The Power of Touch as Part of your Cancer Recovery Plan

by: Rachel Richards

Positive, nurturing touch is fundamentally essential in order to thrive. Babies cannot survive without being held and stroked. When premature infants are massaged, they gain weight and leave the hospital sooner than those who are not massaged. Negative effects of touch depravation continue throughout our lives. As adults, we can experience depression, anxiety disorders, and low self-esteem.

So why do we live in a touch-deprived society? Our overscheduled, technological lives have left little room for nurturing touch. Tack on a pandemic, and we’re not getting so much as a quick squeeze or pat on the back.

Where does this leave people who are battling cancer? Treatments can be invasive and painful, which makes nurturing touch even more crucial. Massage therapy offers a wealth of health benefits and is a wonderful way to add positive touch to our lives. But it’s not the only source of touch. If we want to be healthy, happy, and fully functional beings, then we need to be hugged, held, squeezed on the shoulder, and taken by the hand on a daily basis. We need to massage and cuddle our children. We need to touch and be touched by our loved ones.

This might be easier said than done if cancer has you feeling negatively about your body, or fearful of touch. But touch that is therapeutic and nurturing helps us know, accept, and take pleasure in our own bodies. The brain stores a map of the body. If illness has us feeling disconnected from our bodies, the brain’s map can lead us astray, resulting in distorted body image. Nurturing touch teaches the brain to accurately process sensory and motor input, thereby reconnecting the mind and body.

It may take some effort, but let’s find ways to bring positive touch back into our lives. Connect with family and friends, get massaged regularly and, if you find yourself alone and in need, just follow along with one of my many self-massage videos. You might be surprised to learn that you have the power of touch in your own hands!