Hear from our Head of Care Services, Margaret Harrison, about the complementary therapies we have on offer, how to access them, and the difference they can make to people affected by cancer.
Ruby Osborn: Hello and welcome to the Weston Park Cancer Charity Podcast, sharing stories about our work, what we do and the people we support. From funding life-saving research to providing practical help and emotional support, it's our job to care in every sense for our patients and their families. I’m Ruby, and today we're talking about complementary therapy - what is it, how can it help people affected by cancer, and what do we have on offer here at Weston Park Cancer Support.
Margaret Harrison: Hello my name’s Margaret Harrison and I'm Head of Care Services here at Weston Park Cancer Charity. I’m a nurse by profession so I've been a nurse now for nearly 40 years. I’ve specialised in cancer for the last 22 years, I was previously, before this job, I was previously a breast cancer clinical nurse specialist, then a lymphoedema clinical nurse specialist, and then I worked in cancer education for a number of years.
Complementary therapy is just exactly what it says on the tin, I suppose really. It complements the medical treatment that people have for cancer. It's not classed as an alternative to traditional treatment for cancer. What we want to offer here at the centre is something extra so if somebody's going through cancer diagnosis, cancer treatment, they might be struggling with that for very many reasons, they may be struggling with the side effects from it, struggling with anxiety, low mood, a number of things that they may find difficult about their cancer diagnosis to cancer treatment.
And what complementary therapy does for them is it just gives them that time out to sort of focus a little bit more on them. So some of our therapies can help with relaxation, can help with reducing anxiety. They might be struggling with side effects from their treatment and some of the therapies that we offer can help ease some of the side effects that they're having, it can help with pain, it can help with just how they feel about themselves really, so we’re just really pleased to be able to offer a range of therapies that help with any number of difficulties somebody might be experiencing.
Ruby: So what therapies are available at Weston Park?
Margaret: So the therapies that we offer here at the centre are very varied, we’re constantly adding to the different therapies that we have. We offer help with relaxation as I've said previously, such as mindfulness. We have hypnotherapy which is again good for anxiety, good for if people are very worried about radiotherapy treatment, about being in the room having the treatment, it can help sort of focus them and help to sort of give them something else to think about while they’re having their therapy, the radiotherapy.
Other ones that we offer are more hands on. We have a range of massage, so Swedish massage, head and neck massage, body massage, we also have reflexology because not everybody likes massage. We try to cater for as many different needs as we can, it's great to be able to offer different things.
One of our sort of really really important therapies is our auricular acupuncture. That's quite unique to us here at the centre, We been running sessions for auricular acupuncture for a number of years. And what we know about hormone therapy for cancer treatment is that it can induce quite significant hot flushes, so certain cancers such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, some gynae cancers, part of the treatment is hormone therapy. And what the hormone therapy does is it can alter the hormone balance in the body and just as when women go through the menopause when the hormones are not working as they should, they get hot flushes. Patients who have hormone therapy as part of their treatment experience quite severe hot flushes and it can be really quite debilitating, in as much as it stops them getting on with daily life, it stops them being able to go out because the flushes are so severe.
So we offer a course of initially four auricular acupuncture treatments and auricular acupuncture is acupuncture into the ear, and research has shown that this is very beneficial for reducing hot flushes. So they will have four treatments to start with and then a small gap, a small break, to see how effective that's been. And some people find that they don't need any more after that, they have the four and they don't need any more. Others come back after a few weeks and say yes they've been improved, but they’ve not gone away as well as I would have hoped, so they then can have another four sessions. And we have some really really positive results from that, from both the male patients and the female patients who undergo auricular acupuncture.
So we’re hoping that, as I say, as time goes on that we can increase the numbers of therapies and the variety of therapies that we've got, but we have information on all the therapies that we offer, so if anybody is interested we’ve got a leaflet that talks about the different therapies, what particular things they may be good for, and also any of the team at the centre can talk to anybody who is interested in booking therapy to find out a little bit more about it.
Ruby: How do people access our complementary therapies?
Margaret: So for accessing our complementary therapy you can ring our helpline number, 553 3330, if you press option one you'll get through to one of our healthcare team members who will be happy to book you in on some treatments at a time and day to suit you hopefully. If you happen to be passing by, if you're at the hospital and you're nearby the centre then you're free to pop in and book your appointment face-to-face.
Ruby: What about if someone isn't currently in treatment but have had treatment in the past?
Margaret: Our complementary therapies are for anybody who's had cancer treatment. Now, it may be that for whatever reason when they had their cancer diagnosis, say a sort of a year ago or something, they didn't know about us, they didn’t know complementary therapy was available, and we do have people who come in and say, “oh, you know, have I missed out then,” and the answer to that is definitely no, you haven't missed out. So basically if you've had a cancer diagnosis and treatment, if you've not had any of our complementary therapy then you are entitled to have that complementary therapy whenever is convenient for you, and if that is a year after treatment and you suddenly find, “ooh yeah, that would have really helped me at the time and I'm still struggling actually now with some of my side effects” or “my anxiety’s bad at the moment worrying about my cancer coming back” then we are really really pleased to be able to offer that, you know, at anytime during that sort of cancer journey if you like, so it's never too late, is the message.
Ruby: How many sessions of the other therapies can people have, because you said they can have blocks of four for the auricular acupuncture.
Margaret: Yep, so yes so four for the auricular acupuncture initially and then another four if needed. With the other therapists it's a maximum of four. That's four actually for the person who's going through cancer themselves but also we offer four sessions for, well, their carer for want of a better word, it can be their husband, their wife, their best friend, their daughter, their son, whoever they identify as their sort of main support during their cancer treatment. Because what we know about anybody going through cancer treatment is that it's not just that person that you know finds it difficult, you know the people that love them also found it difficult, so we’re really really pleased to be able to offer some therapies to as I say their nearest and dearest, to that one person that they think might enjoy it, might benefit from therapy. We get some really really good feedback and they, we generally find that they really enjoy it and it's just just a nice sort of thing to be able to offer as well, yeah, very proud to be able to offer that.
Ruby: If somebody's had all of the sessions they can have with us but they feel like they might benefit from some more complementary therapy, is there anywhere else they can go?
Margaret: Yes, definitely. So we work very closely with another charity in Sheffield which is Cavendish Cancer Care, they offer a range of therapies as well and you can give them a ring and talk through the therapies, you will have an assessment there. And what's good about that is that they can try different things, so those therapies you know, here and at the Cavendish as well, you don't just have to stick to one therapy so it’s a very much what we call a pick-and-mix so people can choose different things and they can try different things out.
Ruby: If somebody’s interested in having complementary therapy but they don't know which one might be right for them, are you able to help them make that decision?
Margaret: Definitely yes, we would you know welcome somebody coming in and sort of chatting to us and finding out not just what we offer in terms of complementary therapy here at the centre, but the other services that we offer as well. What we quite often find is that somebody's heard about the fact that we do complement therapy, they come in, we can talk through the various therapies that we have an offer, they can decide what they might like to access, but it also then gives us an opportunity to talk about the other services that we have here at the centre.
So it may be that you know they come in thinking “right, I can have a massage and that’s gonna relieve my anxiety” but over the course of the conversation about that we find out actually one of the things they’re worrying about is they've got reduced financial income as a result of their diagnosis and not being able to work, so it may be that you know we have a conversation about financial benefits appointment with one of our welfare advisers, we offer pampering sessions which is Look Good Feel Better which is a two hour beauty pampering session for ladies and we also do a one hour men’s session which is sort of a men’s grooming session.
So it can be a window if you like, complementary therapy, coming to have a complementary therapy here at the centre can be a window to what else we offer here at the centre. Obviously we have a team of healthcare professionals who are all cancer trained, you can have a one-to-one chat with those, with one of our team, at any time, you can book an appointment to see them or you can drop in and see them. So if somebody is having a difficult day, and they don't really know why or they've been really worried about their cancer et cetera it’s somewhere where they can come and just talk to somebody, hopefully get some answers to some of the queries that they might have, get some time to just unburden if you like and talk about what's on their mind, what they might be struggling with, whether that side effects, whether it’s worrying about cancer coming back et cetera.
So complementary therapy is just one of the things that we offer here at the centre. We’re really pleased to be back open and being able to do that to add to everything that we're offering here at the centre, and make it a really special place to come back to.
Ruby: That's all for this episode of the Weston Park Cancer Charity Podcast. Thank you for listening, and if you'd like to book some complementary therapy or talk to one of our team about which therapy might be right for you, give us a call on 0114 553 3330.
Dean Andrews: Cancer changes everything, but so can we.