Love Flows From Heart To Heart And Breast To Breast Breast Cancer and Reiki

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Breast Cancer and Reiki

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2006, approximately 212,900 women in the US will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. American women have a 1 in 8 chance of developing this type of cancer at some point in their lives, and approximately 2 million have already been treated for the disease. Fortunately, breast cancer death rates have dropped dramatically. Early detection as well as advances in chemotherapy and other treatments mean that there are more and more breast cancer survivors every year.[i]

As with any other cancer, traditional breast cancer treatment can cause its own set of health problems. Nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and low blood cell counts often accompany chemotherapy and radiation. In a recent study published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Michael Hassett of Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that 16% of breast cancer patients under the age of 64 needed a hospital visit to manage the side effects of chemotherapy.[ii] Chemotherapy targets all rapidly growing cells, including white blood cells (known as neutrophils), which support the immune system. Neutropenia, which means that the number of white blood cells has fallen below normal levels, reduces the immune response to invaders such as bacteria, viruses and fungi.[iii] Consequently, the most common and serious reason for hospital visits after chemotherapy was high fever caused by infections. Anemia – the result of a low number of red blood cells – presents additional problems in the form of extreme fatigue.

Anti-nausea drugs, blood transfusions, and lab-made white blood cell “boosters” now form part of a growing arsenal of coping strategies.[iv] But for women who don’t question taking drugs at all, these solutions may seem too toxic or even add additional complaints. Neurophilic enhancers, for example, cause temporary bone pain as the marrow rapidly produces more cells. Leigh Leming, 54, a breast cancer survivor whose cancer later returned and metastasized, decided she wanted to try something different this time. He cannot eat because of nausea, and now he follows the advice of an Ayurvedic chef. Before every meal, he drinks a glass of ginger, lemon juice and honey. “That’s the only thing holding me back from eating,” explains Leming. She also takes wheatgrass juice to boost her blood count, as 2 ounces of wheatgrass juice contains the nutrients equivalent to 4 pounds of organic produce: “The difference in my energy levels is amazing!”

A patient in the hospital of St. At the port of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Leming noticed flyers offering reiki sessions there. Reiki (pronounced “RAY-key”) is an ancient energy healing system rediscovered in the late nineteenth century by the Japanese monk Dr. Mikao Usui. “Rei” means “universal” and “ki” refers to “life force energy” similar to “Chi” in Chinese medicine or “prana” in yoga. Therefore, Reiki means “universal life force energy”, which works on all levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. By influencing all these levels, Reiki is believed to gently but dramatically enhance the human innate ability to heal itself. Reiki can be performed with the hands on or above the body, and even at great distances. Most people notice it as warmth, tingling, or a feeling of deep love and support.

Lemming’s friends in St. They explained to Luke’s Wellness Center that they receive Reiki sessions before chemotherapy to alleviate some of their post-chemo reactions. Other patients have noted a dramatic improvement in pain levels after Reiki treatment. After experiencing some of this pain relief herself—”I actually forget to take my pain pills after a Reiki session”—Leming gathered a group of patients and survivors to learn how to heal with Reiki. After receiving an attunement (opening the body’s natural energy pathways) from a Reiki Master Teacher, they can now feel the Reiki flowing through their own hands. Although her pain returns, Leming reports that she has a greater sense of calm and peace when dealing with pain, as well as other cancer stressors such as finances and family relationships.

No official American study has proven the effectiveness of Reiki in the treatment of cancer; however, the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative recently awarded a $20,000 grant to Dr. Ahlam Mansour of the University of Saskatchewan College of Nursing. dr. Mansour will study “the effects of Reiki on anxiety levels, physical problems, spiritual well-being and complete blood counts in patients undergoing initial AC (chemotherapy).”[v] The June 1997 issue of Cancer Prevention Control shared the preliminary results of a controlled study by the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, Canada. Twenty volunteers with chronic pain, including cancer pain, received Reiki treatments from a certified Reiki Level 2 practitioner. Study leaders used a visual analog scale (VAS) and a Likert scale to measure pain before and after Reiki. A study found that receiving Reiki greatly reduced pain levels.[vi]

Across the United States, hospitals and hospices have come to appreciate Reiki. In 1997, Nancy Samson, RN, BS, began coordinating a volunteer Reiki program in the radiation oncology department at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. Today, the center holds Reiki certification courses and advertises 50% reimbursement of course costs for DHMC employees. [vii] The well-respected California Pacific Medical Center Health and Healing Clinic offers Reiki, along with acupressure, nutritional therapy and yoga. [viii] Hospices are increasingly offering Reiki to patients as a means of relieving pain and reducing anxiety about the unknown.

Arizona hosts one of the longest connections between Reiki and traditional cancer treatment. Sally Soderlund, RN (Oncology Support Services Coordinator) directs the Tucson Medical Center (TMC) Reiki Clinic. The Reiki program at TMC began over 11 years ago in the Cancer Care Unit. It has since spread to other parts of the hospital. Reiki practitioners at TMC typically describe Reiki as “healing energy” and work together in teams of two. They emphasize the relaxing and healing qualities of Reiki, rather than delving into metaphysics. Although some patients report spiritual experiences during Reiki sessions, volunteers explain that Reiki is a healing system, not a religion. The success of the TMC clinic continues due to patient requests for repeat sessions, as well as reports from nurses of improved patient mood and healing rates.[ix]

The American Cancer Society considers Reiki a “safe” complementary cancer therapy. Their website acknowledges patients’ subjective reports of reiki’s ability to speed healing and increase their sense of well-being. Like massage, Reiki induces relaxation, lowers heart rate and reduces stress levels. Studies show that people heal better if they can stay in a low stress state. Because massage actually manipulates tissue, the American Cancer Society recommends avoiding areas near tumors until research shows whether tissue manipulation can spread cancer cells to other parts of the body.[x] Unlike massage, Reiki involves little or no touch: no tissue manipulation. Recipients remain clothed as the energy flows above and into their body. For people with multiple tumor sites, Reiki offers the opportunity to use the healing power of relaxation without any contraindications.

[i] American Cancer Society: Cancer Reference Information.

[ii] About health and fitness:

[iii] “How Cancer Can Put You at Risk for Serious Infection.” Healthmonitor: July-August 2006, p. S3.

[iv] “Take care.” Healthmonitor: July-August 2006, p. S4.

[v] Source: Office of Communications, University of Saskatchewan, Canada,

[vi] Source: Olson K, Hanson J, 1997. “Using Reiki for Pain Management: A Preliminary Report.” Cancer Prevention Control 1997, June, Vol.1(2): pages 108-13.

[vii] Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center: Lectures and events.

[viii] CPMC Institute of Health and Medicine.

[ix] Rand, William Lee. “Reiki in Hospitals.” Reiki New Articles: International Center for Reiki Training.

[x] American Cancer Society. “Reiki” and “Massage”.

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