Why You Should Offer Cancer Care Massage

Luisa Anderson, regional spa director of Four Seasons Resorts Bali, reveals why providing oncology massage services is important for wellness destinations.

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Four Seasons Resorts Bali recently introduced a Cancer Care Massage at the Healing Village Spa at Four Seasons Resort Jimbaran Bay and Sacred River Spa at Four Seasons Resort Sayan.

Luisa Anderson, regional spa director of Four Seasons Resort Bali, is herself a former oncology nurse, as well as a certified yoga teacher and sound healer. Here, she discusses what inspired her to launch the Cancer Care Massage for the resorts' clientele. 

What inspired you to explore Cancer Care treatments? 

It was a combination of being personally touched by friends and family with cancer over last few years, my background as an oncology nurse, and always looking for ways to use my skills to help people improve their wellness. Also the drive to keep educating and developing my team of spa therapists.

As an oncology nurse, I personally witnessed the horrific side effects of cancer treatments, such as lymphedema, scarring, radiation burns and other skin conditions, weight loss, digestive impairment, mouth ulcers, as well as mental and emotional stress. My experience showed me that massage can ease this discomfort. I cared for my brother-in-law for the last two months of his life and massaged him almost every day. It was hugely comforting for him.

Do you expect a lot of demand for this service?

Our hope is that many guests see this opportunity to LIVE WELL at any stage of the cancer journey, and that they have the confidence to book a holiday where they know they are in safe hands and not excluded or ostracized. Previously, we had guests from time to time who asked about such spa services, but the team never felt confident taking care of them. I am sure there were many other guests who didn’t ask, and simply didn't book spa treatments because they assumed they would be turned away.

Are these treatments the same for men and women?

Yes, they are not dependent on gender. Rather, they're dependent on the type and location of the cancer, surgery, scar tissue, radiation effects, type of chemotherapy, prosthetics, etc. Because of the high incidence of breast cancer, women often have more issues with lymph drainage.

What sensitivities do therapists need to be aware of?

All of the above along with the guest’s current blood count. Guests with low white cell count or platelets would not generally travel, but the spa is open to local residents and our therapists have been trained in these variables.

How has the education impacted the spas' therapists?

This training has greatly expanded the skills of our therapists and revealed their capacity for compassion. The case studies and connection with the Bali Pink Fighters (a support group for women touched by cancer who participated in the massage trials during the training) has increased their confidence in handling guests with different conditions. For example, if we had a guest who was an amputee from an accident or as a result of diabetes, our therapists would no longer find it daunting and would adapt their care accordingly.

Why are spa services important for cancer patients?

Cancer Care is about inclusivity and breaking down barriers to improve quality of life. Someone can have cancer and still be a “well” person. We had quite a big session on this in the training, as historically cancer has been a contraindication to massage and there is still huge amount of stigma out thereespecially in Asia. The training included videos of cancer survivors talking about their experience with Cancer Care Massage and lots of before and after photos. Our therapists learned how massage helped people who had scars, radiation burns, lymph congestion and more. The practical sessions with the Pink Fighters also played a big part, as the therapists could see how much comfort their touch brought to these women. It was not only physical comfort, but mental and emotional too. There was not a dry eye in the room!

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