And if I were asked (in an elevator, say),

How can massage help people with cancer? Here is what I would answer:

A diagnosis of cancer changes your life. You’ll have a medical team to address the cancer, and hopefully a social worker to help you cope with the life changes and the financial challenges. There will be tests and treatments—some of which will make you feel very sick.

candlelightIn the midst of all of this, the presence of an oncology massage therapist can be a great gift. There is a growing body of medical research that supports massage for some of the worst side-effects of cancer treatment: pain, nausea, anxiety and depression. A massage therapist can help you deal with your stress in ways that few other medical professionals can.


You step into the elevator and a person says: “Hi, what do you do?”

You want to give a good answer, right?  Plus, you only have 30 seconds or so before the elevator reaches the floor where you get off.

The idea of an “elevator speech” is that you’ve already thought it out.  It’s top-of-mind (actually rehearsed).

It’s very short.  And it says what’s most important to you.

In the Oncology Massage Mentorship I am currently taking, Tracy Walton asked each of us to prepare an “elevator speech” for 3 common questions we may be asked as oncology massage therapists.  Indeed, already have been asked!

Question #1 – How is oncology massage different from “normal” massage?

Here is my elevator speech.  What do you think?oncology massage

Oncology massage doesn’t address the cancer but it sure does address the effects of treatment—pain, nausea, anxiety–which can be profound.  There are more than 200 kinds of cancer, so the special training we have, the questions we ask and the communication we have with our client’s medical team allows us to adapt our approach.  We use many of the same massage techniques you’re familiar with—but exactly how and where and why we work is specific to each client.  Overall?  Oncology massage is very gentle and comforting – and very present.

“Comfort is the great human gift that creates community.  Those who come together in mutual vulnerability are bound together by a new strength that makes them into one body.”

This quote is from Henri Nouwen, a Dutch-born Catholic priest and spiritual writer who worked at the L’Arch Community in Toronto.

And this is the vision statement of the Society for Oncology Massage (through which I am a “preferred provider”):

To ease the journey through cancer.

In these two statements I see a deep relationship and resonance which guides my practice.


TOUCH (w.t.)
A Preliminary Treatment for a feature documentary film

“Touch” will be a film about how and why touch affects us so deeply.

Through immersive location action, provocative interviews and rich cinematography, it will mark the significance of touch from the time of birth to the time of death.

The people who appear in the film will share one thing in common: insight into the profoundly therapeutic experience of touching.

This is a very big subject. What is the interaction between the brain and our skin? What is the nature of the information we receive through our sense of touch. How does deprivation of touch affect a person’s health and well-being—both emotional and physical. How can “good touch” help to heal the profound effects of “bad touch?”

The film will tell the story of the last one hundred years as scientists and practitioners have very gradually come to understand and acknowledge the primacy of touch in human development. Even though that knowledge has been a precept of wisdom in many cultures going back countless generations.

It is a story of a few champions who persevered to overcome the skepticism, scientific narrow-mindedness, and largely male-directed medical establishment.

“Why”, as T. Berry Brazelton asked twenty years ago, “have we developed into a relatively touch-free culture where the value of touch is largely disregarded in medical education?”

How much has his evaluation changed?

We have two touchstones for the film.

One is a quote by Deane Juhan in his book Job’s Body:
“The skin is the outer surface of the brain. The Brain is the deepest layer of the skin.”

The second is the story told by Ashley Montagu about Old Anna, in his landmark book Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin:

Before World War One, Dr. Fritz Talbot of Boston was escorted through the Children’s Hospital in Dusseldorf by the Director, Dr. Arthur Schlossmann. The wards were very neat and tidy, but Dr. Talbot’s curiosity was piqued by the sight of a squat old lady waddling ahead of them down the corridor, carrying a baby on her hip. “Who’s that?” inquired Dr. Talbot. “Oh,” said Dr. Schlossmann, “that is Old Anna. When we have done everything medically we can for a baby, and it is still not doing well, we turn it over to Old Anna, and she is always successful in restoring it to vigor.” When Dr. Talbot returned to his duties in Boston he instructed the nurses and interns on his wards to pick up and hold the babies. The ensuing improvement in the welfare of the babies would have gratified Old Anna. It is not often that the Old Annas of this world have been appreciated. It gives me special pleasure to think of her and how much we owe her.


Producing partners for Touch are John Wackman, LMT and former V.P. and Executive Producer of Lightworks Producing Group, New York City, and Mary Margaret Frymire, Producer, Director, Videographer and principle of La Sirena Films, Vancouver, BC Canada.