Women helping women with cancer live their best life

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Katie Edick is a loving mom, wife and occupational therapist, but she never would have imagined the day would come when she herself was diagnosed with cancer. On Oct. 13, 2016 Edick received the news she had developed stage four breast cancer. Knowing she’ll most likely be in some form of treatment for the rest of her life, she lives with the daily pain, fatigue and discomfort that cancer treatment brings.

Yet Edick perseveres. Alongside other women diagnosed with cancer, she’s found an affordable, compassionate treatment option which promises to give them greater energy, less pain, better sleep and an increase in her overall quality of life. Her care is accessible thanks to a three-year grant of $5,000 per year from the Zonta Club of East Lansing, the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing (WCGL) and iHealth of Michigan (iHealth). The organizations have partnered together to provide female cancer survivors with free reflexology, oncology massages and support services.

“I had this idea to get grant money to help these women with free reflexology services, because when they are going through chemotherapy they are not able to work,” said Carla Wysko, certified reflexologist, nutrition coach and director of clinical operations for iHealth of Michigan. “We knew it would be unlikely that they would be able to pay for it.”

Reflexology isn’t only for cancer patients, as it can help anyone at any time. The scientific principle uses reflex points, on the hands and the feet that correspond to every part of the body, to promote balance and normalization of the body naturally, reduce stress, bring relaxation and improve the circulation and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells.

“The relief — the ‘feeling good’ after a session — typically only lasts for a day after the first session. The second session, it may last three days; the third session, it may last a week,” said Wysko. “Then by the fourth session, they’re ready to come back, and it just keeps getting better and better.”

Since being diagnosed Edick’s had eight rounds of three chemotherapy drugs and 10 rounds of radiation, and she just finished her fifth round of maintenance treatment. The cancer treatments have taken quite a toll on her body — both physically and mentally.

“To date, I have received six sessions of weekly reflexology. My body is no longer retaining water, I no longer take any medications before bed and I only need Tylenol after a long walk or busy day. I have a lot more energy, and mentally I feel more alert and ready to accept the daily challenges of working and raising a family while having a chronic condition,” said Edick. “I just finished my last infusion and the [gastrointestinal] issues I typically experience have been milder. I feel that reflexology plays a huge part in my weekly arsenal to battle the side effects of my cancer treatment, to keep me as healthy as possible.”

iHealth also offers to cancer survivors a free oncology massage. Certified oncology massage therapists on staff will provide this service to women who have been diagnosed with lymphedema due to removal of a lymph node or
a mastectomy.

At WCGL, women can take advantage of supporting services such as a cancer support group, individual, couple’s, marriage and family therapy, mindful yoga therapy, free wigs, career counseling and more.

“Women helping other women is what makes the world go around,” said Cindie Alwood, executive director of WCGL. “If Carla hadn’t come to us and said that iHealth would love to partner with us on this project, then all these women wouldn’t have had the opportunity to feel better. We’re about women reaching their potential and living their best life, so this has been an incredible opportunity for us,”

To find out how to get started with treatment or for more information, call iHealth of Michigan at (517) 999-7700 or visit ihealthmi.org or womenscenterofgreaterlansing.org. And you may want to save the date, because the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing’s event, In Her Cups, Bras for a Cause, returns to The Runway, Lansing, on Nov. 3.


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