Facing cancer, feeling the healing

Facing cancer, feeling the healing
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on April 30, 2013. Posted with permission.

sue and manny

Oncology aesthetician Susan Watts and patient Manny Correia


The core of healing is not about cutting out or treating disease but in helping human beings feel better, healthier and alive.

In June 2012, Manny Correia, 78, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that originated in his appendix.  Chemotherapy has been a life staple since then.

But, this treatment is not the only source of his healing. As Correia said, “There are other ways to communicate with the body.”

Susan Watts is a certified Clinical Oncology Aesthetician.  Ordinarily, Aestheticians work in spas, but Watts spends half her week in the chemotherapy infusion room of Premiere Oncology in Naples.

Watts provides peace of mind and serenity for patients on a worrisome journey.

Watts can speak clearly as to the fear that envelops patients the first time they enter the chemotherapy room.  Blankets and pillows top rows of comfortable recliners, and flat-screen televisions line the walls, but, they are terrified.  Faced with a frightening diagnosis, the night before is often a sleepless one.

Trained in and mindful of each patient’s diagnosis and treatment, Watts will diagnose disorders, massaging the scalp, face, arms and legs, bringing relaxation to a tense chemotherapy session.

“They were frightened and exhausted when they entered.  After a facial massage, they are asleep within 15 minutes,” Watts said.

Oncology aesthetics goes beyond relaxing the patient and dispelling anxiety.  Watts has trained with surgeons, infusion and oncology nurses and holistic therapists to help cancer patients cope with the toxicities and side effects of their treatments.

Dr. Shemin Saferali, a Premiere medical oncologist, stresses the importance of mental healing in the face of a life-threatening diagnosis.

“The patient is experiencing a big change in the world he knows, and he is overwhelmed,” Saferali said.  “We are taking that extra step to see that patients are getting everything they need to help them heal.”

Radiation treatment will burn the skin, and Watts’ magic is organic and essential oils.  Yet, very specific training is needed for aestheticians dealing with cancer patients because certain oils, name-brand lotions and creams containing chemicals can aggravate the conditions.  Lavender stimulates the body to produce estrogen, which may not be a good idea in estrogen-driven cancers.

Watts will offer manual lymphatic drainage for swollen limbs, but classic massage movements directed toward the heart via lymph node areas have to be handled delicately or even avoided.

Chemotherapy will also usher in a whole range of skin changes.  In the case of Correia, his chemotherapy produced a form of acne resembling a combination of chicken pox and measles.  Watts employed her essential oils and organic lotions to exfoliate the skin so it can breathe, and healthy skin is needed for healing.

For more information, contact Premiere Oncology at www.PremiereOnc.com  and simplyfacesbeauty.com for clinical oncology aesthetics.

Next week:  Yoga through cancer treatment

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