Oncology Massage Alliance

week 43:  this week i'm gonna... ease the pain of cancer

In previous years, a trip to the spa had been a welcome treat at the end of a long week for Shelly Bain. That all changed in 2014 when she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.

left to right: Shelly Bain and Geri Ruane  (photo courtesy of Geri Ruane)

left to right: Shelly Bain and Geri Ruane (photo courtesy of Geri Ruane)

Says the 40-year-old Texan, "I was someone who had gone for massages all throughout my life, but when I went for a facial in between my diagnosis and chemo, the specialist was afraid to work on me.” 

The fear of spreading the cancer or harming the client with massage is not unusual, but it is unfounded. In fact, massage can help to alleviate a host of problems associated with cancer, including nausea, swelling, sleeplessness, anxiety, and pain (to name a few).

Four months later, after a double mastectomy, chemo, and radiation had taken their toll, Shelly realized she was exhausted - both mentally and physically. She thought a massage might help rejuvenate her body and spirit, and she came across the services of Geri Ruane. Geri runs an Austin-based practice, Two Roads Massage Therapy, that specializes in treating former and current cancer patients, and she also donates her services through The Oncology Massage Alliance.

The four founding women of Oncology Massage Alliance (left to right): Wendy Kamasaki, Colleen Ryan, Gail Bailey, and Geri Ruane

The four founding women of Oncology Massage Alliance (left to right): Wendy Kamasaki, Colleen Ryan, Gail Bailey, and Geri Ruane


On the very first visit, Shelly noticed a difference; Geri was able to help drain fluid in her arm and regain movement without pain. Geri also gave her a few at-home tips for sleeping and positioning, a self-guided DVD for draining, and the assurance that this was a surmountable obstacle. 


The Oncology Massage Alliance (OMA) was created by four therapists in May 2011 and is dedicated to reducing stress, promoting healing, providing emotional support, and improving quality of life for cancer patients through oncology massage therapy. 

OMA provides no-cost hand and foot massages to anyone undergoing cancer treatment while in the chemotherapy infusion centers and radiation areas of doctor offices and hospitals. Since inception, OMA therapists have touched over 6,000 patients, caregivers and medical staff. 

Oncology massage therapy is specific to a person living with cancer or who has had a history of cancer. This comfort-oriented massage is tailored for each individual, from those in active treatment to those in recovery or survivorship, as well as for those at end of life. A properly trained oncology massage therapist can safely provide comfort, stress reduction, and relaxation at any stage of a cancer journey.

While the physical rewards of oncology massage were obvious almost immediately for Shelly, she gradually discovered that an inner healing was also occurring. 

“Once you relax, you can get away from some of the scary places in your head - even if it’s just for an hour,” she says.

An OMA patient receiving services

An OMA patient receiving services

In fact, Geri encounters many patients like Shelly, who are grappling with disease and, at the same time, coming to terms with their own mortality and physical limitations.

Says Geri, “There are those who have talked to me, who’ve cried, slept, snored or shared stories. They are just so appreciative of a compassionate touch from someone who understands. I think each person goes through it separately, feeling very much alone, and everyone has their own stories.” 

Notes for this week:

  • This week is National Massage Therapy Awareness Week, and October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor approximately nine oncology massages for patients undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment.
  • OMA is always looking for licensed massage therapists to volunteer their services.  If you are interested in helping, please click here.
  • For more information regarding Oncology Massage Alliance, please check out their website.

this week i'm gonna donate to Oncology Massage Alliance.

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