Tapping into acupuncture to aid healing
When Jan Nelson of Brewster was diagnosed with breast cancer last February, she had no idea it would lead her on a journey that not only helped heal her body but energized her spirit as well.
Diagnosed through her annual mammogram at the Cuda Women’s Health Center, she was referred to Kathryn Dalton, DO, a Cape Cod Hospital surgeon who specializes in a less invasive form of breast cancer surgery, known as the Hidden Scar™ technique. Dr. Dalton performed a lumpectomy on Nelson, which was followed by a series of radiation treatments at the hospital.
Then, through the breast cancer support group at the Cuda Center, Nelson learned about complementary healing therapies offered by the Cape Wellness Collaborative (CWC).
She discovered that acupuncture was a very effective way to combat the fatigue brought on by radiation.
“I was skeptical at first, but having a positive attitude helped. I was willing to let it happen,” she said. “I didn’t take much time off work, so fatigue was the biggest issue. The acupuncture felt wonderful; it gave me so much energy, almost immediately. When I was driving home, I thought ‘wow, I really feel great.’”
Healing The Whole Person
While physicians and surgeons necessarily focus on treating disease through surgery, chemo, radiation and other medical procedures, the CWC enables patients to augment their treatment with integrative therapies.
Through the Collaborative, cancer patients can choose from an array of services – such as acupuncture, reiki, massage, and yoga – that help them heal physically and cope emotionally with a devastating diagnosis. The CWC provides patients with a prepaid card that is accepted by a large group of wellness practitioners on Cape Cod
According to Kelly Tammaro, CWC practitioner coordinator, using integrative therapies alongside traditional medicine is not a new concept. In the late ‘90s, the National Institutes of Health established the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
“In cancer treatment, especially, integrative therapies have been shown to go a long way in helping to heal the whole person – and most major cancer treatment facilities now include them as a part of their program,” she said.
Dr. Dalton, who was recently named medical director of Women’s Services for Cape Cod Healthcare, also sits on the board of directors of the CWC. She’s supportive of what the alternative therapies can offer her patients.
“The Collaborative provides great benefits that are an essential part of the cancer treatment,” she said. “The complementary treatments help with pain, stress; they help the whole person with the healing process.”
For her acupuncture treatments, Nelson sees Kate MacMillan at Blue Thistle Acupuncture in Brewster. She is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).
“I use the needles to stimulate a healing response in the body that returns it to a state of physical and emotional balance,” MacMillan explained. “Typically, I place 15 to 20 hair-thin needles at key points while the patient rests on a warm table. This moves blockages along the body’s meridians to affect the nervous system, relax muscles and lessen inflammation.”
Acupuncture helps cancer patients with pain, nausea, fatigue, and other side effects of treatment, she added.
Nelson credits the support group at the Cuda center with helping her connect with the Cape Wellness Collaborative as well as other cancer patients.
“Every person I’ve met has been wonderful,” she said.
For Jan Murray-Daniels, who is fighting epithelioid leiomyosarcoma, acupuncture helped her cope physically and mentally with what she calls ‘a sneaky disease.’ Even after three surgeries and multiple rounds of chemo, the tumors have returned. “It’s hard to detect until it starts to grow again,” she said.
Murray-Daniels turned to acupuncture to deal with the neuropathy she suffers as a side effect of prolonged chemo. She goes regularly to Diana Di Gioia, Lic. acupuncturist, director of Community Acupuncture on Cape Cod in Dennis.
“The acupuncture has made me part of a huge family where I go to relax. One patient named us ‘pin pals.’ Now we all say that when we meet,” Murray-Daniels said.
Her ‘pin pals’ told her about funding through the CWC and she applied.
“Between medical and insurance expenses, any help I can get takes so much anxiety off my shoulders,” she said. “I go once a week, sometimes twice, just so I can get dressed by myself, let alone drive and go to work.”.
- “There are 365 primary acupuncture points, developed over centuries, which practitioners can tap into to help the healing process.” – Kate MacMillan, Acupuncturist
- Recently, Jan Murray-Daniels was strong enough to take a trip to Iceland, her first vacation in six years of cancer treatment.