Allison Donnell, Doctor of Oriental Medicine Christus St. Vincent Supportive Care Medicine
Santa Fe New Mexican
Support And Self Care
Many people have found that complementary therapies have helped reduce side effects from treatment, improve their emotional and physical well-being and enhance their recovery from cancer. Therapies include acupuncture, massage, tai chi, qigong, meditation, music, aromatherapy, art and herbal products. Talk with your providers about any therapies you’d like to try during or after cancer treatment. MASSAGE THERAPY: Massage treatments can help keep your skin hydrated and reduce your stress and anxiety. Massage should be gentle; deep pressure massage is not advised if you are receiving chemotherapy or radiation. Many insurance companies cover oncology massage with a co-pay. BODY MOVEMENT: Research has found that moving your body during and after cancer treatment can improve your physical and mental health, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Exercise can reduce potential physical side effects and your risk of depression and anxiety while also keeping you as mobile and independent as possible. MINDFULNESS: People have found mindfulness aid emotional healing and reduce pain. You can exercise mindfulness through meditation, walking, coloring, journaling and knitting. Meditation apps can support you. Try calm.com or themindfulnessapp.com. Local resource: Christus St. Vincent Supportive Care Medicine offers massage, acupuncture, meditation and mindfulness, relaxation techniques and spiritual counseling. Call 505-913-3820 for more information. Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is an ancient system of healing that’s been used for thousands of years. Its primary focus is the entire well-being of the patient, rather than the disease itself. TCM encompasses a variety of modalities such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, and body work. Both TCM therapies and acupuncture offer patients a safe, drug-free approach for addressing many common complaints and hard-totreat conditions, such as acute and chronic pain, neuropathy, fatigue, nausea, digestive issues, insomnia, and mental-emotional issues. As part of the care team, we make sure that our Chinese medicine treatments and recommendations work synergistically with the primary treatment plan and goals of the patient’s physician. By Deborah Busemeyer Photos by Gabriela Campos There is something magical about what our furry friends can do for us, especially during the harder times in our lives. And receiving cancer treatment can be the hardest of times. Recently, a photographer and I followed six therapy dogs through the Christus St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center so we could share their sweet comfort with you. We met Doozi, a 5-year-old Labradoodle with soulful eyes, who brightened Dr. Andrea Teague’s day and connected with Lawrence Herrera, who was receiving his twice-weekly chemotherapy treatments. “Having a dog is really vital,” said the 82-year-old Taos artist. Doozi’s owner, Diane Solano of Pecos, shared stories of how Doozi transforms a room during his weekly visits, including charming a patient who smiled for the first time in weeks. When invited, Doozi rests his head gently on someone’s lap and offers his paw for a handshake. Teague captured the essence of Doozi’s effect on staff: “We have a challenging job, and all it can take sometimes is a moment like this that can change your mood instantaneously. And even if I go in a room and there’s bad news, I’ve got this moment of joy, and that lasts.” Later, Assistance Dogs of the West – which trained Doozi – arrived with black English Labrador siblings, Violet and Franklin, a yellow English Lab named Cedar, and River, a Poodle-mix. The dogs watched their handlers for cues, wagging their tails as they traveled between rooms. Linda Milanesi, CEO and president of Assistance Dogs of the West, knows that science is the foundation of the dogs’ magic. “Just looking at a dog at rest lowers our cortisol levels, our heart rate and blood pressure. When you’re in the presence of a calm dog, you feel better,” she said. The canines’ presence was soothing in the chemotherapy suite, and their cute charm wooed staff. At every corner turned, I heard voices lift as the therapy pets met pharmacy techs, nurses and medical assistants. The dogs hadn’t visited since COVID-19 forced the cancer center to restrict visitors for the past two years. Kristin Slater-Huff, who coordinates the therapy pet visits as well as 120 volunteers for Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, smiled at the dogs’ return. “They change the world almost every day,” she said.