This year, the beautiful Seaham Hall, famed for its connection with Lord Byron, made the decision to train its spa therapists in cancer touch therapies.
The spa industry in the UK has a chequered past when it comes to supporting people with or recovering from cancer, but as training and products improve, Seaham Hall organised for seven of their highly experienced therapists, including their spa director, to do the Made for Life by Spiezia Organics Cancer Touch Therapy training course.
The course was put together by Amanda Barlow at Spiezia, using 15 years of her own experience delivering holistic treatments to cancer patients, alongside oncologists, surgeons and MacMillan Cancer Support. Seaham Hall’s Spa Director Davina Hassell said: “seven of us did it and it was an amazing training course. Our trainer, Mark, had been a paramedic for 25 years, so he had medical and holistic knowledge as well.”
“What we learned is not to be scared of cancer when we’re treating a client,” she said. “Massage cannot spread cancer, that’s been proven, and if you go to a hospice there’s often a therapist around. You have to know what you’re doing and what you’re talking about, and a lot of it’s about being mindful of other underlying medical issues as well. We can treat any patient at any stage of cancer, whether they’re in remission or going through treatment. If they’ve just come out of surgery we follow the normal guidelines which means we usually wait about three months before offering spa treatments, and a lot of it is having a little common sense.
“It’s about human touch”
“It’s about human touch, that’s why we call it ‘cancer touch therapy’.” What the course highlights is not just the power of spa treatments, but the power of touch as a whole. “A lot of cancer patients aren’t touched by their loved ones enough because they’re scared of hurting them, and that’s the basis for a lot of the miscommunication in the spa industry historically” says Davina.
Everything during cancer treatment is very ‘medical’ and clinical, so the spa experience provides a different therapy - it’s human. At Seaham Hall they offer 35, 60 or 90 minute treatments depending on what a client can manage. Each patient has their own unique medical history just like any other client, so the spa sends out a consultation form before they arrive to get an understanding of what’s needed.
When Seaham Hall launched their Cancer Touch treatments they welcomed 20 patients with terminal cancer from their hospice to try the therapies and each had something positive to say about the experience. Davina says: “the training really connects the therapists, everybody knows somebody who has had cancer or who has been touched by it and there were a lot of tears. It’s so important that our therapists feel confident and qualified however because we get at least one or two patients a day visiting us with or recovering from cancer, and that’s just the ones who declare it.”
“The training really connects the therapists, everybody knows somebody who has had cancer”
She continued: “the day after we finished our training we had a hotel guest come in with a scarf on her head. I asked if she had treatments booked and I said ‘no, what’s the point? They [meaning spas] keep turning me away’. Understandably, she was quite defensive at the beginning, but I explained the training we had done and I said could I book her and her daughter in for a treatment, at which point she burst into tears and said ‘no one has ever done that for me before!’
This particular lady has stage four brain tumours and after her treatment she said: “I forgot I had cancer for 45 minutes during that treatment.” I invited her to our launch and I gave her another treatment, she’s since come back and had a 60 minute treatment. We’ve had amazing feedback; it’s all about opening doors and making sure we’re doing the right things from the way we talk about treatments to the way we deliver them. It’s so important.”
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