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Vital Signs:
A holistic approach to healing

Massage and meditation are not modalities that would jump to most people's minds if they were asked to name services offered by a cancer center. Yet Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center has begun a one-year pilot program to introduce cancer outpatients and their families to these and other complementary and alternative medicine techniques. The Haelan Program—the word "haelan" means "to make whole" in Gaelic— encompasses a variety of noninvasive procedures that are intended to improve patients' quality of life and allow them to feel like they are a part of the healing process.

Massage is a modality now offered at Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

The core services of the program so far have been massage and mind-body workshops. Massage services are offered (at no extra charge) to patients in the infusion suite, where chemotherapy is delivered, as well as in the hematology-oncology and radiation therapy areas. The first mind-body workshop ran for six weeks in the spring and included classes on stress management and meditation techniques, plus a visit from a Tai Chi master. A second such workshop will run for eight weeks from September through November.

Deborah Steele, the Cancer Center's patient supportive services coordinator, says these classes are different from the dropin cancer support groups that Norris Cotton also offers. "Some of the dialogue and interaction may be similar to what you would talk about in a support group," explains Steele, "but because you are learning and experiencing techniques and then sharing them . . . you walk away with something tangible that you can use."

The Friends of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center funded the Haelan Program's pilot year. The hope is that the program can eventually be self-sustaining, with support from some combination of fees and underwriting, and that services such as yoga and acupuncture can be added. G.C.C.

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Dartmouth Medical SchoolDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical CenterWhite River Junction VAMCNorris Cotton Cancer CenterDartmouth College