Being diagnosed with cancer is like waking up and finding yourself on one of the scariest roller coasters you can imagine. From the minute the word is spoken, your entire world changes. You are shot out of the starting gate, barely strapped in, and this colossal hill looms in front of you. You are tossed about as you speed through twists and turns, and if you are lucky enough to have someone sitting next to you, you grab on tight.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2021. The first few months were a blur of doctors’ appointments, difficult conversations, and sleepless nights. Trying to manage my life on top of cancer became extremely stressful, and to be honest, there were moments when I felt like the roller coaster was about to crash. Then a colleague texted my husband and told him about The Hand to Heart Project. This small gesture made a huge change in the trajectory of my cancer journey.
In the worst moments of cancer your body hurts, you feel sick, you feel alone, and you feel like you have lost a part of yourself. But then came Hand to Heart. It is amazing what an hour of massage will do to change your perspective. For me, the project came late in my chemo treatment. I was nearing the end, but that meant I was experiencing severe side effects. The very first time I had a massage my nausea vanished within the first ten minutes of being on the table. It was incredible, it simply stopped, and for the first time in months I felt my entire body relax. I was almost in tears when the hour was up, not because it hurt, but because I felt a bit like my old self again.
Since that first visit, Hand to Heart has been with me every step of my journey. It goes far beyond a simple massage. It is compassion and kindness at a time when I need it most. It is anticipating my need before I go into surgery, or when I find out that things didn’t go as planned. It is the understanding that I carry stress because I’m scared, and the empathy to talk me through it. It is the concern to meet me where I’m at, to ask questions, and to remember.
The hour I spend with the Hand to Heart therapist is one hour of my day when I can let go, when I can put myself literally in someone else’s hands. It is the hour when I feel like the roller coaster slows down and I can stop and examine my surroundings. It gives me a sense of peace during a time in my life when I struggle to find it anywhere else, and for that I am eternally grateful.
-Lanni A. Luce West