Anne Townsend, a trained doctor, was sceptical when she was offered complementary therapy to ease her symptoms, but has since become a convert!
Anne, aged 82, lives in Bromley with her husband John. In 2019, Anne was told that that she had inoperable, terminal cancer.
“Chemotherapy has really helped with my symptoms’, explains Anne, “The difficulty is that the chemotherapy brings its own side effects, and for me this has affected my hands and feet. Sensation has become very painful and difficult, and I can’t hold things properly. I’ve always loved creating things but now, I can’t hold a needle or scissors…to not have that, is something I’ve missed enormously.”
Medications to relieve Anne’s chemotherapy side effects proved ineffectual, but when she was referred to St Christopher’s, complementary therapy was suggested.
“Back when I did my medical training, we were always told that such treatments were a waste of time and money, but I decided it couldn’t make things worse!” laughs Anne. “Marcos, the therapist, assessed my needs and suggested reflexology on my feet. When he began, I was absolutely amazed! It was as though he was touching my hands, and connecting areas of my body together! It was such a wonderful help in relieving the pain that I had several further sessions.”
During the pandemic when Anne hasn’t been able to visit the hospice, the team offered another idea.
“They taught me acupressure over the phone, to use on myself to ease symptoms. So, when I’m feeling breathless, I can sit down, and quietly use acupressure on my arms or chest or wherever it is, and it has helped me lot. It was doubly brilliant because I didn’t believe in it, but to find that it’s helped, has been such a surprise! I was also offered aromatherapy to help with breathlessness. I’m so grateful to St Christopher’s for organising all of this, it’s been a big help to me.”
“Complementary therapies are not an alternative to conventional medical treatments,” explains Marcos Viliotti, one of the therapists who has supported Anne, along with Sarah Guyan and Jackie Burns. “We use them alongside conventional treatments to promote feelings of relaxation and wellbeing, as well as to help with emotional and physical symptoms.
“For example, reflexology is really effective in relieving symptoms and side-effects of medication, such as constipation and breathlessness. Our acupuncture clinics are also very effective at relieving pain. All the therapies that we offer are adapted for use in palliative care and are gentle and safe, and tailored to individual needs.
“It’s a privilege to be able to help people in a way that goes beyond the medical treatment they may be receiving. What may initially be considered a luxury soon becomes a necessity when people see the many benefits of complementary therapies.”
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