February 16, 2011

In cancer fight, reiki is a weapon of peace

Donna Nichols, left, and Constance Price, right, work together during a reiki session on cancer patients such as Judy Newcomb, foreground, and Melinda Walsh, at Parkland Center for Oncology & Hematology.
Union Leader Correspondent
Donna Nichols works with client Judy Newcomb.

DERRY -- Melinda Walsh is weightless under a cotton sheet, the only thing separating her from the healing hands of reiki master Constance Price. She has left her cares at the door.
Price dims the lights. Hollow woodwind melodies circulating from a CD player are the only sound, except for Price’s voice, whispering instructions close to Walsh’s ear.
“I want you to take three deep, cleansing breaths. 
First, start with a long, slow inhale. Let it fill your 
belly, your heart space. Let it move up past each rib as it fills your chest. Now let it out, emptying your lungs as completely as you can," Price says.
Five months have passed since Walsh completed medical treatment for the aggressive breast cancer that invaded her system in August of 2009, throwing everything in her world out of whack. 
Drugs have killed the cancer. Reiki has restored the balance, Walsh says. 
Her children were her motivation for making a full recovery, for taking her toxic medicine 

faithfully, for marching forward in the face of
Reiki involves using the hands to channe
l and redirect a patient's
Melinda Walsh receives a reiki treatment
 from Constance Price.
 a disease that prefers we retreat. 
The reiki was the thing that lightened her load, that made the journey bearable. 
“Mentally, I always knew I’d survive — I had a great deal of support from family and coworkers. But physically, it was hard. The reiki balances you at a time when you need balance the most.” 
Price slowly, silently circulates around Walsh’s prone body, reclined in an easy chair in one of the treatment rooms at the Parkland Center for Oncology and Hematology.

She lays hands on Walsh, both of them eyes closed and in the moment, calling on the energy from Walsh’s body to circulate, redistribute, in a swirl of internal yin and yang, channeled by the strategic placement of Price’s palms. 
She gently presses them across the top of Walsh’s head, then on to her forehead, gently massaging the energy centers or “chakras” before moving them down toward her neck, over her heart, along her legs, past her solar plexus, settling on her feet, and then back up toward her head. 
One chair over Judy Newcomb, also a cancer survivor, is going through similar static motions with Walsh’s associate, reiki practitioner Donna Nichols. Like Walsh, Newcomb has completed treatment for cancer — Hodgkin’s lymphoma, diagnosed in January 2010. Through it all, there was reiki, said Nichols. 
“I knew the cancer was curable. But I wanted to do everything possible. This was offered through the clinic, and so even though I knew nothing about reiki, I wanted to try it,” said Newcomb. 
After her first session, Newcomb had an epiphany. 
“I am one of those people who has never been able to relax. I honestly did not know the meaning of the word. But with the cancer treatment, especially, I was having all these invasive thoughts. Reiki allowed me to physically and mentally relax. It brings me energy — and peace,” Newcomb says. 
Nichols and Price have been offering reiki services free of charge to cancer patients through Parkland’s cancer treatment center for about five years. 
“It’s a complementary therapy — we never call it alternative therapy. Reiki simply softens the edge while a patient is going through treatment,” Price said. 
Added Nichols, “It’s a place to find respite and balance in the midst of a cancer journey, where they can be quiet enough to hear their own mind, body and spirit.” 
While reiki — the combination of two Japanese works, rei and ki, which loosely translates to “universal life energy” — has roots in ancient healing arts, Nichols and Price emphasize that it is just one of several therapy trends currently embraced by cancer centers, along with meditation, message therapy, guided imagery and herbal teas. 
Reiki is even listed on the American Cancer Society official website as a recognized “complementary therapy” for relief of symptoms related not only to the disease but side effects of treatment. 
For the purpose of yesterday’s reiki workshop, Price and Nichols worked together but separately. They treated two patients at a time, all there to receive individualized reiki treatments in synchronized succession of motions meant to move invisible forces of negativity, from crown to sole, that might otherwise clog the ebb and flow of a patient’s energy, or “chi.” Because of their positive experiences, both Walsh and Newcomb have taken some reiki training classes, eager to share the same gift of balance and relaxation with their friends and families that helped them through their darkest times. 
“I had a reiki session one day before a scheduled CAT scan to see if the tumor was still there. If so, that meant I’d need to start radiation. I was trying to be brave about it all, holding it in like some kind of warrior. I sat back in the chair, and Donna says softly, ‘Let go of everything that doesn’t serve you. Let go of whatever you don’t want to carry with you.’ And at that moment, the tears just started to flow from my eyes,” Newcomb said. 
“Then Donna asked me what I was thinking, and I told her I was feeling so scared about the test. The outcome was going to determine the next three or four months of my life. All along I thought I was worried, but because of the reiki I was able to express my fear instead of keeping it bottled up inside. As it turned out, the next day my CAT scan showed that the tumor was completely gone,” Newcomb said. 
“All along I kept a positive attitude. I knew I’d be cured. And while I didn’t know what the journey would look like, reiki has helped me discover a way of relaxing that I never knew was possible,” Newcomb said. “It’s been life-changing.” 

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