The Outer Banks Hospital (TOBH) consistently works to enhance its cancer services. With the addition of a new radiation therapy center, a full-time resident oncologist, and an advanced practice provider, care for our cancer patients has never been better. 
 
A cancer diagnosis can be traumatic, but the treatment can be even more so. Some of the side effects include loss of energy/exhaustion, bruising and bleeding, nausea, diarrhea, hair loss, and weight gain/loss.
 
To help cancer patients with these and other side effects, TOBH has a new volunteer program called Healing Touch. Donna Cahill, MSN, RN-BC, ACHPN, CHTP/I, a retired nurse of 47 years who relocated to the Outer Banks from California, is spearheading the program. 

“It’s a relaxing, nurturing energy therapy, and it incorporates complementary holistic approaches to traditional medical care,” describes Cahill. “It uses a gentle, heart-centered touch to assist with balancing physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.” 

Based on a nursing curriculum, Healing Touch therapy offers many benefits. These include calming anxiety, decreasing pain, strengthening the immune system, enhancing recovery from surgery, providing complementary care for neck and back issues, deepening spiritual connection, creating a sense of well-being, and easing acute and chronic conditions. In addition, research demonstrates a decrease in PTSD and depression among military veterans.  

The nurse or oncologist discusses Healing Touch with the patient and caregiver during their initial consult so the patient can decide whether to include it with his or her treatment. 

“It’s a relaxing, nurturing energy therapy, and it incorporates complementary holistic approaches to traditional medical care."

Donna Cahill

The therapy can last anywhere from five minutes to an hour. “I want all of my patients to experience an ‘internal mini vacation,’” expresses Cahill. She tells a story about a patient who became extremely anxious (to the point of getting sick) when she was administered the pre-meds prior to cancer treatment. Cahill held the patient’s hands throughout her treatment session and the patient did not get sick, nor did she realize when the treatment was finished. The patient told Cahill that Healing Touch gave her hope that she could continue with her treatments.

Eric Wilson also experiences the benefits of Healing Touch when receiving chemotherapy with soothing music and Cahill’s gentle touch. “The drugs give me a horrible taste in my mouth, and during Healing Touch, the taste goes away, which gives me a little escape,” says Wilson. “I actually feel normal.” He has nothing but positive feedback for the program.  

Cahill also provides classes that teach other health care workers and/or caregivers how to incorporate the techniques at home or with other patients. 

TOBH currently has three volunteers performing Healing Touch. To learn more, contact Kelly Divita, manager of Volunteer Services, at 252-449-5668.

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