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Hospice Massage Therapy Offers Hands on Relief

Elizabeth “Betty Lou” Oberkehr, 81, prides herself on maintaining her independence. So, she didn’t want help when her breast cancer came back last year after a 10-year remission. She didn’t need help! But after two severe reactions to chemo medications, Betty Lou made the difficult decision to seek an alternative to another round of curative treatment.

“That’s when my oncologist recommended hospice,” said Betty Lou. “But, I told him ‘I’m not dead yet!’

”Betty Lou admits to feeling hopeless when she called Samaritan.  But, she quickly realized that hospice care isn’t just for the last few days of life. Instead, Samaritan provided a team of experts to guide her through this one-time journey. They quickly became “another family who cares about me.”

With the help of her hospice team, Betty Lou continues to reside in her Cherry Hill home surrounded by her favorite things — colorful, stained-glass sun catchers, patchwork quilts, and photos of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She has pain in her neck and back as a side effect of her cancer tumors, and lymph node removal. She also has severe lymph edema – fluid retention and swelling – of her left arm.

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What Other Therapies are Available to Hospice Patients at Samaritan?

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To help her live more comfortably, Betty Lou’s nurse, Robin Black, RN, added visits from Samaritan’s licensed massage therapist to her plan of care. Amy Goonewardene, LMT, provides gentle therapeutic massage that encourages the natural drainage of the lymph fluids causing her swelling. “Our goal,” says Amy “is to reduce Betty Lou’s pain, tension, and anxiety, and increase her circulation and overall sense of well-being.”

“When I needed it, the right people came into my life,” said Betty Lou. “Amy made me feel instantly comfortable. She was very patient with me, and sensitive to my needs. Thanks to her visits, I am seeing a reduction of my pain and an uplifting of my overall outlook.”

For Betty Lou, hospice care and massage therapy have helped her continue to be comfortable and independent at this stage of her serious illness. She’s thankful for “building these relationships” and having the right supports in place for when her illness progresses.

Betty Lou remarks, “I’m only doing this once, so I’m going to do it right. There’s no off ramp on this trip!”

Though not required or covered by Medicare, Medicaid and many private insurers, the services of Samaritan’s massage therapists are made possible entirely through generous community support of our charitable mission. Donate now >>