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Reiki, other integrative treatments helping cancer patients heal

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, one of the first challenges is deciding what treatment is best for them. Many cancer patients look beyond conventional methods and opt for what's known as integrative medicine -- a variety of therapies designed to treat the mind, as well as the body.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, one of the first challenges is deciding what treatment is best for them. Even if surgery or chemo can cure you, the side effects can be devastating.

That’s why many cancer patients look for other ways to fight the disease. What’s known as integrative medicine is a variety of therapies designed to treat the mind, as well as the body.

Iris Otts is battling breast cancer with two weapons. Her doctor has prescribed chemotherapy, which makes her feel sick, and Reiki, which makes her feel better.

Reiki is considered an energy medicine. It’s based on the idea that unseen life force energy flows through us and when that energy is off, we’re more likely to get sick.

Reiki Master Lisa Cavallaro is using that energy to help Iris heal herself.

“It just revitalizes you. I can’t explain it, but there’s times when I lay there and I close my eyes...I can feel her hands above me. You can’t see it, but you can feel the heat and you can actually feel at times things moving, like bad energies out of you,” Otts said.

That energy can’t easily be measured, so it’s nearly impossible to study Reiki like we study medicines, but Iris’ oncologist Heidi Puc has seen it work.

“They do have patients that have had some regression of their disease and again, this is hard to prove,” said Dr. Puc.

Reiki that is done before surgery has been proven in studies to help some people recover faster. Dr. Anthony Scalzo, who’s been practicing oncology for 30 years, says energy medicine is powerful.

“I’m very excited about Reiki and acupuncture in terms of how they can be integrated into our treatment of patients with cancer,” Dr. Scalzo said.

Dr. Scalzo says patients with cancer can also benefit from yoga, nutritional supplements, changes in their diet and vitamin C infusions. Iris does the infusions once a week. Her last scans showed her tumors are shrinking.

“I’ve always believed if your mind was strong and your body was strong you can heal itself,” Otts said.

Dr. Puc says she’s living proof that energy medicine works.

“I went through a real personal life crisis, before that I was very, very skeptical and through that experience and doing the Reiki...having energy work done on me, meditating, doing yoga, going inwards that has dramatically changed my life,” said Dr. Puc.

Otts might not have time to wait for data. Her cancer was diagnosed at an advanced stage.

“I don’t feel like I’m Stage 4. I don’t feel like I only have a certain amount of time to go. I feel healthy. I feel good. I feel energized,” Otts continued.

If you’d like to find out more about these integrative, holistic cancer therapies, there’s an open house this Thursday at Hematology Oncology Associates on Brittonfield Parkway in East Syracuse. It runs from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Doctors will be on hand to answer your questions.

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