For as long as she can remember, Sally Johnson has loved dancing. In fact, she was a dance instructor for 35 years. “It was hard work, but I didn’t realize it,” says the Germantown resident. “When I hear music, I can move forever.”
After retiring, Sally stayed busy, spending time with her granddaughter, friends, and former students. Then in May 2015, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I felt a burning sensation in my breast, and went for an early mammogram,” she says. The scan found a small tumor, and Sally’s doctor recommended she seek treatment at Kettering Cancer Care. Sally met with Manisha Nanda, DO, an oncologist at Soin Medical Center, and learned that the tumor was growing fast. She opted for a double mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy.
A community of care
After her surgery, Dr. Nanda suggested Sally go to Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, an organization that partners with Kettering Cancer Care that helps cancer patients develop nutritional, emotional, and spiritual well-being – all at no charge. Sally began meeting with a cancer exercise specialist at Maple Tree to focus on building back her strength. Just as important for Sally was the community of care and support she experienced at Maple Tree. “When you walk in, it just lifts your spirits,” Sally says. “Everyone is smiling. It’s a heartwarming place.”
One day in August 2017, Sally knew she needed that lift. “I did not feel good, and my arms were too tired to even do my hair and makeup,” she explains. When Sally’s cancer exercise specialist, Trent Seitz, met her to start her session, Sally knew she didn’t have the strength to do it. “Trent was always very caring and would help with whatever I needed to work on.” Sally says. “That day I told him, ‘I can’t do the exercises you want me to, but I can teach you the foxtrot!’”
As Sally and Trent danced around the room, another staff member took some pictures. “We didn’t have music, but I was singing out the steps to teach him how to move,” Sally says. “That day made me feel like I could go on. I hadn’t been dancing for a while, but I realized I could if I wanted to. It was a little reminder of what normal life could be like.”
Finding hope for the future
Now Sally wants to share her experience with others. “I’ve been thinking about teaching dance again,” she explains. “There are a lot of older adults who would like the physical and social activity, and I could provide that.” When Sally thinks about her journey through cancer, she knows that good medicine was just part of it. Equally as important was the fact that people at Kettering Cancer Care and Maple Tree not only cared for her body but also her mind and spirit. “It’s wonderful to be connected to people like that,” Sally says. “They gave me hope.”
Integrative medicine treats more than cancer
While cancer patients are undergoing medical treatments for the disease, they can also receive various therapies to help alleviate some of the side effects of treatment. Integrative medicine programs work to provide holistic care and meet patients’ needs for education, support, and ongoing guidance. Integrative medicine therapies have been shown to reduce the five big symptoms of cancer treatment: patient anxiety and stress go down, patients are less fatigued, they sleep better, nausea lessens, patients experience less depressive symptoms, and they feel more empowered to take ownership of their health and well-being.
Carrie Schilling, BSN, RN, LMT, and the lead for the integrative medicine program development at Kettering Cancer Care, explains, “If someone goes to a massage therapist on their own during cancer treatment, that is complementary medicine, but not integrated. With integrated medicine, we can work as part of the health care team, communicate in the same chart, and participate in the care plan to offer more comprehensive and specific treatment to the patient.”
Depending on which study you look at, about half of the general population will utilize alternative therapies regularly; in oncology, anywhere from 60-90% of people use them. “With all of these practices,” Carrie says, “by decreasing the fight or flight response, we can increase the rest and digest response, and patients can manage symptoms and receive treatment with reduced or fewer side effects.”
Integrative medicine services at Kettering Cancer Care include:
- Art therapy
- Exercise therapy
- Heartfulness meditation
- Guided imagery
- Client-centered imagery
- Massage therapy
- Urban Zen practitioners
Renew Boutique and Spa offers wellness and relaxations items, as well as other specialty items and services designed for cancer patients. To learn more, visit www.ketteringhealth.org/renew
Kettering Cancer Care’s whole–person approach will meet your needs not only for treatment, but also for education, support, and ongoing guidance.
To find out more, visit us online at ketteringhealth.org/cancercare or call: 1-855-500-CURE