Lisa Rowe – Oncology Massage

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Lisa Rowe, a registered nurse, is also a remedial massage therapist who specialises in oncology massage – which has proven to give much needed relief to patients.


Tell us about your family and what brought you to Armidale?

My husband, David, and two boys, Ben and Tom, moved to Armidale in 2007. We had visited Armidale previously to see friends and just fell in love with the climate, the town and the surrounding countryside. David’s an anaesthetist and was offered work in Armidale Hospital, which made the transition much easier.

Describe the types of massage you do?

I am a remedial massage therapist who now specialises in Oncology Massage (OM), Palliative Care Massage, Medical Massage, Complex Lymphoedema Management (drainage, bandaging, education) and Pregnancy Massage (pre-conception, anti natal and post natal). These are times in a person’s life when great demands are placed on them, physically, mentally, spiritually.

For these people, skilled therapeutic touch can make a world of difference to their outcomes. OM techniques can also help people experiencing problems due to cancer treatment such as scar formation, decreased range of movement in the shoulder girdle and Lymphoedema. Management of Lymphoedema is a complex issue, and the training I have received in this field has been extensive and developed throughout the years. My most recent training was last year at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and was made available to me in my capacity as a Registered Nurse.

What is your proudest moment?  

Completing the final module of my OM training at the Austin public hospital in Victoria. The training took place over four years. At present, there are only 35 OM therapists trained to this level in Australia and New Zealand. I felt very privileged to be selected for this inaugural program and witness first hand (Olivia Newton John Wellness Centre) how evidence based complimentary therapy can be integrated with mainstream and advanced Oncology treatments to provide the best possible outcomes for patients. Oncology massage has been available in the world’s leading cancer hospitals for some years. Oncologists, medical staff and nurses prescribe OM as a regular inclusion in a patient’s treatment protocol, with wonderful outcomes.

What are your qualifications?

Registered Nurse (almost 25 years), Beautician, Remedial Massage Therapist, Aromatherapy Massage, Oncology Massage Therapist, Lymphoedema Therapist CLT, trained in care of the post mastectomy patient (scarring, cording), postgraduate training in pregnancy massage (active birth preparation, physical therapy, relaxation, visualisation and breathing techniques), Certificate chronic disease management, Certificate palliative care nature of pain and suffering.

What are the benefits of your treatments? 

Oncology Massage is an approach to massage therapy based on both compassion and specialised massage treatments, to help people manage their experience with cancer.  Review of scientific literature indicates OM helps improve quality of life. Benefits include: improved relaxation, sleep, and immune function, as well as relieving anxiety, pain, fatigue and nausea. Oncology physicians are realising the positive results massage may have on their patients physically, emotionally, and mentally while suffering from cancer symptoms and the various effects from the aggressive cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

On the basis of these reviews, large cancer centres abroad and now the Austin and Sydney Adventist Hospitals are integrating OM therapy into conventional settings. OM therapists are trained to meet people where they are in their experience with cancer and apply a highly individualised massage treatment to comfort, nurture, and support them in their process. Treatments are modified according to the full spectrum of cancer-related issues: physical, psycho-social, and emotional consequences of cancer.

Pregnancy Massage: current research is proving that prenatal massage therapy can be an instrumental ingredient in women’s prenatal care. Studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can greatly improve labour outcomes and newborn health, that stress hormone levels are reduced and feel good hormones are increased.

Specialised massage techniques can help with oedema associated with pregnancy, improve nerve pain, reduce back and joint pain, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve quality of sleep. Although most massage training institutions teach massage therapy for women who are pregnant, it is best to find a massage therapist who is certified in prenatal massage.

A pregnancy massage session is highly individual and adapted to each stage of a woman’s pregnancy and will address both the physical and the emotional needs that arise throughout pregnancy. I like to incorporate appropriate and safe essential oils, visualisation and hypno-birthing techniques. I also provide education resources on active birthing (birth international); this includes breathing techniques, feather distraction technique, positioning throughout labour, various handouts and information from beyond blue.

DVDs are available for partners to watch on how they can help throughout labour, and I have a wonderful library of resource books for clients to borrow. It gives me great joy to accompany a woman through her pregnancy journey, and I provide complimentary treatments along the way, such as a mini aroma facial and a foot treatment. Women receive the Bounty ‘Mother to be Bag’ and a wonderful Organic ‘Bao Bag’ filled with organic samples. When mums return after baby is born, they receive the ‘new mother’s’ bounty bag. The post-partum massage may also incorporate lymphatic work to help with painful breasts.

Plans for the future?

2013 is another big year in education for me. I am attending a course on Oncology Massage of the post-operative Oncology patient in Sydney, an advanced skills course for Oncology Massage in Qld, a Pregnancy Massage practitioner’s course in Sydney and completing a course in pre and postnatal assessment for risk of depression. I will be continuing my ongoing education in palliative care, both paediatric and adult.

I am dedicated and passionate about my work, and I can honestly say I have discovered my life’s purpose. The skills I have acquired throughout my nursing career now complement the work I do in my clinic. In the future, I would love to be able to offer my treatments through the public health system, as this is not a new concept; perhaps that day may eventually come. I know that what I do makes a real difference on so many levels and that treatments should be available to everyone who needs them.

Thanks Lisa.

This article can be found in issue 71 of New England Focus


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