After a cancer diagnosis, the brain often switches to survival. Even after successful treatment, it can be hard to move past the lingering fears and see that there is more to life than just survival. This is the experience of Gloria Harnack, a survivor of breast cancer. “I had radiation treatment 12 years ago. Then I had a lumpectomy first, but there were issues and I had the whole breast removed.”
Gloria survived breast cancer, but the treatment left her with scarring. “It was very much like ropes under my skin,” she said, “I had no idea that my inability to reach had anything to do with the scar tissue. As a cancer survivor, you just live with it, you don’t think about fixing it.” Gloria lived with the tightness, scar tissue, and pain for twelve years before learning there might be another option. After a visit with her physician, she was recommended to Mercy Medical Center- North Iowa, for Astym treatment sessions with therapist Lauren TeBrink.
“It got rid of the pain. It has just been a remarkable treatment,” Gloria said, “I wish I could tell you the difference in what I can do with that arm now, of what it felt like before. It’s not lumpy. I never dreamed that I could have better than what I had.” Gloria had lived with her symptoms for so long after treatment, and the new life available to her after Astym treatment was eye-opening. “It doesn’t matter if you get the treatment right after breast cancer, or if you wait years. What matters is you get treatment,” she said.
Lauren TeBrink is an Astym-certified therapist who treats breast cancer survivors regularly, and she has seen the special kind of trauma that breast cancer patients endure: “Women who have gone through breast cancer are a wonderful and delicate population. This type of cancer impacts their vision of themselves and sometimes can impact how they see themselves as a woman.” TeBrink observes.
Prior to becoming certified in Astym therapy TeBrink saw a great need in her patients. Women returned with range of motion trouble and tightness, and there was no ready solution. The women had survived breast cancer treatment but were left with limitations and discomfort from the treatments. “I felt strongly that I was missing something and that I had to bridge that gap. That is what led me to Astym therapy,” TeBrink said.
After getting certified in Astym therapy, she brought the treatment back to her patients and immediately saw results. “I noticed it was significantly improving scar tissue… and improving the look and feel of the scar tissue at the breast.” For Lauren and her patients, Astym therapy was a game-changer. “Since I’ve been certified in Astym therapy, I can see the difference it makes in them [the patients], I can see the happiness. They see that they can improve. Patients who didn’t think they could get better are getting better.”
Astym therapy has answered both the physical and emotional needs of her patients. “To see the hope I can provide these women is beyond impactful to me as a therapist. To tell them I can improve their range of motion, decrease their pain, help them wear a bra more comfortably, and most importantly, to help them feel more like themselves again.” TeBrink advises patients: “Don’t settle. Do not let yourself say ‘I beat cancer and that’s good enough’. If you’re suffering from limited range of motion, scar tissue, sensitivity, if you have difficulty wearing a bra or feeling comfortable, do not settle. Love yourself enough to seek something better.”
Having a special needs brother, TeBrink knows the value of finding the right treatment when you need it. It can work wonders in someone’s life. With Astym therapy, TeBrink is dramatically improving the lives of breast cancer survivors, and she is grateful for the role. As TeBrink puts it: “This shows me that this is where I should be.”
Featured Therapist: Lauren TeBrink, OTR/L, Astym cert Occupational Therapist at Mercy Medical Center- North Iowa, Mason City, IA