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UVA Nurse-Turned-Massage-Therapist Offers Patients Relief from Cancer

In January, we told you about the healing massage services at UVA Hope Cancer Care in Charlottesville. But did you know this service is also available at the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center?

Dinah Pehrson-Day provides massage therapy for patients at the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center.
Dinah Pehrson-Day provides massage therapy for patients at the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center.

Dinah Pehrson-Day is the certified massage therapist at the Couric Center. Each week, she provides soothing massages to people facing cancer. Very often, her patients come to her in pain or fatigued by the powerful treatments needed to kill cancer. Some come emotionally drained from helping a loved one battle cancer.

“Facing cancer is so often physically uncomfortable and so challenging emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Pehrson-Day says. “I hope to be able to provide a nurturing touch to people, in an environment that feels secure, and where someone can have confidence about the safety and effectiveness of the service.”

Massage for Women

Pehrson-Day has special training in oncology massage so she can meet the needs of cancer caregivers and patients in treatment or in recovery.

Last year, she received specialized training in massage for women undergoing surgery for breast cancer. Her training and expansion of her hours to provide this specialized service (free of charge) were made possible with funds raised from the Charlottesville Women’s Four Miler.

A Helpful Nursing Background

Pehrson-Day brings to the massage table her 35 years of experience as a registered nurse. And as a member of the care team, she knows each patient’s condition.

She’s aware, for example, of their blood platelet counts, their medications and the specific area of the body undergoing treatment. She sometimes even consults with a patient’s doctor. She tailors each massage to the patient’s needs.

A Transition to Massage

When Pehrson-Day began her nursing career in the 1970s, it was not unusual for nurses to be trained in basic massage strokes. She loved that part of the job.

She was also inspired to make the career change by her late mother-in-law, who craved massages while undergoing cancer treatment. Pehrson-Day remembers worrying, though, about whether or not her mother-in-law was getting the most appropriate type of massage.

In 2004, Pehrson-Day enrolled in massage school. A year later, she was back at UVA and part of the UVA Cancer Center.

With the recent opening of the Couric Center, Pehrson-Day now has a dedicated massage room on the third floor. But she often visits the center’s Infusion Suite to provide hand or shoulder massages to patients during treatment. She even visits hospitalized cancer patients.

A Free Service for Patients

Pehrson-Day is thrilled UVA is able to provide cancer patients with massages free of charge. Many patients would be unwilling to take advantage of the service otherwise, she notes, as they already face mounting medical bills.

“It really is a huge privilege to be doing this at the Cancer Center,” she says. “For someone to lie down on a massage table requires a certain amount of trust, and I feel really honored to be trusted in this way.”

Donations Are Key

Thanks to the generosity of grateful patients, the UVA Cancer Center can offer massage therapy at no cost. But the future of this service depends on additional donations. To learn more about making a contribution, contact Diane Cole at 434.924.9333.

Did you miss our blog series on integrative medicine? 

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