Reiki improves mental and physical health after cancer

By Domna Dali

One Colorado winter morning, Todd Lovrien put off a doctor’s visit, as many of us are guilty of, until he put his ski boots on. Recent, increasingly cold sensations and exhaustion were almost overwhelming him, and therefore more unusual than any other time before hitting the slopes. Thyroid cancer will get in the way of ski season, since it affects your lymph nodes, which regulate body temperature and immune system. These symptoms began to affect his daily routine. After visiting the doctor for the first time in 10 years or so before, and receiving a diagnosis of “Let’s see what happens,” he knew it was time he took his “marble-sized nodules” and funky symptoms seriously.

Todd is a father of two, has lived in Boulder for almost his whole life, and has been selling residential real estate for almost 15 years. Tenacious and motivated, he has not let his slow-growing thyroid cancer get in the way of his life. In April 2015, he was diagnosed with a rare form of medullary thyroid cancer. Todd’s understanding of his own body and mental health allows him to live in the present, and to embrace his everyday life.

To test for thyroid cancer, calcitonin levels are scanned. Normal calcitonin levels are from zero to four, while Todd’s were between 10,000 and 12,000. His surgical team removed his thyroid, along with 100 lymph nodes, and found that 98 were malignant. His cancer was caused by a mutated gene he inherited from his father. His children had the same gene, so they all decided to remove their thyroids around the same time in November, putting immense stress on Todd and his family. They were informed that once the thyroids were taken out, the chances of his children getting medullary cancer would be effectively eliminated.

Todd states, “The only thing you have to be worried about is if the calcitonin levels double within a calendar year.” Todd goes into his doctor’s office every three to six months for full-body scans and blood work to monitor his cancers status. He told me that something a lot of cancer patients share is “scanxiety.” Todd notes, “The term is cancer-wide [among doctors and patients in the cancer community]. You kind of freak out when you’re about to get scanned and the closer you get to it, the more you start wigging out because you have no idea what they are going to see.”

Todd heard about LifeSpark’s Reiki program from his wife. He hesitated at first, as many do when they hear about alternative medicine for the first time. When his wife suggested it to Todd as an option for healing, he said he “didn’t really believe it.” His initial intention for receiving Reiki was to help him cope with pain, yet he mentions that so far, it has definitely given him meditative relief from his anxieties. “The meditation and breathing is really what helps readjust your energy with Reiki,” said Todd. Now he feels that the more Reiki he receives, the more his overall mental and physical health improve.

Reiki has specifically impacted Todd’s slow-growing cancer which subsequently causes feelings of an uncertain future. He told me that he doesn’t like to let his mind wander too far into the realms of the giant question marks that concern his body. But, Todd observed, “If you go everything-in, that’s one way you can get rid of that question mark in your subconscious.” Todd has realized the mind plays a big role in helping your body heal, and that Reiki has helped his energy and better correlate his mental and physical health.

“When you are diagnosed with cancer, the first thing that comes to your mind isn’t yourself–it’s your family. The fear of not seeing your daughter or son get married or have children. People don’t truly believe that until they are in that position. I know I didn’t before I was told about the cancer,” said Todd. “The emotions come in waves,” he said, adding that “It’s like something flips and all of a sudden you’re feeling overwhelmingly emotional and your thoughts can turn depressive in an instant. One day you’re just living with it and everything seems stable and then you remember it in a different way and all of a sudden it hits you again.” Todd agreed that cancer patients’ mental health is just as important as their physical health.

Todd lives by two important quotes, and suggests that other cancer patients and survivors do the same. The first is a line from the movie Mr. Mom: “Keep that sense of humor… It’s critical.” Todd explained, “It’s easier said than done, but it really does help. Laugh as much as you can, as hard as it is keeping up-beat after you feel so beat up.” Secondly, Todd says, “Find a silver lining or two.” He has found a lot of them since being diagnosed. He suggests that we all need to do more for ourselves and not live with any regrets. “It may sound bad, but I really feel people should allow themselves to be a little selfish and do more things [they] really want to do, instead of all these things [they] feel [they] have to do.”

LifeSpark’s Reiki services helped the once skeptical Todd become an enthusiast in regard to the importance of the mind and body connection. Strong and still skiing, the fact that he once had cancer will never hinder him from powder days.