Bringing safe therapies and skincare products to cancer patients in Exeter

cancer patient charity skincare Apr 16, 2021

For therapists providing oncology massage and complementary therapies to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, the treatment protocols themselves are one half of the process. The other half is finding the right products to use, as well as those that you feel comfortable recommending to clients. It’s an area that’s especially prevalent for those going through active treatment, seeking products that are safe and that proactively sooth some of the side effects of cancer treatment (such as brittle nails and dry skin). It was for that reason that FORCE Cancer Charity in Exeter has chosen to begin making Jennifer Young products available to those they work with.

Practical and holistic cancer support services

FORCE, (Friends of the Oncology and Radiotherapy Centre, Exeter), was established in 1987 to help fund local research and buy equipment to improve patient care. In 2004 they opened their Cancer Support and Information Centre in the grounds of the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, providing physical, emotional, psychological and practical support, and receiving around 25,000 visits each year. They also offer services once a week in Okehampton, Tiverton and Ottery St Mary.

Amongst that support, they provide complementary therapies and holistic treatments, overseen by Complementary Therapies Coordinator, Kayleigh Brown. Kayleigh came to the charity from a highly experienced spa background, working at destinations including Darts Farm, Celtic Manor Resort and Ragdale Hall, and is dedicated to providing as much support as possible to those who come to the centre.

She said: “We have so many people coming to us with ailments like itchy skin caused by cancer treatments, and we refer them on to people and places where they can get appropriate information or products. However, as a cancer support centre we felt that they should be able to get all of that from us, which is why we approached Jennifer Young. It sits so well alongside everything else that we do. To know that Jennifer’s products are so well researched and that she was initially encouraged by the NHS to produce them, it felt like the right fit.”

The impact of spa treatments and skincare support during cancer treatment

At FORCE, individuals can self-refer to their complementary therapy services but can also be referred at any point from diagnosis, through active treatment and for a year afterwards as well. The stage at which they come for treatment and advice affects how they feel about it and what they get from it, but the impact is always powerful.

Kayleigh commented: “For those initially diagnosed, it’s the shock and trying to understand the overwhelming amount of information they have to take on board. Coming into the therapy room is down time to get a grip on what’s in front of them. For those in active treatment, it’s hard to find a time when they feel well enough to do anything, those good days are few and far between so it’s a real blessing for us to be able to provide a sense of nurturing during that precious time.”

Individuals come with different concerns, expectations and a variety of levels of research and information. Some are acutely aware of the implications of different product ingredients, while others either don’t know what to look for or are too overwhelmed with all the information they’re being given. There’s also an ongoing sense that in the face of cancer and cancer treatment, skincare seems almost trivial. However, as we know - the flaky skin and the broken nails – in themselves they can be all encompassing and compound everything else you’re going through.

As a result, it’s often only in the therapy rooms that people begin to share the things they’re concerned about. Kayleigh said:

“When we ask people how they are during a treatment, that’s when floodgates open, and they will tell you that their nails are falling apart, or their skin is itching and burning, and we are able to offer some relief for that, both here and at home.”

The value of self-care at home

The ability to continue self-care at home has a number of benefits. During the pandemic, while touch treatments have been scarce, they have provided relief in a safe environment. However, as Kayleigh points out, it’s also much more than that. It has a topical impact, but also an emotional and psychological one: “It’s almost about taking back a bit of control when you can’t do much else. For many patients, they feel exhausted, but to pop a bit of nail oil on, it’s that sense of personal empowerment, that you’re doing something positive and that makes you feel good. It’s important.”

The work that FORCE and other local charities provide is essential, not just because of what they do but how they make their services available. With complementary therapies and spa treatments often being at a premium in the private sector, not everyone can afford to have them, especially if cancer has had an impact on finances as well.

“No one’s excluded from the services we provide; it’s something we feel is essential to mental and emotional wellbeing. What I really find amazing is the emotional lift therapies can give people. Not everyone wants talking therapies like counselling, so offering reflexology or massage gives people that opportunity to switch off. It also opens up some people up. We have had tremendous feedback - these experiences can be life changing for people, especially when they are palliative.”

In the last year, FORCE has been inundated with requests for treatments and they are looking forward to slowly and safely being able to see people again in person. They continue to fundraise to support their services. They will also be selling Jennifer Young skincare products through their centre, as well as online from May.

If you would like more information, contact Kayleigh and her team by following the link below.



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