Reiki for Cancer Patients
Reiki for Cancer Patients
By Jeri Mills, M.D.
Passages in italics are excerpts from Tapestry of Healing ©2001 Jeri Mills
Copyright©2003 Jeri Mills, M.D.
Throughout history, people from every culture have learned to work with the human energy field in order to promote relaxation, pain relief, and healing. In recent centuries there has been a division between the science of medicine and traditional forms of healing. Though we have seen miraculous strides in medicine and surgery, a void remains when we treat patients solely with Western medicine. After centuries of separation, our culture has come full circle and realized that by combining the best of both Western medicine and energy medicine, we can offer more complete and effective care than we can using either system on its own.
Western medicine focuses on restoring the physical structure and function of the human body while often neglecting to address the emotional and spiritual issues that are associated with disease. The basis of energy medicine is the belief that disease of the physical body is a reflection of unresolved emotional issues or traumas. We realize that when the emotional trauma associated with a physical condition is resolved, the patient benefits whether or not physical function is regained.
In energy medicine we view the human body as a physical core surrounded by concentric shells of energy. The structure is not unlike that of a set of Russian nesting dolls. The central core is the physical body. The physical body is divided into a series of major and minor energy centers known as chakras. Each chakra occupies a specific location in the human body. The chakra reflects the condition of organs and glands in that area of the body.
The physical body is surrounded by the etheric or energy body, which is composed of several layers. The layer closest to the physical body is an energetic layer known as the mental body. Still farther out lies the emotional body, and at the periphery of our being is the spiritual body.
These layers are not fixed and rigid like our physical body. Their depth and breadth vary depending on our physical, mental, and emotional state at any given moment. When someone sees an aura, they are seeing a physical manifestation of an energy body.
An imbalance in the mental, emotional, or spiritual level of the energy body, if left unresolved, may eventually manifest as physical disease. Likewise, a physical injury will result in changes in corresponding areas of the energy body and the appearance of the aura. The goal of energy medicine is to rebalance these energy shifts in order to promote healing of the body, mind, and spirit.
Healing sessions most often consist of a gentle laying on of hands. If the recipient is experiencing too much pain to be touched, the healer may work with her hands several inches above the physical body of the recipient, in the etheric energy field. There are also methods for sending healing to people in a different physical location. These methods can be as effective in producing pain relief and accelerating healing as direct, hands-on contact. Besides bringing about physical relief, these treatments help to relieve the recipient of emotional distress associated with their conditions.
Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, and Healing Touch are among the more common systems of hands-on healing used in the Western world today. Healing Touch and Therapeutic Touch are systems of interacting with the human energy field that have been developed by nurses. These systems require months of training, disciplined mental focus, and extensive experience in order for a practitioner to become skilled. Reiki is an ancient healing system that originated in Tibet over 2000 years ago. Unlike Healing Touch and Therapeutic Touch, the ability to heal with Reiki is learned by an attunement process, the use of an ancient ceremony that instantly enables the student to transmit healing energy. Also, the Reiki practitioner may use that energy not only to treat other people but also to treat herself.
Reiki teachers and practitioners can now be found in every major city in the United States and throughout most of the world. Groups of Reiki volunteers are affiliated with hospitals and cancer centers in most major cities in the United States. Because of the ready availability of Reiki practitioners, the ease in learning the techniques, and my own experiences as a Reiki practitioner and Reiki master teacher, I will focus most of this discussion on Reiki. I would like to remind the reader that there are many healing systems that may provide similar results in the hands of a skilled practitioner.
Much of my own early experience with Reiki comes from my Ob-Gyn practice where I offered treatments to all my labor and surgery patients. The women who received Reiki treatments required much less pain medication. Some of my labor patients virtually slept through labor with only Reiki for pain control. Surgery patients routinely went home one or two days after major surgery and rarely required more than Tylenol for pain control when they went home. Their incisions also seemed to heal faster than other patients’ incisions.
My first experience with the use of Reiki for cancer patients came from my own Reiki teacher. Theresa, my teacher, had a small daughter with non-Hodgekins Lymphoma. When the child was first diagnosed, her mother had not yet learned Reiki. The little girl went through standard chemotherapy and suffered tremendous nausea and vomiting from her treatment. She did go into remission for about two years. During this two-year period, Theresa learned Reiki. When the child’s cancer recurred and she was admitted for a very harsh course of second-line chemotherapy, her mother gave her Reiki treatments during the entire time the drugs were being administered. The child experienced no nausea or vomiting and usually slept through her treatments. The nurses on the pediatric oncology ward were so impressed by how well the little girl had tolerated the treatment that they subsequently arranged for Theresa to teach a special Reiki class for oncology nurses so all their patients might have the same benefit as had Theresa’s little daughter.
Besides helping diminish the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, and providing pain control and accelerated healing after surgery, Reiki also provides emotional and spiritual support for patients. When the diagnosis of cancer or some other life threatening disease is made, the patient’s initial reaction is often that her life is shattered. She sees herself as a vicitm of fate, a vicitm of the weakness or imperfection of her own body. She soon departs on a course of medical treatment that often involves surgical excision, radiation, and chemotherapy. During the first stages of treatment, the patient may experince more physical pain and discomfort than she had at the time of diagnosis. She is given drugs to help control her symptoms. If she’s lucky, she may also be directed to some form of support group to help her cope with the emotional consequences of the journey she has just embarked on. Kind volunteers may give her Reiki treatments or therapeutic massage. These treatments help relieve the physical symptoms associated with the illness and its treatment. They also help to dispel some of the fear a patient experiences upon recieveing a diagnosis of cancer, and they may help the patient begin to attain a degree of emotional and spiritual equilibrium.
Though the patient is beginning to feel better, everything is still coming from outside. Even the energy treatments and the support groups may eventually make the patient feel more disempowered because she is relying on others to take care of her every need. This is where taking an hour or a day to learn Reiki can shift the entire balance for the patient. Finally, she is able to use her own hands to channel energy to control the side effects of her treatment, to bring about pain relief, and to begin the process of healing of body, mind, and spirit.
The patient who learns Reiki has taken back her power, has regained some degree of independence and control over her life. She may well continue to receive treatments from others as well, simply because it feels good to be touched and nurtured, but she will always know that she has much of the power back in her own hands.
The use of Reiki may also help to reslove old emotional issues. My friend Sara’s story is a beautiful illustration of this effect:
One of the most tragic results of terminal cancer or any chronic, debilitating illness is that, at the end, there often comes a time when fear of causing the patient physical pain results in friends and loved ones pulling back, hesitating to reach out and touch the sick person. This creates a physical and emotional isolation at the end of life, at a time when we most want to hold on, to have those last moments of love and connection with the people we care about. Reiki offers a beautiful solution for this situation. If a loved one has learned Reiki, then, instead of being afraid of causing pain to the patient, that loved one has a specific reason for touching. He is able to relieve pain, promote relaxation and well-being, and stay connected.
One of my students recounts her own experiences with Reiki: Alice had used Reiki on herself after her class but had never used it on another person until about three years later when her mother was dying of esophogeal cancer. She decided to try to give her mother a treatment.
“My mom had been on a morphine drip for several days but it didn’t seem to be helping much anymore. Her face was contorted with pain, her whole body was tense and her breathing was fast and shallow. It had been so long since my class that I couldn’t even remember what to do. I just laid my hands on my mother and pictured white light. My hands heated up. All of a sudden there was an incredible change in my mom. Her face began to relax and her breathing slowed down as the pain went away.
“My mother and I had always been close. Once she was on morphine for the cancer, we couldn’t talk very much any more. I knew the disease was too far advanced to save her, but it gave me a special feeling to know that, at the very end, I could do something for my mother that my brothers and sisters couldn’t do, something that made my mom feel better.”
Even when physical healing is not possible, healing can take place. We may offer pain relief, we may help to heal a relationship, or a simple act of human kindness may serve to bring joy and healing to a tired old soul.
In the summer of 1996 I attended an integrative medicine conference in Findhorn, Scotland. During the course of the main conference, Dr. Steve Wright, one of the Therapeutic Touch instructors, was asked to introduce himself. He slowly unfolded his lanky, six-foot four-inch frame and faced the assembly. His wavy black hair and long-lashed, brown eyes seemed more suited to a movie star than to the director of nursing of a geriatric ward in an English hospital.
In a soft, gentle voice, Steve told us a little about the hands-on healing system of Therapeutic Touch. To illustrate how the holistic approach to healing differs from the contemporary medical model of fixing the broken parts to effect a cure, Steve shared the following true story which he has graciously allowed me to retell.
Maevis had never been a large woman, but at ninety-four, time had put a curve in her spine and softened her bones until she was barely four feet ten inches tall. The cancer that had been eating away at her for many months had left her too weak even to stand without assistance.
One afternoon, as Steve was helping the old woman to get up from a bed side chair, he stood in front of Maevis with his arms under hers and carefully eased her to her feet while another nurse steadied her from behind. Standing supported in his arms, the old lady looked up at Steve with the hint of a smile on her lips and the glimmer of long forgotten memories shining in her eyes and said, “This reminds me of times when I was a wee lass… Me da would hold me in his arms and dance with me.”
Still supporting the old woman, Steve turned to the other nurse and asked her to place the old woman’s feet on top of his toes. The nurse’s head snapped to attention. Her jaw dropped and she stared at him with an incredulous expression on her face.
Oh well, she thought, Stephen was, after all, her boss and though he was prone to doing things that were, in her opinion, a bit odd at times, he had never harmed anyone. So she shrugged her shoulders and complied with his wish, placing the old woman’s feet on top of Stephen’s toes.
Steve gathered the old woman up in his arms, began to hum a little tune and started waltzing around the room. He held the old woman tenderly in his arms, her feet upon his feet, as a father might hold his small daughter when he lovingly shares a first dance with her.
After a few turns around the room, Stephen returned the old woman to her bedside, carefully helped her into the bed, and gently tucked the covers up under her chin. The old woman looked up at Steve with a radiant smile on her lips, tears of joy and remembrance shining in her eyes and she said, “Thank you.”
A short time later, the old woman closed her eyes and drifted off into a peaceful sleep. Later that day, her spirit left her body and she died. HEALED.
Jeri Mills, M.D.