If you prefer listening to reading an audio version is available below the text in two parts. Part one of the audio appears below the introductory post. Part two appears below the section titled How To Give A Cleansing Massage.
She caught my eye when she walked into the infusion center. She had brown skin, like me. She was close to 50 years old, like me. She appeared physically strong and self-sufficient, like me. She came here alone, like me. By most measures we had more in common with each other than with most others in pre-chemo waiting. Maybe that’s why she made me so uncomfortable. Maybe that’s why I didn’t ask her about the mask that covered her features. Maybe that’s why the thought that chemotherapy caused what looked to be a scab from a perfectly executed full-face wound made me guiltily drop my eyes.
As I mentioned in a previous post I was haunted by thoughts of the side effects from chemotherapy. When I saw this woman who seemed otherwise okay with what presumed to be a chemo-caused shadow covering her face I bowed my head and tried not to stare. A few days later I looked into the mirror and saw my own face, only darker. I couldn’t be sure if my mind was playing tricks on me or if the veil of chemo masked my face as I assumed it had my waiting room companion, so I looked away. I tried to be calm as I told my doctor what I thought I saw. She confirmed that hyperpigmentation was indeed an effect of chemotherapy and assured me that it was usually temporary. I stayed at home alone that day and avoided my own reflection. When I cautiously peered at the mirror the next morning the skin on my face was the same gentle brown as it had been all my life.
I don’t know if what I saw that day was real or imagined but I do know that during chemotherapy my facial skin was in fact drier, more sun sensitive, and more prone to acne. So when I searched for a new morning routine I vowed to give my face some extra attention. Still unsure if I was dealing with hallucinations or hyperpigmention I hedged my bets and turned to a cleansing oil facial massage based on Ayurvedic principles.
Ayurveda is a set of 5,000 year old practices. If you’ve heard of yoga then you’re familiar with at least one of the many aspects of this ancient Indianhealing lifestyle. I discovered Ayurveda through yoga, specifically Kripalu a retreat in the Berkshire’s of Massachusetts that I visit each year. When I found out that Memorial Sloane Kettering, one of the premiere cancer treatment centers in the world, had a center dedicated to the use of Ayurvedic principles as co-treatment for cancer I was instantly enthusiastic about incorporating a little more Ayurveda into my wellness routine.
How to give a cleansing massage
Before you begin:
Clean your hands and trim your nails.Cover your palms with oil. I use jojoba oil because it is both moisturizing and has no odor which was important during my sensitive smell stage of chemotherapy. Use gentle smooth strokes. Repeat steps that feel good to you, skip steps that are comfortable.
Words like “lucky” had new meaning after my cancer diagnosis. The next step is especially nice for those of us “lucky” enough to have alopecia during chemotherapy.
When you’re finished:
Wet a washcloth with warm water. Cover your face with the warm cloth. Breathe deeply with the cloth covering your face for 20 seconds or until the cloth cools. Use the cool cloth to remove the oil from your face, hands and head.