Eddie Goldberg Perlis, LMT, CMLDT, founder of Massage 4 Inner Peace, has been practicing oncology massage for almost a decade—even before receiving her own ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Eddi Goldberg Perlis, LMT, CMLDT, is a powerhouse. At 70 years old, she spends her days traveling to meet patients to administer oncology massage, something she only became interested in less than a decade ago. But what makes Eddi’s practice even more significant, is that she’s a cancer warrior herself.
“There’s a level of comfort, because I understand what they are going through,” Perlis says. “It’s very comforting for a patient. Plus, it really made me feel good to be helping other people.” About two years before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, at 62, Perlis began studying for certification in geriatric massage. But it was after meeting Isabel Adkins, an instructor in oncology massage, that Perlis decided to broaden her practice.
“As soon as I met Isabel, I knew that I was in the right space,” Perlis says. Adkins’ classes don’t follow typical massage therapy curriculum, but place an emphasis on east-west modalities, according to Perlis, and introduce elements of acupressure, reflexology, and the concept of bodily “meridians” from traditional Chinese medicine. Understanding the functions of the 12 meridians throughout the body helps Perlis target specific aches and pains to relieve oncology patients using gentle touch, relief that previously may have only been found through the use of pharmaceuticals.
Oncology massage doesn’t just help relieve pain, it provides something much-needed for patients who are regularly “poked and prodded” by doctors and nurses—warmth and connection from physical touch. “The first patient I worked on was a woman who finished radiation therapy for lung cancer,” Perlis begins, “[who] said, […] ‘This is the first time that someone has done something nice for my body.’”
According to Piedmont Healthcare, oncology massage can help alleviate the stress and anxiety that comes after a cancer diagnosis and its treatment. Massage therapists specializing in oncology care help to relax the patient’s central nervous system, giving their body what it needs to heal and fight cancer. The benefits of oncology massage are numerous, including improved sleep, fewer headaches, decreased neuropathy (a sensation of numbness caused by chemotherapy), and decreased nausea, among other effects.
The true scope of the power of touch—touch associated with consideration and care, not fear and pain—can be best understood through Perlis’ work with patients in hospice care. “I’ve worked on a couple of people who have been very anxious, afraid, and just holding them in different spots—their hands, their wrists, their shoulders, their ankles—I’ve had a couple of families contact me and say the massage was enough for them to release and let go.”
Perlis’ patients do not need to undress or lie down on an uncomfortable table; she is trained to administer massage that does not test the limits of the patient’s mobility or health, and she is well-versed in massaging on beds or recliners. “For me, it’s just about helping the person to feel better,” she says. She’s trained on how to massage someone who might have sensitive surgical scars, or currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment: “If someone is going through chemotherapy I will always massage the liver reflex, because the liver is the organ that helps get rid of toxins,” Perlis says.
Perlis also practices manual lymphatic drainage, acupressure, reflexology, and hospice massage, but it all started with oncology care. “It‘s really gratifying for me, knowing that I’m helping somebody go through a journey that I’ve been through on my own.” Perlis is currently experiencing a recurrence of ovarian cancer, but she continues to see patients throughout her own treatment. If you live in the Chicago area, and want to get in touch with Perlis, visit her website: massage4innerpeace.com.