Tired, hurting, stressed, worn out, scared for themselves and loved ones.
These are just a few of the emotions cancer patients may be experiencing, says David Cowan, RN, HNC, CNMT, CLT. A specialist in hands-on healing for chronic pain and former Home Health and Hospice Care nurse, Cowan recently held a Sound Healing session at the Cancer Resource Centre in Munster to help participants manage the stress and pain associated with a cancer diagnosis.
During the program, participants lay on their backs with their heads towards the center of the room. Meanwhile, Cowan, a local musician in the area for more than twenty years, played a variety of instruments—including a singing bowl, an overtone flute, a large frame drum, a gong and even a conch shell. The soothing concert of instruments, along with the vibration of the sounds moving through the body, are meant to help the mind and body relax, and eliminate anxiety and stress.
Monica Hoffman, a six-year breast cancer survivor and Cancer Resource Specialist at the Cancer Resource Centre, admits she and several other participants were so relaxed and refreshed after the program that they felt as if they had taken a nap or fallen asleep during the session. “The sounds and the vibration wash over your body and give you a renewed feeling of comfort and relaxation,” as Hoffman expresses it. “Each sound had a different pitch and feeling, a vibration through the body. It was very interesting to feel your body respond to the sounds that he was creating on these different instruments.”
While Cowan makes use of multiple instruments during these sessions—including the voice of his wife Patti Shaffner—the central part of the session is the gong, which provides the most vibration and opportunity for meditation. “The gong is another form of touch because the vibration touches you,” Cowan explains. “The gong vibrating them is kind of like a massage, a sonic massage. It’s not so much something that you hear in your ears, but you feel it in your bones.”
The vibrations assist in eliminating toxins from the body, relaxing the muscles and improving circulation, Cowan says. In addition, the gong helps those who have difficulty meditating. “The benefit of meditating is that you stop your mind, and the gong will do that for you,” Cowan says. “If you do the music right, it’s hypnotic, [and participants can] kind of check out.”
Skin cancer survivor Marilyn Winkler, a regular participant and volunteer at the Cancer Resource Centre programs, enjoyed the session. “You could just totally relax, meditate, go to sleep,” she says of the program. “The sound was like a vibration. I personally thought it was soothing, relaxing.”
Healing music experiences, such as these, Cowan explains, “are meant to help satisfy your soul and spirit as well as your body.” Those currently fighting or recovering from cancer may feel helpless and isolated. “[The sessions] create a community, even if it’s only for an hour,” Cowan adds. “We’re all here for the same reason and the same purpose, to recognize that everyone here is human and suffering, and we offer something that is healing.”
Interested in attending a Sound Healing session? Call the Cancer Resource Centre at 219.836.3349 for more information. Cancer Resource Centre programs are open to cancer patients and their family members or caregivers.