by Tina Allen, LMT, CPMMT, CPMT, CIMT
Updated April 2016
Childhood Cancer is the number 1 disease killer of Children. Yes, that is correct. Pediatric cancer takes the lives of more children than Cystic Fibrosis, Diabetes, Muscular Dystrophy and Aids combined.
The American Cancer Society states that approximately 12,060 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2012, with an estimate of one in 330 children to develop cancer by age 20.
While these rates are scary, thankfully advancements in care make a difference.
Retinoblastoma can be very scary to both the child and family
I could spend the rest of this article quoting statistics, but instead I would rather share a short story about care that makes a difference to all those involved in this heart wrenching situation. An anecdotal benefit, as it is not easy to measure the benefit felt in the heart. There are no measures of cortisol level, or pain assessment before and after the session. The findings are those which are expressed by the child, parent and their caregivers.
During a visit to a children’s hospital, I had the opportunity to provide massage for a young patient experiencing repetitive treatment for Retinoblastoma (childhood eye cancer). Retinoblastoma can be very scary to both the child and family.
Hopefully diagnosed before the age of 4, the young child will experience many treatments, exams and therapies in an effort to save their life. These exams and treatments may be weekly, every three or six weeks for long periods of time. This means that baby and family must travel to the hospital over and over again. Each time after waiting in the waiting room for hours, the baby is placed under anesthesia to have eye exams and therapies. This unknown is terrifying for babies. They cry and scream while going under.
I witnessed the family, playing and laughing using the techniques I had shared
WIn an effort to ease their anxiety, pediatric massage and infant massage has been used both hands-on for these young patients, but also in teaching the parents to take this care into their own hands.
On this visit, I had the chance to provide a short massage session, and teach parents some techniques to use in the waiting room. I saw the parents and child calm and laugh during the massage story. While walking through the waiting room, I witnessed the family, playing and laughing using the techniques I had shared. What a change to the frightened expressions from the other children and families.
Later that afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). While doing rounds, I saw my little friend waking up from her anesthesia. She was only whimpering. She wasn’t crying or screaming like the other children were. Her parents jumped to her side and started stroking her head and held her hand. They immediately comforted her using touch therapy. The techniques had become part of their tool chest, and were the first method they used to soothe her.
When the nurse manager came to me in the nurse’s station, she said, “This happens every time you have been here. I always know when you have worked with a family.
Sometimes, it takes an observer to bring everything back to the moment
Their children are not screaming, and the parents jump in with touch right away. You are making my job easier. I hate watching these children in fear and crying.”
Sometimes, it takes an observer to bring everything back to the moment. When we are going through our sessions day to day, we sometimes forget the impact providing pediatric touch therapy for one, can make for others.
Massage may be a supportive therapy that can be readily applied, most effectively by specially trained massage therapists or by parents who have learned massage techniques from a skilled, educated massage therapist. Pediatric massage and nurturing touch are the most appropriate massage techniques to use in this population. When using massage therapy for children with cancer, your work does not need to be aggressive to achieve its maximum potential.
For more information visit Comprehensive Pediatric Massage Training Course (CPMT)
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