Episode 1 – Bringing Therapeutic Massage to Hospitals: Insights from Healwell with Cal Cates
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ABOUT THIS EPISODE:
In this episode of Collaborative Connections, S4OM’s President Ericka Clinton sits down with the founder of Healwell, Cal Cates, to unravel the fascinating origins of this groundbreaking organization. Cal shares thier journey on how they stumbled upon the world of massage therapy and found their true calling in working with people living with serious illnesses. Tune in to discover the inspiring story behind Healwell and how it has made a profound impact on the lives of patients and caregivers alike.
Cal is the founder and Executive Director of Healwell. Healwell’s mission is to teach, touch, and advocate. Healwell teaches massage therapists to work with people affected by serious illness, they partner in research to explore the value of that integration and they advocate for the role of specially trained massage therapists in the setting of serious illness. Cal was also lucky enough to be one of the founding directors of S4OM and they are DEEPLY honored to be among the first guests of this amazing podcast!
In this episode, Ericka and Cal discuss:
- The story of Healwell and bringing massage therapy to hospitals
- The benefits of therapeutic massage for patient living with serious illness
- The importance of collaboration among massage therapists, healthcare professionals, and researchers
- The challenges and barriers in advocating for and implementing massage therapy in healthcare
- The need for ongoing research and evidence-based practice in massage therapy
More About Cal Cates and Healwell
To learn more about Healwell head over to https://www.healwell.org
Hi Cal. Thank you for joining me today. How are you? I’m ecstatic. Um, it’s, I mean, I’m always thrilled when I get to talk with you and to be a part of this flagship amazing effort from S4OM is I, it’s like, it’s a thing that, what has it been like 14 or some years? Like, I never would’ve imagined that this would be happening.
Isn’t it crazy how long it’s been? It’s crazy. Oh my gosh. It’s just like, wait, where did the time go? Where did the time go? . But we’re really excited to have you for this first episode of Collaborative Connections. and I think we should just start off by getting to know a little bit about you and the organization that you founded called Healwell.
So first question. , why did you become a massage therapist? . Oh, I was like, this is gonna be good. Well, this’ll either make people really like happier. They’ll be like, oh, because I, I feel like a lot of people have these great origin stories that have something to do with massage and, and mine doesn’t. I got a liberal arts degree.
College in Iowa and I lived in Washington DC and I was working for a public relations firm. And, one afternoon we got on our weekly Friday call and the woman who was running that organization, was, Embezzling from our partners, um, on a project I was working on. And, the company was like going away and so was she.
And so my job ended and I walked down the street and got a job as a bartender, which was something I had done in college. And at some point during my relatively brief Washington DC bartending career, I fell in with some folks who, I think this is what happened. I was in this. This women’s spoken word group.
And there, some of the women in this group were massage therapists, and I think that’s like what planted the seed of that even being a thing. And then my, my memory is that I just found myself in a massage school orientation and I was like, oh, huh. Okay. Like, I could do this, I think. And so I applied and the first day of massage school, I was like, oh, this might be why I’m on the planet like this.
I’ve never had a massage. The first massage I ever got was the one I had to get to apply to massage school. Like, wow. In your application it says like, if you’ve never had a massage, go get one and like write a little book report about it. And that was the, I mean, massage was not even on my radar. No one I knew got massages.
It wasn’t a thing. . Yeah. So like halfway through massage school, I was massaging my grandpa at the moment that he died. And that I think was really what like, sort of catapulted me into what has become now almost 18 years of working with people, living with serious illness and people at the end of life and just really doing that specific thing with massage therapy.
That’s amazing. That’s amazing. So, You finished massage school. Talk to us a little bit about Healwell, how did that come about? What kind of was the, I guess, the mission and vision and focus for that organization? Yeah. Well, I mean, I, I feel like, you know, someday if I ever write a book about all this, we’ll call it the Tumbl and Tumbleweed, because I, when I got outta massage school, I was like, I wanna work in a hospital, but I don’t have any idea how to do that or like what that looks like.
And there was a local massage, place that now I think they’ve been in business maybe 30 years, called the Teal Center. And they really, like their brand was specifically therapeutic. And I guess what I would say, like, Um, clinical massage and they had just recently been asked by the local hospital to, to actually to quote, set up a spa in the hospital.
And they were like, well, that’s not what we do, but we can, we can bring massage to the hospital. . So the hospital had this sort of like room, this section of the hospital where there were like three little treatment rooms and they were gonna, they said, you know, okay, well you guys come in and this can be.
Your shop. So it had never occurred to the hospital that this would be a thing that would benefit patients. It was totally just like a branding thing. Like they were this new, they were reaming the hospital and kind of like giving it a whole new face. And so they wanted to have massage on campus and um, That was fine.
I mean, I can massage healthy people. They’re swell, but they’re not my favorites. And so, I started just going around the hospital with a massage chair and offering massage to the staff and just saying like, Hey, wouldn’t this be great for your patients? I didn’t know anything. Like, I did not know anything.
The weekend I graduated massage school, I had signed up to take, uh, a class with Tracy. who I think most people probably know Tracy. It’s weird to think that at some point there will be oncology massage therapists who don’t know Tracy Walton and Gail McDonald, but how is that gonna be possible? I know that day might come, I don’t wanna think about it.
but that weekend Tracy had a family thing that she was like a family emergency. And so Gail McDonald came and taught the course. It’s so funny because the whole class was like murmuring. Oh my gosh, it’s Gail McDonald. I’m like, who the hell’s Gail McDonald? I dunno who this person is. Um, and of course, obviously I was like, oh, once I found out, I’m like, whoops.
Um, Gail McDonald. My very first CE was doing oncology massage and just kind of, I was sort of bitten by the bug, and then I went out to Oregon Health Sciences and took Gail’s in-hospital class and just kind of took all of the classes I could take, and so here I am in this new hospital in Arlington, Virginia, like, Hey, wouldn’t this be great for your patients?
I’m like, I don’t know. I think it’s probably good for your patients. I mean, it’s not bad for your patients. I don’t know how we would do this, but slowly we started to get some buy-in. , I, I would say philosophical buy-in. It was very hard to get financial buy-in , but we noticed that as we got more interest, we didn’t have enough therapists with the right training to do this.
And so we were also being asked, Hey, like, show me the data. So we went to look at the data and we’re like, oh my God, this is terrible. Like this is really abysmal. Um, and so sort of Healwell was born, we went okay. So we need to like sort of bridge the gap between foundational massage training and what you need to make a value added contribution to people living with serious illness.
And we need to improve the quality of the research that exists so we can really say like, this is, this is better than nice to have. And we need to demonstrate that this is a thing worth paying for and that this can be a career path for massage therapists. So we, we said about doing those three easy things, right?
And, ta da in a week we had it nailed and, um, You know, it, it’s funny, you know, I’m kidding. Right, right. Um, listeners. I’m kidding. It’s, we’re still working on it and, um, heal, well Turned, we’ll turn 14, uh, in June of this year. Wow. yeah, it’s, it’s super fun because it’s, it’s really just like Healwell, we now.
we’ve moved, we started with oncology massage and now we’ve really gone broadly to palliative and sort of, showing up where serious illness is. So going into people’s homes, going into the community, following the trends of healthcare, hopefully pushing them where we can. But it’s a constant reeducation and plain old education of people that I never stop assuming that people will know more than they know , you know?
And when we, we talk to, you know, leaders in hospitals and they say, so masseuses. And, you know, and I mean, I’m past the place where I’m like, well, we’re a massage therapist. But I’m like, wow. So you’re telling me a lot about your understanding of massage, right? And so I know where to start here. And, so it’s always, you know, I feel like I’ve been sort of a, an, an advocate or an activist my whole life.
Like I wrote to the president about we need a national working horses day when I was like eight and, you know, all these different sorts of things. And I feel like. Oncology massage is another underdog that I feel particularly dedicated to supporting. Wow. Well, we thank you for all that you’re doing because it’s amazing and clearly you’ve given oncology massage such a push.
and the work that you guys are doing is amazing. So I wanna talk about some of the, the research that you guys have been doing or have participated in. I went on your website and I was like, What like, I’m just clicking on things. I was like, really? Yeah. Wow. so I picked out three of the studies that you mentioned.
There’s more. Okay. But I picked out three that I thought would be really interesting to hear about. Sure. Um, and the first one is the one that you guys did at the Children’s National Medical Center. . Whoa. I was like, peeds and massage. What? In a hospital? Come on. Yeah, it . It’s really interesting because we, this is another one of those weird, like Confluence events.
So, Dr. Shauna Jacobs, who has been a, a, Partner with Healwell since we started, was looking at a grant. She really wanted to bring massage therapy to her patients. She’s a, an oncologist and now a, a palliative specialist as well with peds. And she reached out to the Teal Center actually, and she said, Hey, like, I need some well-trained massage therapist to partner in this.
Study. And Brenda Teal, who was the founder of the Teal Center, said, well, funny you should ask, we like, sort of just founded, a nonprofit to create these therapists that you’re asking for. And this would actually be a great partnership to kind of get heal. Well, rolling. And so, um, I met with Dr. Jacobs, and she, it’s always so fun to meet.
Other healthcare providers who are as excited about massage as I am and as the other folks that we work with. And they always laugh at us when I’m like, oh, this is so great. And they’re like, what? What’s so great about it? I’m like, no, you don’t understand. Like , I don’t have to tell you the things. You get it.
You want it to be in place as badly as I do. And so, you know, when we’re, when you’re designing research, you, you wanna look at like, what are the problems that exist that we can demonstrate that we provide some level of solution to, but there’s also this real. Commitment to quantitative data, and, and I think we’ll talk about this if you’ve picked some of the other studies that I’m thinking of later.
Yeah. So, so we, we worked with EC Actigraphy, which is, you know, all the patients wear these little, um, like sort of wristwatch type things that measure sleep duration and quality. And our, our primary outcome was to see if massage therapy offered on a regular basis. I think it was three days in a row. I can’t even remember right now.
It was so long ago. But, did it improve sleep? Ultimately it, it was kind of a feasibility study at the same time, because what we found is that kids in the hospital don’t sleep. Like they’re just not, they’re just not very good at it. the hospital environment is not a great place to sleep. but we did find that it’s.
Beyond feasible to incorporate massage therapy in the hospitalization experience of kids affected by cancer. and we did show that pain and anxiety were reduced by, regular massage. And so we are currently partnering with, we are trying to partner with Children’s Hospital Philadelphia. We have applied for a grant with a massage therapy foundation to re.
In a multi-site approach, that same study, um, with a few more aims, but now we actually know how the Actographs work, which part of our problem was just, we’d never worked with Actigraphy before. So that was a challenge. so yeah, Dr. Jacobs of course, and then, uh, the team from Children’s and then the He Wellons, if we get funded for that study, um, it will be, We’ll be able to work with, the study is designed so that we can provide massage for kids the whole time They’re hospitalized for bone marrow transplant, so every day getting a massage and that’s, that will be huge if we can, if we can do that kind of work and really demonstrate that.
This is the impact we can make when we’re incorporated as a member of the healthcare team versus a volunteer or someone who comes in once or twice a week. Hardly any patients get more than one massage. that we can really say like, what, what does it look like for the discipline of massage therapy to be represented in serious illness care?
It’s amazing because not only are you doing what our profession has needed, Since you know God and Massage was young, as I like to say, , um, which is evidence-based research that shows that our impact is significant, and that we fit safely and accurately in the conventional medicine model. That we should absolutely be part of that dialogue and that treatment strategy for any patient dealing with a chronic illness, but also that what we do works.
That it’s safe. Yes. And that it’s easy to do. Like it’s not rocket science, like Nope. Getting, getting a bone marrow match. That’s rocket science. Exactly. . Right, right. Providing massage therapy in a hospital setting with a trained therapist is not hard. No. We just need the opportunities and the belief that we are adding something.
Necessary Yes. To, to whatever else is happening. So, yeah. Necessary and missing. Yes. I mean, I think that those are the two things that we’re really working to demonstrate that this is like, this is a gap in care and we, we can, we can address it and it’s a gap in care that sometimes leads to negative outcomes.
Definitely. Right? And yep. It feels like the allopathic world is willing to say, oh, these are the ways that we fail. And it’s like, well actually we could come. And help you not fail so much. Absolutely. . Yeah. Well, and the, and the allopathic, you know, so we’re always very careful at Hewell because I, I feel like in so many, in so many of our foundational massage training programs, there’s sort of a.
A demonization of mainstream care that is supported on varying levels. Right? And so you come out of massage school sort of like, ugh, you know, hospitals, doctors, raw, and it’s like, find me a doctor or a hospital who’s like, yep, we’re nailing it, right? Like mm-hmm . They’re not happy about it either. So, you know, to really like, recognize that this is missing and that the.
Perspective that drives healthcare for the most part, is problematic. And that part of that is this straight capitalist line of like, when we try to bring massage in, people say, well, show me. Show me where, where you’re, are you gonna be able to pay for yourselves? Almost never. But here are all the things I can prevent.
Here are all the things I can facilitate that, improve outcomes that probably save you money. But being able to look at those dynamics, and that’s some of the research that we’re working on designing right now. Looking at implementation, looking at how can I show you that I’m not gonna make you money, but trust me, this is a worthwhile investment.
Absolutely. And I think you’re very right in massage school. We’ve gotta stop telling that old story. I mean, it’s, it’s had its moment in time. Yeah, I get it. But it’s like we can’t walk around being angry at them because they don’t let us play in the sandbox. Exactly. Yeah. And then expecting them to be like, yes, come over here you angry, touch therapists.
You right. And, and prove it. you are dripping with compassion. Please un gritt your teeth and join us at this interdisciplinary rounds meeting. . Yes. No. So we, um, We, we have a lot to work to do on both ends. absolutely. But I, I think, I think the time is now. so the other study that I saw that looked very interesting and one of my, uh, fellow board members, Jill Cole mm-hmm.
who is embarking on doing some research as well, was like, ask Hal about the dosing study . Ask. Ask. Yeah, so we just, I, I’m so excited about this study because it, we actually finished, and this is, this is one of the things I want everyone to know. We finished collecting data for this study in 2019, and it just got published in January, 2023.
it took all of that time to sort of get the many partners together, crunch the data. Create a narrative that would explain what we saw, just how many steps are involved in that. And it was a very small grant that funded this study. So initially we had enrolled, uh, I think 407 patients in, in Washington, DC uh, a 900 bed.
Facility that serves most of the city. And, um, it was palliative eligible patients. So that was a whole conversation too, because they’re pretty much, if you’re in the hospital from the perspective of most palliative providers, you could benefit from palliative care. Um, because palliative care is not end of life care.
It’s. That looks like it sucks. I think we could make it better care. It’s, you know, you, are you having a hard time sleeping? Are you having pain management issues? Are you just struggling with being in the hospital? So it kind of broadened our net in terms of who we could enroll in the study. But the study also, the study demographics turned out to be majority black, which was great because we sort of, we know from the little bit of data that’s been collected about demographics that this is, the black population just is not well represented.
I mean in research generally, but definitely in massage research and that. When we look at the massage research research that exists, there’s often not even demographic information about socioeconomic or ethnic or racial background. So we had a lot of massage naive people, meaning people who had never had massage before.
And we were able to look at, what we really wanted to see was when I’m going to a hospital administrator and I’m saying, I want you to invest in massage therapy, mostly what they’re thinking is, okay, you want me to pay $150 for an hour? For a patient, A patient to get a massage, and we wanted to show that actually people who are in the hospital with serious illness, they don’t need an hour of massage.
In fact, it, it’s probably not even beneficial and that when you’re talking about putting a massage therapist, on staff, what we’re saying is that we’re pretty sure that that therapist could actually touch four or five people in an hour. With clinical benefit. And so we wanted to see is 20 minutes as good as 10 minutes?
And is a single visit as good as three days in a row? And the, the sort of long and short of the study is that, we had about 375 people, complete the study and that we had enough data to look at. And then when you look at the subsets, there’s lots of other numbery words we could talk about. But a lot of people were able to complete the study and it is to our knowledge, the.
inpatient massage therapy, dosing study, currently published, which is super exciting. and what we found was that 10 minutes, three days in a row is as good as 20 minutes, three days in a row. And that three days in a row is definitely better than a single 20 minute massage. So we’re leaning toward the world where we want massage therapists to be there every.
We want each patient to be getting a massage every day, just like they get PT or OT or speech therapy or these other types of adjunctive therapies that have been demonstrated to be essential. And the data that exists about massage doesn’t measure it like that. It’s one session. It’s a week’s worth of sessions.
It’s all of these things that really don’t translate into how do we implement this to change healthcare. So it’s sort of given us a guidepost and a couple of studies that we’re designing right now, we’re able to say, we just did this pretty large sample size study that shows that we have reason to believe that 10 minutes is pretty.
Particularly for people in the I C U for, particularly for people who’ve been in the hospital for 60 days. so that’s, it’s really fun to look at that and to actually like, go through the steps of, oh my gosh, like when we started enrolling patients, we thought, this is never gonna work. It’s too big. and it, and it worked.
So, you know, hats off to. Dr. Nikki Monk and her team at IU who really helped us with the data crunching aspect of that and writing the final paper and Dr. Hunter Groener and MedStar and just, I mean, it’s such a collaborative. If you talk, you wanna talk about collaborative connections. Research is definitely a place , where you’re not getting anywhere without collaborative connections.
Absolutely. And a team Yes. Of multi person, black, totally people. Yes. But amazing what you can come out with because it’s like you got information that was valuable about structuring treatments, about frequency of treatments and all of that allows a hospital to plan, to budget to really consider where the intervention is gonna have the most impact.
Absolutely. And so there’s like just so much great stuff that that came from, from this dosing study and. now. I know. I’m like star that go back and read. because it just sounds so interesting and it sounds like something that also lots of therapists could use to qualify. Definitely. Why the hospital they work for needs to hire more.
I mean, a big hospital in New York that I used to work for just decimated their massage. team Yeah. You know, and it’s like how. Are these folks gonna have any impact when they don’t have enough hands absolutely. To do the work that’s needed. Because you didn’t, you didn’t cut the patient population down.
Quite the opposite . Right, right. Exactly. Right. Well, and I think in addition to the, the sample size and the demographic representation in that study, the other thing that I think will be really valuable to therapists creating inroads and to the understanding for providers who aren’t familiar with it, is that we intentionally did not design a protocol in terms of what the treatment would look like.
We. Advocated for this is the care you get when a massage therapist who is trained to work with this population is able to work within the full scope of their discipline. So it’s not five minutes on the foot and then five minutes on the leg. And it’s like, how are you today? And tell me what you’re feeling like.
And you know, we measured pain, peacefulness, and , distress. And that was the other piece that was really interesting in terms of. When you look at peacefulness and pain in comparison, we had so many patients who, so we, we see them, we arrive in their room and you know, they, they fill out the tablet, we hand them the tablet and they indicate, you know, where’s their pain, where’s their peacefulness?
And so they’ll say, my pain is a seven. and it’s like one to 10, right? So peacefulness is like not at all peaceful, and 10 is like the most peaceful I can imagine. And same with pain. So they say, okay, my pain is a. My peacefulness is like a two. Like I’m not feeling peaceful and I’m having a lot of pain.
After 10 minutes of massage, their pain is still a seven, but their peacefulness is a six or a seven. And so this is the stuff that’s really exciting to me is that, first of all, we’re not in a fight with opioids. You know, and also that pain is a multifactorial experience. So if you just had your sternum cut because you had an open heart surgery, I, it doesn’t matter how good a massage therapist I am, I’m probably not gonna touch your actual pain.
But if I can make, if I can do something that supports you in being able to experience that pain without feeling overwhelmed, that is valuable And if I can do that without making you constipated or nauseated , like so many of the things that we do to treat that, why we need to look at that more and really look at, we had a gentleman who he said specifically, he said, yeah, my pain is still a seven, but pain is not my primary experience.
And wow. That, that has to matter. And I, and I don’t think it does quite matter yet to the bean counters, but we’re gonna, we’re gonna help ’em see that it matters. . Well, that’s, that’s amazing. But I always, that, that just struck me also as being like, oh, so we need to talk to the patients more. Right. For sure.
Because everybody’s measuring or looking at something, they’re like, oh, well, if that pain went from seven to two, that was valuable, but for that person, it’s like, yeah, no, that actually wasn’t where the value came from. Absolutely. The value came from in the fact that I now have the bandwidth to tolerate paint at a.
Yes, because other things feel different. Compassionate touch is really helping me transcend all of this experience that I’m going through, because I know in a couple days the pain will be at a four. . Exactly. Yeah. And, uh, well, and the patient, the, the study that I thought you were gonna bring up was a companion paper that we did a qualitative paper from the dosing study called, I didn’t Know Massages Could Do that.
and it, and it looks exactly at this. We had a couple of social workers do a series of semi-structured interviews with a selection of patients from the big dosing study. And, and really what they talked about was a, what it’s like to be in the hospital and that most of the touch they receive.
is aggressive slash unwanted. It’s, it’s needed, right, but that it doesn’t feel caring. It doesn’t feel compassionate, and that what they got from the therapists was very little about their hands. And this is the other piece that we really want to make clear, is that you could go in and rub a person and it’ll be great, right?
Like just about any person could go in and rub some feet, and that’s gonna be awesome. But if I know enough about my own mortality, if I know enough about what it means to be in the hospital, or to even have a glimpse into what it means to live with a chronic or serious illness, and I can interact with you in a way.
it’s clear that whatever you’re feeling is safe to express with me and that we can just be in this place where like, you know, we talk about you can sit in the suck together, right? Like you’re possibly going to die in the hospital and this massage isn’t gonna change that. But you can tell me that you’re scared of that while I’m here and I’m not gonna.
I’m not gonna silver lining you. I’m gonna just make space for that to be okay. And many of the patients in that particular study said the therapist knew when to talk and when not to talk. And you know, like the benefits that I received, yeah, the massage felt great, but also I felt loved. I felt seen. I felt heard.
And. . I mean, any healthcare provider could do that, right? But mm-hmm. , the training that’s necessary to make that happen doesn’t have to do with scalpels or stethoscopes or any of the tools of any of these disciplines. And this is, I think I would say this is the primary reason Healwellex exist is to really demonstrate the value of.
A properly trained provider and that what we mean by properly trained is a person who knows themselves and who can regulate their emotional energy and who can show up to the really complex experience of being a person and. A lot of us come to this profession and to any of the healing professions cuz we wanna fix it, right?
And we, we do so much harm by accident. So this is where our real value, I think in our, our like secret weapon, this can come from in healthcare is that with the right, with the right willingness and support to dig in and really become multifaceted, nuanced people. We can bring a whole new dimension to healthcare and then we also get to rub people.
Yay . Yay . Right? It’s just like, yeah. It’s all, it’s all good. Yes. So much. Yes. Alright. And the last one we should talk about is actually something that the S4OM community is hopefully gonna be helping Healwell with. Talk to me about this chemo induced peripheral neuropathy study that you guys are doing.
Yeah, so, uh, we’re, I’m really excited about the potential for this because it, you know, we’re partnering with William Collins of College and Associates who partnered with Tracy Walton and Janet Kahn way back in the day. Some folks, again, may not know this program exists, but, those three brilliant people created a program called Touch Caring and Cancer, which has now been produced in like 25 languages.
And. Is basically a, an instructional program for lay people so that they can massage their loved one who’s going through cancer without possibly triggering lymphedema, or, you know, being aware of the risk of pathologic fractures and all of those things that we sort of spend. Hours and hours learning as oncology massage therapists.
And the real thrust of, of touch, caring and cancer was yes to get massage to people who, you know, either wanted it every day and couldn’t afford that or didn’t have access to it. But really to reestablish those, um, Caregiver patient relationships, the, you know, the husbands and wives and the people and their children, and you know when the person gets cancer and everyone stops touching them, touch, caring, and cancer more than anything else, I think, really gave permission to people to say, this person actually might really like to be touched, and I know you’re afraid, but here are the things that you can do safely.
that person can, can give you massage also even though you don’t have cancer. And that the data really showed that people felt a greater sense of what’s called self-efficacy. That, you know, they felt able to cope, they felt able to support the person with cancer. And really, I think that’s our thrust with the C I P N program is that we, we are using a very simple protocol that I think a lot of people in the oncology massage community have learned some version of this.
That it’s a very simple protocol to address chemo induced peripheral neuropathy, which millions of people are living with and have been told, sorry, this is just a side effect of your chemo. Like we saved your life. You just don’t get to feel your feet anymore. And you know they’re taking Lyrica or Neurontin or any number of nerve drugs with minimal to no effect and.
We see anecdotally, and now we’re seeing in the data that simple massage can reverse years long effects of chemo induced peripheral neuropathy and. I, I just love that what we’re doing is addressing a huge accessibility issue that if we get funded for the phase two cuz, so we just finished phase one and the data that you all have been offering by completing our survey about, do you think this could work?
Do you see it work? Uh, we’ll support our phase two application to show that there’s reason to believe that it’s worth funding a randomized controlled trial, which will be part of phase two, uh, to. Can lay people, provide this protocol and find good results. And then also at the same time, can we help people reestablish relationships that have been damaged by cancer and the stories that we all tell about that.
So, you know, I think there’s, there’s definitely some. Some, I’ll call them gentle ripples within the community about, well, you know, if you can teach massage on an app, why don’t we just put massage school on an app? And you know, I, I hear that. I mean, there is a sense of scarcity I think, cuz we’re always trying to figure out how to get in there and why don’t people understand the value of oncology massage.
But there will never be enough oncology massage therapists to address this need. If a person can feel their feet again, button their own buttons and their husband, their wife, their child, their roommate, their some person that they love, who has felt powerless, was part of giving that back to them. , I’m not gonna do that as a massage therapist in the same way that this other person is.
And I, I am hopeful, that what it will do is open the eyes of lots and lots of people who didn’t know oncology massage was a thing, and that we’ll have information in there about, if you wanna know more about oncology massage, reach out to S4OM. Reach out to Healwell., this is a thing. Call your local cancer center and ask them why don’t they have massage?
If they have massage. Is it affordable? I feel like there’s so much potential for this to increase visibility around oncology massage and around massage as an antidote for this otherwise intractable symptom that is also unavoidable. Wow. Yeah. Is so exciting. It is. . Yes. So we submit that application in April, so send out your waves of goodness or whatever it is that n c I decides that, um, they want us to continue with this project.
And, and I wanna, just briefly address, we had in some of the surveys, people said, well, you know, what about lymphedema? What about this, what about that? We really followed. , a lot of the model that was used in the touch caring and cancer program, which had no negative side effects. We heard no responses from people who used the program and said, oh gosh, you know, I did this.
And people tend to err on the side of caution, but we talk about, you know, how to assess a nail bed, how to assess skin integrity. How to look for a blood clot, what to do if you think you’ve found one. So, and then we will also have support through Healwell for people using the app where they can reach out to us by email or by phone.
I’m using the app and I, you know, this toenail looks purplish. I don’t, you know, and how do we make good referrals? So I think, people are gonna, people like, I’m not gonna pretend that’s not true, but I think that, we have really put a lot of time and thought into how do we make this safe?
And the touching, I think, I don’t know, maybe we’ll get a lot of hate mail, but the touching itself isn’t the primary value we bring, I guess I would say. And so, you know, if we can help people touch each other who maybe used to touch each other and don’t anymore, I, I am all about being a part of that. So, yeah.
No, I mean, I think then everybody wins as I like to say, everybody. Yep. We all do better when we all do better. We all do better, right? Yep. So, so right now, You’re in phase one or you finished phase one? We’re wrapping it up right now. We’re doing what they call, , I think they call ’em think aloud sessions.
So people are watching the videos. We’ve created like prototype education videos and then, , William and colleagues are doing focus groups essentially with people who have watched the videos and saying like, this part doesn’t make sense to me, or like, you know, I’m wondering about this safety concern that you didn’t mention, and so that we can incorporate that in phase.
Okay. Yeah. So at this point we have kind of sent out information about what you guys are doing as well as a flyer that has the protocol on it. Yep. Basically. And then the next evolution of this will be an app. Yes, hopefully phase two will fund a randomized controlled trial that will demonstrate that this is valuable and has a positive clinical outcome.
And then development of the final app and production and release of that will be, about a year and a half process. So we’ll submit in April, I think we here in September. So hopefully we’ll be funded and start rolling on that in the fall. And by the end of 2024, there could be. An app to help people all over the place who haven’t been able to feel their feet or fingers for years.
Woo-hoo. Amazing. Yeah. Amazing. Oh my God, this is so exciting. I have one more question for you, and this hopefully. won’t be too long, but probably some good information in here. So if a massage therapists are thinking about or interested in doing research Yeah. What, what are some things they need to know?
or how do they get started? obviously there’s no tried and true plan. But I think there’s some thinking, a temperament and a tenacity that they have to have Yes. To be able to do this. Definitely. Well, I think my number one tip would be you’re not gonna do it alone, and don’t expect yourself to know things that.
You shouldn’t know. Uh, you know, like none of the research that we’ve published would be possible without the physicians, statisticians social workers. Each person has their own or with us, right? Like if the massage therapist does, there’s lots of research out there that didn’t involve massage therapists.
That’s about massage. Don’t get me started on that, but as a massage therapist, if you’re interested in answering a question about the clinical application of massage, start reaching out in your local community. See where the advocates are. You know, if, if obviously we’re talking about oncology massage, so maybe you’re already working in a cancer center.
Who do you know that like when you walk in, they’re like, yay, the massage therapists are here. Talk to that nurse, talk to that doctor, talk to that, whoever that person is, and say, so what would it take to, you know, do some research I wanna look at, and I think the thing that we really need to start looking at with research, I guess this is like you said, like I’m not gonna make it too long, but we have lots of tiny studies that show that massage is good and people don’t get hurt.
We don’t need any more of those studies. Like we are at critical mass in terms of. . Anyone who looks at the data can see that this is a low risk, possibly high benefit intervention. So now what we need to show is how do we do it? How do we. Implement massage in a way that allows the massage therapist to be a massage therapist.
How do we, you know, have people who have the training necessary, whether you’re working in a dialysis center or an infusion center, wherever it might be. This therapist knows about this population, possible symptoms and challenges that they face related to their illness that they’re incorporated with.
Like if the nurses have a huddle every day, that therapist should be part of that. You know, we really need to start to do some research that demonstrates when you incorporate the discipline of massage therapy, these are the benefits and that the benefits extend beyond patients. We’re designing a study right now that will look at what happens when we have a dedicated massage therapist on a genmed unit.
How does it impact the nurses? The nurses aren’t getting massage. It’s going to matter, I think to the nurses, yes. That their patients are getting massage and having a massage therapist dedicated to that unit for an extended period of time. We get to look at how does this change the culture? How does this change patient expectations?
What are the ripples of having a dedicated, trained massage therapist in this environment? So getting real curious about, you know, it’s, it’s more than the rub. Yes. Yes. And it just, it reminded me because I’m, I’m getting a master’s in public health. Woo. Bless you. Um, and the class that I’m taking this semester, all we’re talking about is identifying your stakeholders.
Like figuring out Yep. Who’s gonna be affected, good, bad, or ugly. Yeah. By what you’re trying to do. Absolutely. And I think particularly with massage, , that’s a really valuable thing to spend some time on and really like gathering that team, but also figuring out what people need, what they want. Yes. Can your intervention or work support all of that?
And then honestly, who’s gonna oppose what you’re doing because you need that honestly to have validity. Absolutely. Um, particularly in the world of research. Which is someplace massage. , I think has been really challenged in In trusting Yes. You know, right. We did all this anecdotal stuff and then we’re like, oh my God, is research gonna prove that we don’t do what we do?
But that’s actually okay. Yep. Because then we know what we do do, and we really can honor our value. Absolutely. Yeah, well what you guys are doing is absolutely amazing. I am so inspired by you and I hope others are as well. And I just really wanna thank you for spending some time with me today and talking about research.
I, I just can’t wait to see what some of the results of all of the stuff you guys are doing, and however S4OM can help you, please let us know. We’re always happy to reach out on your behalf. Ditto. I am so glad to, to have you guys in our corner and I think there’s, there’s no end to the collaborative madness in which we will be able to engage.
Ooh. Collaborative madness. That sounds so. Fun and right up our alley. Of course. Right. Definitely . 📍 All right, Cal. Well you have a great day and again, thank you so much. Thank you. Love to all you 📍 S4OMers