How Complementary Therapies Ease Cancer Treatment Symptoms

When you have cancer, you’re much more than your diagnosis. But your life may quickly become filled with life-defining choices and experiences because of it. That’s why your treatment plan should extend beyond the big three of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. You should also be taking care of the mind, body, and soul.

At the North Memorial Health Cancer Center, the team makes sure all the facets of your health and wellness are covered and you feel totally taken care of beyond the typical care options. Integrating wellness, fitness, and holistic care is a matter of course in your treatment.

Shirley Kern, a North Memorial Health oncology nurse with more than 23 years’ experience, says that it’s the “culture of North Memorial Health oncology” to offer a variety of holistic services, from aromatherapy to massage to exercise to nutrition to chaplain services. “These aren’t alternative therapies,” she explains. “They’re complementary therapies.”  Meaning: These services dovetail with the cancer therapies you are already receiving – they are driven by your own needs and wants as a patient, so that you feel in control of your own care plan.


Illustration of exerciseKern says that according to oncology treatment best practices, it’s important to remain active and try to do some form of exercise while going through treatment, and that in some cases, it can actually help reduce fatigue. North Memorial Health’s fitness team organizes exercise classes to meet cancer patients where they are to help them boost their health and spirit.

“We have people who attend the exercise classes every week. They love it, because it’s become like a support group to them. It may not be a support group in the traditional sense, but they’ve met new people going through similar situations and they understand each other. They enjoy the laughter,” she says.


Illustration of a massagePatients are able to get a massage each Wednesday, some while getting chemo treatments. “Massage really helps with relaxation techniques and to center patients during their chemo,” Kern says. “It distracts them, helps them relax.” Volunteers also come to the cancer center to offer hand massages.

“I had a patient just recently say, ‘Massage just helps relax me so much. I was nervous and anxious, and when I got a massage, I felt this inner peace that helped calm me.’”

Care for All of You

Of course, Kern says, there is another positive aspect to a holistic suite of services. Not only does activity and wellness in the everyday complement the body physically, but also takes care of the mind to help people cope.

“It is an important piece for people to be able to not only cope with cancer, but to take a day-by-day approach: Facing each day with a new strength, not just physically but mentally.”

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