Introduction. I was diagnosed with cancer of the throat just before Christmas 2008. I then had a total laryngectomee in January 2009 and a partial thyroid removal at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth. All was well until I received the 37 sessions of radio-therapy accompanied by chemo-therapy. Over the next three or four years I increasingly suffered with pains in my throat, difficulty in eating, drinking, and generally swallowing. This reached a stage whereby I was having to have the speech valve in my throat changed every week or so. The radio-therapy treatment had caused such tissue damage to the inside of my throat that it had caused it to tighten, and things were obviously not quite right. My Consultant Otolaryngologist, and Head & Neck / Thyroid Surgeon tried various surgical procedures to correct the situation to no avail. I was unable to eat, drink or talk for almost a year and had to take fluids through the PEG in my stomach.
Pectoral Flap Surgery. In 2014, my Consultant in Plymouth referred me to another at the Sunderland Royal. After interviews and pre-tests, I underwent Pectoral Flap surgery. Simply put, muscle tissue was taken from my left pectoral muscle and relocated to the inside of my throat. This was a total success and very soon I was eating, drinking and talking once again. I was prescribed physical exercises which are similar to those prescribed to patients who have undergone a mastectomy. I have so much admiration for the skills of those surgical consultants both in Plymouth and Sunderland. I also admire the skills of the Speech & Language Therapist in Plymouth who has so patiently and caringly catered to my every need since those early days.
Muscular Pain. Some weeks after that operation I started to develop muscular pain in my left shoulder and arm. I think muscular pain is always difficult to describe, but I would say that this was similar to a dull toothache going down my arm! The pain was severe enough to keep me awake at nights and it was sometimes difficult to know which way to lay in bed.
Sports Therapist. Eventually I sought private assistance from a Sports Therapist. I still had the shark-bite scar on my chest where the wound had been clipped together with 80 or so metal clips. I think the therapist was a little intimidated by this and began to doubt her abilities. She was after all, used to treating sports injuries rather than cancer survivors. She treated the area around my shoulder whilst trying to keep away from the wounded area. Although these massage sessions were relaxing they were not really doing anything for the pain. So she then referred me to an Orthopaedic Therapist.
Orthopaedic Therapist. This therapist complemented the continuing treatment from the Sports Therapist and I thought, showed a greater understanding of the problem.
She too massaged the surrounding area but prescribed me more physical exercises. The cost of the weekly sessions with these two therapists was quite steep and this went on for several months.
Shoulder & Elbow Clinic. It was while I was waiting for a routine ENT appointment that I was watching the in-house television service in the waiting room. I learned of the existence of a Shoulder & Elbow Clinic. I had not previously realised that such a clinic existed and so I made enquiries. It transpired that I had to be referred by my GP. I was duly referred and received an appointment within a month or so. I was given very extensive tests and scans and the Orthopaedic Consultant said there was some damage inside my shoulder and this in turn was causing the nerve pain down along my left arm. He recommended three courses of action:
- Do nothing and persevere.
- Have a course of three steroid injections in my shoulder and,
- If that didn’t work, consideration could be given to keyhole surgery.
We both agreed that the course of steroid injections might be the best way to go, and he injected me immediately. The injection itself was very painful to have but that soon passed. The Consultant then made a further appointment for me in a month’s time. I slept that night, and next day the pain was much relieved although it hadn’t disappeared completely. As advised by the Consultant, I continued the home exercises and the weekly visits to the two therapists, but after a while these visits became less frequent until eventually both said they could do no more for me. A relief really as they were quite expensive!
Reiki. I was reading an article in the local newspaper. I had never heard of Reiki before and being as cynical as the next man, I read more about it on the internet.
At this stage, with the continuing pain in my shoulder and left arm, I was willing to try anything. And so it was that I made contact with Venita who very kindly invited me to my first session of Reiki at the Mustard Tree Cancer Support Unit in Plymouth. Venita interviewed me to ascertain the problems I had and then proceeded with my first session. At no time was I indoctrinated into doing anything, nor coerced or pressured into doing anything I didn’t want to do. I found that first session to be totally relaxing in mind and body… and in a rather exhilarating way. I find this difficult to explain as I hadn’t experienced anything quite like that before and so, I decided to have a further session. I then continued with further weekly sessions.
In the meantime, I was waiting for the appointment for my second steroid injection. I received a letter in the post to say that my second appointment had been delayed a month. Later, I received another letter to say that my appointment had been delayed yet another month.
I did eventually manage to get a somewhat belated appointment at the Shoulder & Elbow Clinic but this time not with the Consultant. The doctor that saw me put me through various physical tests and gave me the inevitable once-over. I informed him the pain was still there although it was now quite manageable. We mutually agreed that the second and third steroid injections should not be necessary but if the pain level should go up again I could return for further treatment.
Conclusion. And so I continued with my weekly Reiki sessions. As the sessions progressed, so the pain in my shoulder and arm reduced dramatically. At my most recent session I explained to Venita that the pain in my arm had all but gone. There was still residual pain in my shoulder but totally manageable. I casually said “You and Reiki seem to have done the work on my shoulder and arm.” Venita responded by saying she was so happy that I was feeling better and was convinced that the Reiki had healing played a huge role. Venita then explained that the body responds to the Reiki energy and knows how to heal itself… the healing takes place on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels.
Venita added that she was merely a ‘conduit’ for the Reiki energy.
What is Reiki? Reiki (pronounced Ray-key) is a simple, gentle energy technique that is used for stress reduction, healing and relaxation.
The energy flows to the areas where it is needed, supporting the body’s natural ability to heal itself by balancing, energising and soothing areas of pain and discomfort.
It is based on the idea that energy flows through us.
This life force energy directly relates to our quality of life.
If someone’s life force energy is low, then such a person is more likely to get sick or feel stressed, and when it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
The practitioner is able to direct, enhance and balance this flow of energy.
As a system of natural healing, Reiki was discovered in Japan in the last century by Dr. Mikao USUI, a broadly educated Buddhist monk with knowledge of a wide range of spiritual healing techniques.
Dr. Usui developed Reiki after many years of study, research and meditation.
He spent the rest of his life practising and teaching Reiki.
Today Reiki continues to be taught by Reiki Masters to their students the world over.
Some problems can be helped quickly, although long-standing or chronic illnesses will take longer.
As Reiki is a complementary therapy it is compatible with any medical treatments.
It is said that an hour of Reiki is equivalent to four hours good sleep!
Written by Geoffrey N. READ
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