WHEN Donna Laidlaw was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago she was told by her consultant that she would have to stop having massages for fear of spreading the malignant cells throughout her body.
But now the 41-year-old, from Liberton, can enjoy regular massages at the hands of therapists at the Bannatyne Health Club and Spa in Newcraighall and Queen Street after they underwent specialist training.
Therapists received training from tpot (The Power of Touch), a cancer-focused organisation for the spa industry, to give them an insight into what clients with the illness may be going through, both physically and emotionally.
Megan Christie, 23, loves her job as massage therapist and spa manager at Newcraighall and she is keen to spread the word that it is safe for people undergoing cancer treatment to enjoy the benefits of massage.
She said: “At college you’re taught that you’re not allowed to treat anyone that’s got cancer, so it was interesting to find out that it’s not true at all.”
Instead, using the new techniques, Megan works with her clients living with and in remission from cancer to tailor her treatments.
She said: “Each person is different. If someone’s had chemotherapy and has bad bruising, or burns from radiotherapy we can work around them.
“It’s nice to know we can help people who want a treatment, or who wants to speak to someone. I’m confident that I could help someone.”
Megan plans to study the technique further so she can offer respite in hospitals and hospices, for clients who are too sick to come to her.
For Donna, being able to have massages has made her feel “human again”.
After chemotherapy, lumpectomies and radiotherapy she felt disconnected from her body. Now five years in remission, Donna lives with chronic back pain and takes medication which mimics menopausal symptoms.
She said: “The therapies make me feel like me again. It was one of the luxuries I used to enjoy but didn’t do it during treatment because I thought it could do me harm.
“You try to be jovial about it all and get through it for family and friends but inside I was struggling and massage would have allowed me time to myself to just feel normal again.”
Donna says she has “built a bond” with Megan who she trusts completely. She said: “It’s harder sometimes to speak to your family whereas you can come in and you’re in relaxing surroundings and you can just enjoy it. You don’t have to worry about how you’re feeling.
“Megan knows what I’m happy to have done and that I bruise easily and that sometimes I have to lie down a certain way.”
The benefits for Donna have been huge. Not only does she feel relaxed during and after the massage, she sleeps better and feels less pain.
She said: “I try to do it as often as I can because the treatment kind of knocks your confidence. You think once you’ve left hospital everything’s ok but it’s not quite that simple.
“Emotionally, it was harder after treatment more than during because that’s when the realisation kicked in.
“But coming for massages makes such a difference. It’s just such an enjoyment.”