In her fight against breast cancer, Randa Odishoo didn't stop at chemotherapy and surgery. Through the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at Rush University Medical Center, she also used less traditional therapies, such as yoga classes to soothe the side effects of her medication and massages to help break up scar tissue that remained after her mastectomy.
"It got me through this whole ordeal, and it kept me in a positive state," Odishoo says of the program, which offers patients at Rush an array of therapies to complement their medical care. These therapies, from yoga and massage to counseling and hypnosis, tap into the power of energy to bolster patients' well-being.
How do these therapies use energy? Angela Johnson, an oriental medicine practitioner in the program, uses an ancient form of healing to channel her patients' qi (pronounced "chee"). From a traditional Chinese perspective, we get sick when qi, or energy, stops flowing smoothly along the channels that run through-out our bodies. So Johnson uses acupuncture — the stimulation, usually with fine needles, of specific points across the body — to get patients' qi back on track by directing it along its proper course. This process, she says, can ease such symptoms and side effects as pain, nausea, fatigue, hot flashes and loss of appetite.
Other therapies call on patients to take control of their own energy. Meditation, biofeedback and guided imagery, for example, all involve some form of deep breathing. Using this technique, patients can lower their heart rates, decrease muscle tension and diminish stress responses in the brain.
Such abilities can directly enhance traditional cancer care: One patient in the program successfully used deep breathing to lower her own blood pressure after doctors told her it was too high for her to safely receive chemotherapy.
Efforts to consciously harness the body's energy play an important role in the program's mission: healing the whole person in mind, body and spirit. Grounded in research, this holistic approach recognizes not only that illness can cause pain and emotional stress, but also that alleviating pain and emotional stress can play an important role in treatment.
"If a patient is experiencing physical pain or emotional pain, such as depression or anxiety, they may start thinking, 'I don't have the energy to fight this anymore,' " says Janine Gauthier, PhD, director of clinical services for the program. "Our goal is to teach individuals strategies to harness their energy — which is incredibly important for healing."
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