Dedicated to All Warriors
Whenever we are talking about the services that we offer at our spa in Westborough, we list them all verbatim and we typically list our oncology services last. There is always a very noticeable shift in energy when we say it. People are always curious as to what is involved with working with a client that is either going through cancer treatments or have survived this insidious disease.
There is no doubt that one of the most rewarding aspects of our careers as estheticians is to make people feel good. That encompasses a lot. Some people feel good because you made them look so great. Others feel good because you have helped them de-stress. Some people feel good because you have empowered them with education. But I needed more. I needed to give back in a bigger way. That was part of my decision for signing up for a life-changing oncology esthetics class last year. When I say "life-changing", I mean mine, as well as others.
I started my class on Sunday, February 8 during a horrific Nor'easter blizzard that made me think twice about driving 40 miles. It was also my mother's 83rd birthday. Normally I would not include that kind of personal information in a blog but on February 4th she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. The irony was not lost on me that February 4th also just happens to be World Cancer Day. As much as I wanted to be home snuggled underneath a down comforter and not driving that day, it simply just was not an option for me. My desire to arm myself with this information was just not professional......now it was personal. I soldiered on and could not be happier that I did.
During this certification class we learned about all of the different types of cancers, various methods of conventional treatment (none of which are at all pleasant), the effects on the body and especially the skin, the psychological effects on the person, the contraindications of what we are allowed to do and lots and lots and lots of additional information. LOTS. We discussed some dizzying and sobering statistics that made me take stock of things on a personal level. One of the most eye opening parts of the class for me was talking about ingredients that have no business being in our skin care products. Meredith and I were well versed in this information when we chose the skin care and makeup lines for our spa. It also raised my awareness on a professional level regarding certain chemical that we need to use for cleaning and disinfecting in our industry. Like I said before......life changing.
When a person hears "the Big C" diagnosis, their whole life changes. To those around them, it is often what defines them. That is how they are identified. It is all-pervasive. Many well-meaning people just don't know what to do or say. For the person with the diagnosis, touch becomes a much different thing. Some fear hugging the person as they may hurt them or touch them in the wrong place. Touch is now often painful for them in the form of needles for biopsies, other tests or treatments. They need a feel-good touch. This is one of the things we are so humbled and proud to offer them. We want them to be a person coming in for a relaxing treatment just like everyone else. A brief respite from their every day lives to be a spa client and not a patient.
One of the things that was important to us was to have a line of products that had no added fragrance. One of the unfortunate side effects from chemotherapy is that the person can often not tolerate any odors whatsoever. They can be chronically nauseous making an odors unpleasant for them. Our solution is the ZeroFragrance line from Previse. While anyone with sensitivity can use it, the absence of additional fragrance makes it a perfect fit for those that cannot handle it.
During our consultation and intake we inquire about what, if any, surgeries have taken place. We further inquire about the the possible removal of any lymph nodes. Once any lymph nodes are removed, it effects the natural flow of lymph. Think of this system as your waste removal factory. It plays a major role in our healthy immunity. The other side effect is lymphodema or a swelling of the area as a result of the nodes having to pick up the slack of the missing ones. Knowing this information is how we decide how we can actually massage the area and in what direction.
While having heat added in a typical spa treatment feels wonderful and makes you not want to leave us, it is not always the best choice for someone going through certain oncology treatments. Radiation treatments utilize high energy particles or rays to target and destroy cancer cells. When we are talking high energy we are talking heat. Applying more heat while they are going through this would be a big no-no.
So now I had all of this education in this fascinating niche of my much loved industry but I had no place to practice it professionally. Unfortunately I could practice it on my mother as she gave it all she had to get through her first round of treatment - chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before a planned surgery and then following up with radiation. Sadly she only made it halfway through her chemotherapy and could just no longer fight. On hospice, unconscious and with only hours before she left this world for a better one, I gave her the last treatment. I have never been so honored to put my hands on someone and give her the dignity she so deserved .
Since then we have opened up this beautiful boutique spa in our beloved town of Westborough. One of my driving forces was to be able to finally offer this service to those that want it. To give them that special treatment. To make them feel good in a sea of of uncertainty. To allow them the gift of talking about anything they want to. Or not talk at all. Also since then, I had 2 friends with the Big C diagnosis and I promised both of them a treatment when we opened the spa. Tragically both of these gorgeous and vibrant women lost their courageous fight before that could happen.
So it is with the humbled thoughts of those that have fought this demon force of cancer that I offer this much needed service with a big heap of gratitude and love. Whether they are warrior survivors or only with us through our cherished memories.
With a Smile in my Heart,
The journey is the fun part. Thanks for being part of mine