If you have lived with cancer, or been a caregiver, loved one, or friend to someone who has, you know the toll cancer takes on every part of life. Now, in a time of much global distress, people are dealing with cancer plus the challenges of the pandemic. Thanks to your support, people throughout our area can find ways to safely soothe stress with Cancer Connection’s phone and video tele-health services.
Our Music and Movement @ Home class has taken place via video conference for the past 6 weeks, helping participants move at their own pace through aches and stiffness, stress and fatigue. The class combines stretching, breathwork, balance and physical movement using diverse styles of music. It addresses the often-mentioned need for gentle exercise for people dealing with cancer and with stress.
Robin Diamond, MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) created the class 10 years ago. Her goal? “I want them to move in a way that feels safe and comfortable for their body on any given day,” Robin said. What if you feel like you have two left feet, or have never danced with comfort or ease? “We laugh a lot. We want people to feel free. There is no judgement.” She wants to help people find open-heartedness, flexibility, energy, and ways to express themselves on more than the physical level—on the emotional and cognitive ones as well. Robin said, “The class is so much more than exercising to music.”
Movements flow with the music and are not about achieving a certain alignment in a pose, vigorousness, or a “right way” to breathe. Every movement can be modified. Sometimes, “people almost come crawling in,” because they feel so fatigued by the after-effects of treatment or feel discomfort. “You can lie on the couch, you can dance with your pinky, or your toes, or even just close your eyes and listen to the music,” she said. “If you need to sit, you can sit. If balancing is a challenge, you can hold onto something nearby.”
Correcting alignment, she noted, “is not part of it. If we do warrior pose to a strong piece of music, it’s less important to have a wide stance or a narrow stance. We move to get to a certain way of feeling, say, with warrior, to feel powerful.”
“It’s meant to be heart-centered work, and to get to that place, I have to know where people are coming from each week. Is their energy low? Are there family things going on?” During this time of distance, Robin can’t listen and observe all the little things that go on when class members greet each other in person. To gather these important clues to how people are doing, she does an intentional 10-minute check in at the beginning of class.
Recently, Robin noticed one of the class participants was sitting, and she sat down in the middle of a song and moved in that position along with her. The participant, Robin said, wrote to her later, saying, “It was so meaningful when you saw me sitting and you sat down in a chair too.” Robin found the confirmation that she could connect individually through the video medium really valuable.
Robin plans classes that address the needs she witnesses. One week, she selected a waltz in acknowledgement of a recent loss. “Suddenly, they were grabbing a teddy bear, a pillow, or other props, and the dancing was very moving for all of them.”
To elicit and encourage this “work from the heart,” Robin uses themes for her playlists—like the “sun” or “friendship”-- almost as prompts. (She’ll take requests, and if they don’t fit, she gets to those songs another time.) The music can inspire “conversation, support and remembrances.”
In our next newsletter, we’ll hear from members of the class. Robin said they are all very welcoming to newcomers, but this is no surprise, since every program at Cancer Connection is! This class is open both to people with cancer and loved ones and caregivers. It’s a great place to start with our services any time but especially right now, when we can’t provide the in-person integrative therapies like reflexology, Reiki, and massage that we would typically offer to new participants. It’s also something to try for those who were planning on a springtime Cancer Connection program that has been interrupted by the pandemic.
If it’s a measure of a successful remote service, it’s good to know that the class participants have been consistently attending since we pivoted to video. Most importantly, Robin said, “the focus is to find joy. That’s why they keep coming to class.”
To learn more, talk with our befrienders about the class by calling 413-586-1642 and leaving a message.