What an awful thing it would be to want a simple, relaxing massage, but be turned away by a massage therapist because you are in treatment for cancer. Therapist Jacquie Algaier, who specializes in oncology massage, has heard that many times but knows how important positive touch can be for patients after watching some of her family members benefit from massage during their cancer treatments. Specifically, she and her six sisters helped a seventh sister with healing massage while she was undergoing treatment. “I think in some way it was some sort of closure of the circle of grief,” Algaier says, noting her mother died when she was six. “It ended up being a healing journey for me.”
As a result of the care, Algaier started Sanctuary Health Services out of her Mt. Lebanon home, providing certified, trained massage there or at the patient’s residence, seven days a week by appointment.
Algaier, who is a former chemical dependency counselor, attended the Ohio School of Massotherapy and became a certified massage therapist. But in addition to earning a typical certification, Algaier has been studying how to relate the therapy to cancer patients and will have additional certification and training through the Peregrine Institute of Oncology Massage Training in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The training is intense and includes everything from knowing what to avoid (for example, don’t massage toward lymph nodes that are likely to be swollen with fluid) to knowing how to keep a healthy detachment so the therapist doesn’t take on too much emotion and end up not helping the patient. While some therapists won’t take on the risk of massaging a patient in treatment, “97 percent of patients with cancer can be massaged,” she says, even if it’s just on the hands and feet.
The potential benefits are clear, she says, noting massage is well-known to reduce pain, boost immunity, reduce anxiety, support sleep, reduce nausea from chemotherapy, reduce bone pain and increase appetite. “It’s anecdotal,” she says. But the big myth she wants to dispel is that massaging a patient with cancer can spread the disease throughout the body. “That’s not true.”
In addition to cancer patients, Algaier also helps patients who’ve recently had surgery or older people. Therapists and potential patients may reach Algaier at 330-858-4335 or www.sanctuaryhealth.massagetherapy.com.