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News from CaSfA's Director


Cancer Survivorship: Sexual Health and the Pelvic Floor

Posted on June 8, 2017 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)
CaSfA members learned a lot of useful information at "Cancer Survivorship: Sexual Health and the Pelvic Floor", a presentation by Stacey Berger, PT. Stacey specializes in women’s health, men’s health, pelvic pain, pelvic floor rehabilitation, continence control, and musculoskeletal conditions.  She is STAR (Survivorship Training and Rehabilitation) Certified in Oncology Rehab.

Here are some take home pelvic health tips:
  • Drink plenty of water for healthy bladder and improved bowel function
  • Avoid straining with bowel movements:manage constipation and use good toileting posture
  • Avoid irritants to vulvar and vaginal area: careful of soaps, detergents with fragrances or dyes. Use cotton crotch underwear as nylon can be irritating.  Avoid using perfumes, shampoos, or talcum powder to vulvar area.
  • Limit bladder irritants in your diet (reduces urinary urgency, urinary frequency, overnight excessive voiding) such as citrus fruits and juices, spicy food, tomato products, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, sugar and artificial sweeteners.
  • Breathe from your diaphragm muscle; avoid breath-holding with activity.  You can functional brace by pulling in your navel to spine and pulling in your pelvic floor muscles (Kegel) with activity to support your core/protect your back and reduce increased pressure on your pelvic organs.
  • If having pain, burning, tissue rawness or irritation of vulva/vagina or urinary leakage, consult your doctor or see a pelvic floor physical therapist.

To read all the notes from the presentation, join CaSfA to receive our newsletters.

Skin Care After Cancer

Posted on April 6, 2017 at 4:33 PM Comments comments (0)
CaSfA members were fortunate to have Holly Brown of Looking and Feeling FAB, Inc.( for a presentation, “Skin Care After the Diagnosis of Cancer”.  This non-profit organization offers those with cancer and other serious illnesses FREE skin care products, treatments and education at multiple locations in Massachusetts (including Westborough!!).  We learned how our skin changes with cancer and what we can do to preserve and protect our skin.  We even received gift bags with sample products!
My notes from the presentation, as well as how to access Looking and Feeling FAB’s services, were distributed in the April 4, 2017 newsletter.
Join CaSfA to receive this and all future CaSfA newsletters! 

Music Therapy

Posted on September 9, 2016 at 11:58 AM Comments comments (2)
We were so fortunate to have cancer survivor and CaSfA member, Kathleen M. Howland, Ph.D., present CaSfA’s first evening presentation, “Music Therapy:  A Powerful Support for Cancer Treatment and Beyond". Dr. Howland is a true expert in the field of music therapy.  She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in music therapy, neuroscience and positive psychology at Berklee College of Music and the Boston Conservatory. She is a certified music therapist and a licensed speech pathologist.  For over 30 years, she has worked with a variety of clinical
populations using music to enhance speech, language, cognition and movement.  She has developed therapy protocols to reduce stress and anxiety in order to improve general wellness, surgical preparation and oncology treatments.
Kathleen shared her experience fighting cancer.  She spoke of that awful moment of being told she had breast cancer, the fifteen months of chemotherapy and her mastectomy.
Her experience was similar to that of many of us—trying to maintain a “normal” life while undergoing treatment, balancing work, home, and hospital.  She spoke of those chemo days when she could barely get herself to walk out the door and go for treatment.  Then she turned to music.  She would sing herself a calming song and it gave her the strength and resilience to get through her treatments.  She also used music for deep relaxation and calm.  It elicited biological effects similar to meditation.
Music can be used for:
The type of music each person assigns to these categories is different.  One piece of music may provide relaxation to one person, but be motivational for another.
Kathleen next told us about the “Relaxation Response”, a term coined by Dr. Herbert Benson.  It is defined as the conditioning of the body to release chemicals and brain signals that make your muscles and organs slow down.  This response can be used to treat many stress-related disorders.
There are many methods to elicit the Relaxation Response including visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, acupuncture, massage, breathing techniques, prayer, meditation, tai chi, and yoga.  
Music can also be used to elicit the relaxation response.  Kathleen herself used it before her surgery and the anesthesiologist was able to reduce the amount of anesthesia she received, reducing her post-operative side effects.  She was able to use music to reduce anxiety, pain, and stress, greatly decreasing, and even eliminating the need for many medications.
Along with recommending Dr. Benson’s book, The Relaxation Response, Kathleen also suggested:
·      Her web site .  It features clinicians, including Kathleen, who share their experiences with music therapy.
·      Go through your music collection and create multiple playlists including a playlist for Comfort, one for Motivation and one for Relaxation.  You might also consider one for Dance—whatever gives you joy! 
·      Try to find a bit of laughter each day.  Kathleen shared a few videos from “Just For Laughs” --we all enjoyed them!
·      Devote 12-20 minutes a day to training yourself to elicit the relaxation response—use music, meditation, t’ai chi, etc.—whatever works best for you.  (A member highly recommends Mark W. Muesse’s “Practicing Mindfulness” course available on )
Music Therapy is available at:
St. Vincent Hospital offers Music Therapy classes on Thursdays at 9:30am.  For more information email Lan Curtin at [email protected] or call the Cancer and Wellness Center at (508) 363-5000.
Many thanks to Kathleen for such an informative presentation!
Find out more about Kathleen and Music Therapy, including the services she offers and a contact form, at and view her TEDx talk at

Looking and Feeling Fab, Inc.

Posted on April 8, 2015 at 6:59 PM Comments comments (0)
CaSfA recently hosted a great presentation, Skin Care After the Diagnosis of Cancer. Oncology Aestheticians, Holly Brown and Laura Lincoln introduced us to the non-profit Looking and Feeling Fab, Inc.  (  This non-profit organization offers those with cancer and other serious illnesses FREE skin care products, treatments and education. We learned how surgery, chemo and radiation have changed our skin, why regular spa treatments may cause harm, and what products are free of harsh chemicals.  

Looking and Feeling Fab, Inc. already offers its services in Quincy, MA, but now cancer survivors in Central Mass and Metrowest can find the oncology aestheticians on Wednesdays at The Wellness Center, 45 Lyman St, Suite 22, Westborough, MA. 

To access their FREE skin care, fill out the application ( and get your medical release form filled ( ). Mail, fax, or email to Holly (Mail to: 13 Candlewick Lane, Whitman, MA 02382; Fax: 617-446-2716;  Email: [email protected]) .



Posted on December 8, 2013 at 9:03 AM Comments comments (0)
Cancer survivors are especially susceptible to lymphedema.  Lymphedema is swelling of a part or parts of the body caused by the accumulation of lymph fluid. It occurs if the lymphatic system is damaged or not functioning properly. While the limbs are typically involved, the face, neck, groin and abdomen may also be affected. Many develop the disorder following cancer therapy (particularly breast cancer where the lymph nodes are removed), but radiation, recurrent infections, injuries or surgery can also damage lymphatics.

CaSfA recently hosted three lymphedema specialists to present the highly informative presentation “All You Need to Know about Lymphedema”. These experts discussed and taught us about the lymphatic system and lymphedema.  They presented ways to prevent lymphedema and treatment techniques including manual lymph drainage and compression.  We also learned how exercise can help prevent lymphedema and tried some warm-up exercises that improve lymph flow.

For more information about lymphedema, National Lymphedema Network:, 1-800-541-3259.

Polarity Therapy Presentation

Posted on September 4, 2013 at 8:24 PM Comments comments (0)
Notes from September Third’s Polarity Therapy Presentation: Christiana Kueting was a Registered Nurse in Germany where she was born.  She began to realize there was much more to healing and maintaining health than traditional medicine.  When she moved to the US she began learning about polarity and knew it was right for her. Dr. Randolph Stone (1890-1981) is the father of polarity.  He was an osteopath, naturopath, and chiropractic doctor.  He wanted to know how to heal better, so he traveled the world, studying ancient medicine practices and developed a natural health practice based on energy. Energy is all around us and within us. We have energy currents running throughout our bodies.  Stress, trauma and poor nutrition can disrupt energy flow causing disease.  Polarity uses touch at specific points, stretches and movements to correct energy flow.  A typical session lasts 60-75 minutes.  It begins with a thorough interview to determine health issues and other challenges.  Patients do not need to disrobe.  After giving us this brief introduction to Polarity, Christiana gave each of us a mini therapy session.  I left feeling much more relaxed, and at the same time more vibrant and energetic. Christiana is a Board Certified Polarity Practitioner through the American Polarity Therapy Association.  She also is a Licensed Massage Therapist, and a Consulting Hypnotist.  She uses Quantum Touch in her practice (similar to Reiki) and Enzyme Nutrition. [Note from me:  before taking any enzyme supplements please consult your physicians.  Many supplements and even foods can cause adverse interactions with your medicines—read the summaries at the end of this newsletter for a few examples.]

Zumba class

Posted on June 6, 2013 at 11:42 AM Comments comments (0)
Many thanks go to Fred Fiorello, GM;  Loren Land, Fitness Service Manager; and Kathy Hendrix, Zumba instructor--all of Boston Sports Club, Westborough.  Last night we had an extraordinary Zumba class!!  Great exercise and loads of fun!!
We burned so many calories that we topped off the night with a walk to DQ and a treat.  For all those who missed it we will hopefully do it again!  So thank you Fred, Loren and Kathy for a fantastic evening!!

Myofascial Release Therapy

Posted on April 4, 2013 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)
Last night Jennifer Goyette gave CaSfA members a presentation on “Myofascial Release Therapy”. It was outstanding!  

For those of you who do not know Jennifer, she is the Director of Oncology Rehab at South County Physical Therapy.  She holds a Master of Physical Therapy, is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist and is STAR (Survivor Training and Rehab) Certified.  She is an amazing young woman who is totally committed to improving the lives of cancer patients.  She will work with you, cry with you, and fight for you! 

I've included an outline of the presentation in my newsletter.  (You can fill out the form on the Join CaSfA page to receive newsletters.)  

Briefly, Jennifer described the fascial system as a "web" of connective tissue that is arranged in sheaths, connecting muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, blood and lymph vessels, as well as bone and organs. 

Many things may cause problems in the fascia.  In cancer patients both radiation and surgery are common causes of damage.  This damage can lead to tightness and pain. Damage or restrictions to the fascia can also create a blockage of normal blood and lymph flow, causing swelling.

Myofascial release therapy involves gentle pressure and stretching over areas of restriction.  We had a small turnout so there was plenty of time for Jenn to illustrate the techniques she discussed.  We all received mini-treatments and left feeling a hundred percent better than when we walked in!!

You can contact Jennifer Goyette at South County Physical Therapy, 30 Oak Street, Westborough, MA 01581;  508-389-9912;