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"A LITTLE RELIEF"
Day spa at St. Vincent's caters to cancer patients ready for some pampering By RACHEL DAVIS -- The Times-Union
The scents of frankincense and myrrh fill the tiny office space as Falli Shah and her assistant prepare the room for its next client. Trudy Lockwood is waiting out front with a throbbing sinus headache and the zapped energy of a pre-school teacher.
It was stress, too, that brought Lockwood to this particular day spa - on the second floor of St. Vincent's Medical Center cancer center - for the first time earlier this year. She was receiving radiation treatments for early-stage breast cancer and needed solace and pampering from someone who understood.
The Seventh Wonder Day Spa opened its doors in July, with the aim of catering to cancer patients through traditional spa treatments such as facials and massages, as well as alternative therapies for patients with specific needs.
"We wanted to provide a soothing and healing environment for our cancer patients," said Cynthia Farah, director of St. Vincent's Cancer Services and its Walk of Hope.
"It's geared toward the cancer patient and the emotional aspect of care," she said of the Walk of Hope.
The Walk of Hope is, quite literally, a hallway that connects the radiation oncology department with the DePaul Medical Building. Various shops that help educate cancer patients about their medical conditions or alleviate their physical ailments line the walkway. One boutique offers wigs and prosthetics for post- surgery cancer patients. The American Cancer Society has a satellite office, which provides support and referral services for families. The day spa offers a reprieve from the stress of it all.
Lockwood is in today for a chakra balancing treatment, which is much like a massage, only the masseuse - in this case Shah - never lays a hand on her patient. The ancient Eastern therapy can be helpful to patients who cannot withstand a more traditional massage but need the stress-relieving benefits, Shah said.
She sweeps her hands over Lockwood's body, which she says helps remove negative energy and thought. She dusts the negativity near a bowl filled with salt water, which she likens to her garbage can.
"The first time I did it, I didn't know what to expect," Lockwood said of her the treatment. "I was laying there, and all of a sudden I felt like a flower unfolding. I always feel like it's very relaxing in my back muscles."
Shah's approach to spa therapy was a good fit for the Walk of Hope, Farah said, because St. Vincent's is a faith-based hospital and some of the treatments are less invasive than more traditional therapies. In addition to chakra balancing, the spa also offers eyebrow threading, aqua-chi and Shirodhara forehead treatment for stress relief.
Lockwood, who lost a mother to ovarian cancer and an aunt to breast cancer, learned earlier this year that she carries the gene for both, and doctors told her that gives her a 45 percent chance of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer and gave her an 85 percent chance for breast cancer.
It wasn't a risk she was willing to take with a husband and two young children. In June, she had a hysterectomy. In December, she's scheduled for a double mastectomy.
The day spa treatments help Lockwood to clear her mind before the surgeries, and to heal after them.
"When I come here and we breathe out the negativity, I'm in a much more positive place when I leave," she said.
Published Monday, October 1, 2007
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