Complementary therapies keep patient on track
by Paula Levy
published: September 8, 2004
The first time we met Rosanne Himmelman, she was beginning her fight against metastatic colon cancer. Through periodic updates, Rosanne is sharing her experience. This is part nine of her journey.
Rosanne Himmelman, 37, drives to a small unassuming home in Newcombville. Getting out of her car, she takes a deep breath of fresh air. She scans the countryside and quickly draws attention to the panoramic view.
Momentarily Edward Howell beckons her to come in. Inside the cosy home, Edward greets her with all the warmth of a friend, but this isn't just a friendly visit. Edward is part of Rosanne's complementary health care team. Although he isn't what most would expect to be rallying with her in the fight against cancer, he is providing her with what she feels is an important service to maintain health.
Currently on a break from chemotherapy treatments, Rosanne, whether on or off chemotherapy, always incorporates complementary therapies into her regimen. This day she's receiving physioemotional release therapy from the licenced massage therapist.
Rosanne says using complementary therapies, especially when she's on a break from chemotherapy, reinforces the fact that she is continuing to fight her illness. To someone who is actively fighting cancer, she says, the mind can present doubts when she is off chemo that the cancer may have become active. She says every pain in her body leaves her with questions in her mind.
"Sometimes you feel like you're a sitting duck without any treatment at all," she says. Rosanne still has cancer but currently the cells are inactive or not growing. She hopes continuing to actively fight will delay the onset of active cells.
Edward describes the therapy as similar to reiki, which works with the body's energy flow or meridians.
"It [physioemotional release therapy] is based on the premise that trauma, regardless of whether it is mental, emotional or physical, gets locked in the tissue and accumulates to where at some point in our lives, it causes the manifestation of an illness," explains Edward.
Rosanne's therapy begins with acupressure and reflexology on her feet, then her shoulders. Edward says it's to relax her so she'll be ready for the release therapy.
He places his hand over her heart. Lightly touching her, he sweeps his hand down her body beginning at her heart.
"We're trying to retrain the energy movement of the body. We're setting up the energy flow to relax," he says.
In order to achieve a state of relaxation necessary to let go of traumatic emotions, Edward ensures that there is as little distraction as possible in the environment.
The therapy room itself is uncluttered and plainly decorated. Handing Rosanne ear-plugs to drown out any auditory distractions, he never speaks during the therapy. He quietly performs his work while Rosanne focuses on trying to make her mind blank and let her body respond to healing.
Physioemotional release therapy does have some familiar components. Those who are advocates of therapies such as reiki and/or acupressure will notice similarities.
However, Edward makes no unrealistic promises that his form of release will cure Rosanne. But he does say that his intent is to facilitate healing.
"I basically intend that my work be beneficial. ... My intent is that she will achieve the highest healing that she can achieve," says Edward. "I don't cure anything. I don't heal anything. Basically, I facilitate the session. The body is going to heal itself if there are any opportunities."
For Rosanne, physioemotional release therapy gives her a sense of peace and relieves her of any stress.
"I feel very calm and relaxed afterward and less tense. Anything that can relieve tension is a good thing," she says. "Anything I can do to remain balanced and in a state of calmness is helpful."
Rosanne notes there are many complementary therapies out there and each person should explore what works best for them. She says not everyone will have success with her combination.
||Rosanne Himmelman drinks a cup of essiac tea as part of the complementary therapies she uses in her ongoing fight against metastatic colon cancer. Paula Levy photo
Physioemotional release isn't the only therapy she incorporates into her treatment. She takes part in massage, osteopathy and naturopathy when she feels it is needed. As well, she gets other therapies such as regular treatments of flower, aroma and scenar therapies.
She also takes several supplements, but not without first discussing it with her oncologist to ensure that it won't harm her.
In addition to carefully selected supplements, she also drinks a blend of four herbs known as essiac tea. Drinking the tea nightly has been part of Rosanne's routine since about 10 days after she was diagnosed with cancer. That will be three years this fall.
Every morning when she wakes, she prays, performs self reiki, meditates and visualizes to soft music before getting out of bed.
"That starts the day on a positive note," she says. She then completes light exercise, either by walking or yoga, and perhaps reads a little.
"I try not to think about my illness during the day," she says. "I just put it out of my mind and forget that I'm sick the rest of the day, unless I have something that reminds me."
The same ritual of meditation and visualization is repeated before she goes to sleep.
Since many complementary medicines are capped by Rosanne's medical insurance, the expenses to continue therapies can be costly. More non-conventional therapies are not covered at all and are completely out-of-pocket expenses.
Last year, she says, she had $2,700 in uninsured medical expenses and her expenses are expected to be just short of that this year. However, she says, living three years longer than expected, means she's doing something right.
"You can't put a price on continuing to feel well and it [complementary therapies] gives me peace of mind," she says. There are times, however, that she's unable to meet those financial demands and will often forgo therapies in favour of everyday living expenses.
Whenever she can, she takes advantage of what is offered in this area knowing that natural therapies help her, if nothing else, to maintain a positive attitude. She says the gentle forms of treatment mean that she hasn't given up the cancer fight even when she is taking a break from chemotherapy.
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