A Calming Way to Cope with Cancer

MelanieIn November 2019, Melanie Wright had back surgery. A month later, she had her annual mammogram. After follow-up scans and a biopsy, it was confirmed she had ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, a noninvasive precancer that’s confined to the milk ducts. At the end of January 2020, she was back in the operating room for a lumpectomy.

Melanie’s radiation oncologist at The Cancer Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Hamilton, Rachana Singh, MD, recommended radiation treatment, an accelerated schedule that allows patients to return to their lives quicker. The radiation didn’t worry Melanie as much as the machine she had to lay in to receive treatment.

“I’m extremely claustrophobic, and I had to lie flat on my stomach with my head down,” says Melanie. “It was very unnerving for me.” During her treatment, Melanie was still experiencing soreness from her back surgery, making it difficult to get on and off the table and remain comfortable during each of the 15-minute treatments.

During the beginning of her treatments, Melanie discovered a soothing solution offered by the hospital’s Holistic Healing Program at The Cancer Center at RWJUH Hamilton: aromatherapy. Thanks to funding from the RWJUH Hamilton Foundation, and the yearly We vs. C fundraising event, the Cancer Center patients can use a range of holistic programs and services, including Reiki (a hands on healing technique), meditation, massage, pastoral care, nutrition counseling and art, music and pet therapies, all free of charge.

For 30 minutes before each radiation session at The Cancer Center, Melanie relaxed in an aromatherapy room with a reclining chair, warm blankets and lavender aromatherapy. “It was a half hour of peace and quiet,” Melanie says. “The aromatherapy was very calming and relaxing, and it put me in a better frame of mind. It was extremely helpful.”

Dr Singh said, “The aromatherapy gave her time to center herself and get ready for her treatment sessions. “Being able to offer these services at our center has been amazing. We want to help our patients get through treatment in the most stress-free way possible,” felt Dr Singh.

Melanie is now cancer-free, and her only treatment is to take a daily medication that can help prevent a recurrence of her cancer by lowering her estrogen levels for 10 years. She’s still using aromatherapy for relaxation. “I’m a believer in holistic therapies,” she says. “I think they play a big part in helping people get well. Now I do aromatherapy at home with a diffuser a couple times a week. I even have one in my car.”

For more information about the Holistic Healing Program at The Cancer Center at RWJUH Hamilton, visit rwjbh.org/hamiltonholistic

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