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Breast cancer patient keeps control through cancer

Kelley Tuthill

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One thing that Tuthill says has been most beneficial in helping her through her breast cancer experience are the acupuncture and Reiki treatments she's received at Dana-Farber's Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies.

Kelley talks about her experience:

Boston Channel 5 Kelley Tuthill

You get a lot of literature when you're diagnosed with cancer, and I was happy to see in my new patient packet that there was a place like the Zakim Center at Dana-Farber. I had always done yoga, and felt like integrative therapies might be something that could help me with my stress and side effects.

I had read in Dr. Carolyn Kaelin's book (Kaelin is a breast cancer physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and a breast cancer survivor) that she did acupuncture a few days before her most toxic chemotherapy treatments to combat nausea, so I took her advice and did the same thing through the Zakim Center to fight my nausea and fatigue. I was nervous, because I had never done acupuncture before, but I felt a great degree of comfort because I knew the people were so highly trained and that my oncologist, Dr. Anne Partridge, could oversee what they were doing. I wanted to do something that would complement my standard treatment, not counter it - and this certainly did. It helped me maintain a sense of calm [not calmness] through the whole process, and the anxiety I felt going through such an extreme treatment.

The other thing I did that I had never tried before was Reiki, with Susan DeCristofaro, RN, MSN. Most of us can wrap our brains around the fact that if we go and get a massage, we're going to feel better. But it's harder to understand how Reiki could work; it's basically described as a practitioner using her hands to give you peace, comfort, and energy. I was definitely skeptical, but Susan was amazing. I would go in there feeling nervous and anxious about things, and I would come out a transformed person.

I was having acupuncture on Fridays, so I started getting Reiki on Monday mornings before my toughest chemo treatment, Adriamycin and cytoxan. There were so many invasive things happening, but this was an hour where I could just go hide in there with Susan and have a little peace. It was the one part of my Dana-Farber treatment where I was choosing what to do. Usually you have to get a CAT scan, or you have to get a certain treatment, but this was something just for me. It empowered me to say, "I'm going to take this next hour and do this for myself." It's going to help me in ways that only I know about and only I can experience.

Integrative therapies helped me manage my side effects and stay emotionally balanced. I had a lot going on with treatment and a family and a job, and I was really struggling to keep everything together. It's not easy to give yourself permission, to be able to just say, "It's OK to take one hour and do something that I think will help me." There was not a lot of wiggle room in the schedule, and I already felt tremendous guilt that my treatment was taking me away from my kids and to some degree my work. If I had to go somewhere else to get it, I'm not sure if I would have. But this was right there, in the same building, so I went for it.

I interviewed Lenny Zakim just a few weeks before he died at one of his wonderful "Team Harmony" events at the Boston Garden [where Zakim, the former New England Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, would bring together school kids from throughout Massachusetts to help bridge cultures and break down racist stereotypes]. Later I covered the Mother's Day event when everybody walked across the Zakim Bridge for the first time. I'm so happy that this was how his legacy was honored at Dana-Farber - giving people like me a chance to find some peace in the midst of this storm that cancer brings to your life.

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