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Reiki for Cancer Survivors

by Sharon Edelman, RMT

Wellness image

The practice of Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is fundamentally simple in its application. Whether in self-practice or an offering to another, the receiver is fully clothed and made as comfortable as possible in a chair or on a massage table, bed, or sofa – practically anywhere. Lights may be lowered, music may be playing, and the session proceeds with the practitioner placing his or her hands lightly on or slightly above appropriate areas of the receiver’s body for various lengths of time.

There is no manipulation, nothing invasive, and no diagnosis is ever made. There are no known medical contraindications associated with a Reiki treatment. There is no religious affiliation necessary and no dogma or set of beliefs attached to the practice. The receiver is in complete control at all times.

The experience of a Reiki session has the ability to yield unexpectedly powerful results. It makes available to us a time and space where perhaps we will feel rest, release, relaxation, and refuge within ourselves, a time and space to connect with our deepest self, our innate resources, and inner knowing.

The experience of a Reiki session has the ability to yield unexpectedly powerful results.

Author of Article photo

Sharon Edelman

Now the day comes when we are given a diagnosis of cancer. It is not surprising that, when faced with such a diagnosis, it becomes the central focus of our life – all-encompassing, all-defining, and the center of our personal universe. Naturally and unquestionably, we will focus on its obliteration with a fierce intensity. We will seek out specialists. We will feel defined by that which others see under a microscope. We will find ourselves reflected as scribbles on a medical chart. We will undoubtedly restructure our lives to accommodate whatever treatments are prescribed to us.

And possibly, we will start to feel any control we may have had over our lives inevitably slipping away as we place our lives and our trust so completely in the hands of others, those knowledgeable strangers in scrubs and white jackets.

Then, maybe the simple and gentle practice of Reiki is introduced, offering us a moment to reflect on the multidimensional beings we truly are. An opportunity is presented in the form of a Reiki treatment, which may support our effort to experience the breadth and depth of ourselves as complete individuals.

As a practitioner and mentor with the Reiki volunteer program at the Abramson Cancer Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, many survivors have told me that their Reiki sessions gave them an opportunity to feel a range of emotions – sadness, anger, fear, gratitude, anything, everything, and nothing. In that time that was devoted to their total comfort, it created a space to connect with compassion and empowerment, with their own physical, mental, and emotional states of being, and sometimes with something bigger than themselves.

Amidst the uncertain terrain of cancer treatment, the beeping of infusion machines, the discomfort of radiation or proton beam therapy, the necessary poking and prodding, and the opinions of doctors and surgeons, the simple and gentle practice of Reiki may be a welcome respite and a place to come home to you.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Sharon Edelman is a Reiki teacher and practitioner for The Reiki School + Clinic in Philadelphia, PA. For more information, visit

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2013.