Reiki helps cancer patients and caregivers find balance

September 23, 2015 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

On a scale from 0-10, how would you rate your feelings of anxiety or stress today? Everyone experiences some kind of daily stress. We all have busy lives, work deadlines, financial responsibilities, errands, families, voicemail, email, and a to-do list that never becomes a “done” list. But the stress level for those dealing with cancer on top of everything else in life may be closer to an 11 on that 10-point scale.

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of deep relaxation on overall well-being, including reducing blood pressure, relieving stress, anxiety and pain, and promoting a restful night’s sleep — all essential to the healing process. Reiki, a complementary, holistic healing practice that supports overall balance in body, mind and spirit, can help promote this type of deep relaxation for people with cancer.

The Nancy W. Knowles Cancer Center at Elmhurst Hospital offers a unique Reiki volunteer program under the guidance of Jane Van De Velde, DNP, RN, Reiki master teacher and president of The Reiki Share Project. 

“The purpose of this program is to offer short Reiki sessions to patients who are receiving chemotherapy, infusions or radiation treatments,” said Van De Velde. “Caregivers, family members and staff at the Cancer Center are also welcome to receive these sessions.”

The practice of Reiki is compatible with the hospital’s Planetree philosophy of patient-centered care. Based on a patient’s individual preferences, Reiki sessions can be “hands on” with light touch, or “hands off” with hands just above, but not touching, the body. A short Reiki session can help to activate the body’s natural healing abilities and recipients often report feeling more relaxed, calmer, comforted and peaceful.

“Reiki is a complementary therapy, and we explain that Reiki is not meant to treat or cure any disease,” said Veronique Frede, volunteer Reiki therapist at Elmhurst Hospital. “Reiki is very safe and gentle, and supports the regular medical care that patients are receiving. It is also a wonderful self-care practice that can be used on a daily basis.”

“We always ask people to rate their pain and anxiety on a scale from 0-10 before we begin each session and ask them again afterwards. Most patients say their pain and anxiety is three or four points lower on the scale after having a Reiki session,” said Van De Velde. “While Reiki may not completely remove all feelings of pain or anxiety, the reduction in these symptoms provides much needed relief to patients.”

Reiki can be learned by anyone of any age and is practiced throughout the world by people of all different faiths and cultures.

To learn more about Reiki, visit

If you are an experienced level II or III Reiki practitioner and would like to volunteer at Elmhurst Hospital, visit our volunteer page.

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