Last month, Soothe and City of Hope—a world-renowned independent research and treatment center for cancer and life-threatening diseases—celebrated the first anniversary of the Soothe Elizabeth Danu Cancer Initiative where licensed therapists certified in oncology massage provided free weekly chair massage to cancer patients, families, caregivers, as well as staff and clinicians.
Soothe therapists work in different areas of the hospital, and can treat about 32 people daily.
As the program moves into its second year, it is being expanding it to twice a week, which means even more people will benefit.
“It was so wonderful to hear very positive feedback from participants in the Soothe Elizabeth Danu Cancer Initiative at this special event, and we are very glad to hear that this program is making a positive impact on the lives of cancer patients, families, hospital staff and even our Soothe therapists,” said Jeff Bishop, vice presidents of operations at Soothe, which provides massages to homes, hotels and offices. “Bringing the power of healing via massage therapy has been emotionally and physically rewarding for all parties.”
Launched in 2013, Soothe is the fastest-growing on-demand massage service. The company operates in more than 60 major cities across the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
The initiative with City of Hope was named after former Soothe recruiter Elizabeth Danu, a breast cancer survivor who died from pancreatic cancer in 2019.”
“Being able to offer patients, families and caregivers these weekly massages has been an incredible gift,” said David Trejo, operations manager at the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at City of Hope. “Many have shared with me how much they look forward to the massages. One patient described how she feels afterward: ‘After my massage, I feel so relaxed and reconnected to my body. I am so grateful that Soothe is providing this amazing service to us.”
Oncology massage often involves a lighter form of massage therapy, where there is no deep pressure or stretching techniques, according to Denise Gonzales, a licensed massage therapist for Soothe, who has been performing oncology massage for three years and is certified though (ABMP) Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals and (AMTA) American Massage Therapy Association.
“I enjoy oncology massage, it means helping cancer patients, survivors, care-givers and those going through various treatments, get through their journey. A little bit of care and massage goes a long way. The power of touch is healing, and that's my gift to them,” she told Happi, noting that she has lost family and close friends to cancer.
“I am passionate about helping people find rejuvenation and renewal amidst the stresses of life and relief from the pains that show up in their bodies because of that stress. I enjoy teaching clients how to relax and de-stress at work; bringing health and wellness to the office, on-set or back stage. Again, my gift to share, is in my healing hands.”
During treatment, patient skin has special needs.
“For oncology massage, the skin is very stressed, delicate and extremely dry,” said Gonzalez. Among the products she uses are Olive & Green Tea Body Butter with Avocado by and Frankincense & Myrrh essential oils, all from Shea Moisture.
In addition, she uses Happy Soul Organic, products made by fellow Soothe massage therapist Michelle Morris, who also participated in the program during its inaugural year.
Morris, who has been practicing massage therapy for eight years, and has been oncology-certified for one year, crafts her Happy Soul Organic products with organic sunflower oil and shea butter. She adds a blend of jasmine and lemongrass to help relax the client.
“I was happy to become a part of the program because cancer has touched me personally. Two loved ones are cancer survivors. I understand how stressed out people are when receiving treatment. It's great to add a little joy to a difficult situation. I also give a lot of hugs,” said Morris, who also uses Nubian Heritage Honey and Black Seed lotion. “This lotion is great for moisturizing the skin. Clients love the light fragrance.”
For Christine Venegas, who attended Everest College and the School of Holistic Touch in Ontario, a family member’s illness led to her training in cancer-related massage and she is now pursing an RN degree with an oncology emphasis.
“The reason why I started doing oncology massage was because of my uncle who reached out to me while he was undergoing cancer treatment and was feeling very sick and down. I was able to help him achieve some relief and relax,” she said. “I’ve always loved helping people. I realize that massage gives people relief and makes them feel good.”
Venegas uses Bon Vital Original Massage Gel, citing the soothing and healing ingredients in the formulation, like jojoba and aloe vera.
For Venegas, the Soothe Elizabeth Danu Cancer Initiative program allows her to give back and help others who are providing critical care for patients.
“I get to give back to the staff that helps save people's lives day in and day out. I get to help put some patients minds to ease for a few minutes,” said Venegas. “I just love helping people and with this I get to do just that.”