The value of supporting clients with cancer

By Jennifer Young on September 27th, 2023

I have a background in science, healthcare and as a trained therapist, with a combination of qualifications that range from a BSc (Hons) in biology to being a nutritional therapist, an associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine and a qualified aromatherapist. I think I can probably put that unusual set of skills down to an enquiring mind – I love to find solutions to things and never like to sit still and just accept a problem. Therefore, when nurses at my local hospital came to me and asked me to help develop skincare products that were safe and suitable for their cancer patients, I was eager to help.

The challenge was to create skincare products that simultaneously helped to sooth the side effects of cancer treatment (common issues range from very dry and itchy skin to brittle nails and hot flushes), but that also didn’t lead to negative side effects as skin is often much more sensitive during cancer treatment. The result was Beauty Despite Cancer, my skincare collection for all stages of cancer treatment and diagnosis, which launched in 2013.

That process also led me to look deeper into the challenges that cancer patients face when it comes to touch therapies like massages and facials. Touch treatments can be incredibly beneficial to everyone, but when it comes to cancer treatment there’s evidence that shows they can offer all manner of benefits from general relaxation to reduced pain perception, increased dopamine, lower rates of depression, improved sleep and overall improved wellbeing. However, as most therapists will know, there have historically been barriers to entry with most of us being taught over time that we can cause harm to cancer patients. We have therefore been told to avoid providing treatments to anyone with a diagnosis, particularly those in active or recently active treatment.

Both for therapists and for patients, turning someone away when they’re in need of support has never sat well. Most therapists I meet find it highly distressing, and for cancer patients themselves, that rejection can be an extremely hurtful experience. With one in two people expected to get cancer at some point in their lifetime it also verges on discrimination to turn people away because of illness. There are a lot of factors that go into treating someone with cancer, particularly during active treatment like chemotherapy, where their immunity might be compromised or their capacity for bruising may be heightened. Standard training simply doesn’t empower therapists with the knowledge to adapt touch treatments to suit the different needs of vulnerable groups.

To me, this was an unacceptable and seemingly solvable issue. Surely, the solution was in more advanced training? That led me to develop Jennifer Young Training, which is dedicated to giving therapists the knowledge they need to adapt treatments for any stage of a client’s cancer journey and beyond. We have gone through the whole process from training to insurance, so our courses are accredited, teaching materials are readily available and we have a great community of support. Over the years we have added to our courses as well, so you can offer treatments that are more advanced, more luxurious and really develop your skill set. For example, you can start with our Advanced Cancer Awareness qualification and move onto things like our Oncology Reflexology Massage. Our most recent addition is our Therapeutic Oncology Massage, which is a really beautiful treatment targeting the side effects of chemotherapy.

The purpose of our treatments is to help people feel better during and after cancer treatment, having some relief from pain and discomfort, aiding recovery when treatment has finished or simply improving quality of life. During cancer treatment so many decisions are taken away from people; so much autonomy and identity. People find themselves poked and prodded with medical procedures, and they can often feel quite disconnected from their own bodies.

Touch therapies are not going to cure cancer, but they can help people to feel more human and cared for. Doctors and nurses do an amazing job of treating disease, but as therapists we have a powerful role to play in supporting individuals. I have had such wonderful feedback from both patients and therapists alike, who find relief and joy in the ability to offer care when people need it the most.

While all of our courses are now available online, which gives people the ability to learn at their own pace and around busy home and work lives, we have also recently reintroduced a number of in-person masterclasses, for those who prefer that collaborative way of learning as well. I think the result of oncology training is that therapists really get to the core of why they went into this incredibly giving profession, and clients find a space in which they feel safe and supported when they need it the most.

You can find out more about our training courses here.

Jennifer Young

Jennifer Young has an interesting background in science, healthcare and as a trained Therapist. She has a BSc (Hons) in Biology, she trained as a Nutritional Therapist, and is an associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, as well as being a qualified Aromatherapist.

All articles by Jennifer Young

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