope.

In a pilot study, researchers from MSU’s College of Nursing tested three different complementary therapies — reflexology, guided imagery and reminiscence therapy, in which women recall times in their lives when they’ve met and overcome challenges. Of those three, reflexology proved to be the most effective…

2. The Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York City, has, in the past, offered a two day course in “Reflexology for the Cancer Patient”.

From all reports it has been an amazing learning experience aimed at giving reflexologists with the best information possible for working with cancer patients.

3. The First Symposium on Reflexology and Cancer was held in Israel in 2008.

It turned out to be a stellar symposium with speakers, research and supporting techniques offered by speakers from around the world.

4. My favorite book on cancer and bodywork is “Medicine Hands, Massage Therapy for People with Cancer”, by Gayle MacDonald, M.S., L. M. T.

Although geared towards massage therapists, it gives you great and important information about the different types of the disease and the effects of many of the treatments — both on the patient and also on the caregiver or therapist.

If there’s a better book out there, please drop me a line and let me know.

You’ve heard me talk about how inspiring my mother was to me. What you might not know is that she had cancer four times.

And, she survived (make that thrived) for over 40 more years.

Towards the end of her life she had Alzheimer’s and I gave her reflexology – not so much to heal her, but rather to communicate with and demonstrate with every gentle alternating thumb and finger walking pressure that she is not alone, that she is special, that I care and that I am present… in the moment… with her.

(Today would have been her birthday. Happy Birthday Mom!)

Healing is never a one person experience. With reflexology, as with other complementary and alternative modalities, healing is a profoundly shared experience.

For many people, cancer is a passage into another part of life. For some it is their final passage. To walk alongside anyone who has embarked upon this journey and to hold their hands or feet is truly an honor.