By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Beth Terhune is a licensed, nationally certified massage therapist and certified lymphedema therapist. She has studied, practiced and mentored in the field of oncology massage,? is? a hospice volunteer, and founder of the Abbott Road Project. She will also soon be entering the Graduate School of Nursing at the UMass Medical Center in its GEP program.
Before becoming a massage therapist, Terhune worked in Silicon Valley, Cal. She came to Massachusetts to pursue a graduate degree in history and to work as a senior research fellow at the Center for Knowledge Communication in the Computer Science Department at UMass-Amherst.
In 2004, in a midlife career change, Terhune received a diploma from the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy. Immediately following,?she trained in cancer work and in prenatal and postpartum work.
A year ago, Terhune and fellow therapists Donna Venuto, of Healing Hands Muscular Therapy, and Kelly Burneson, of Balance Rehabilitative Massage, created the Healing and Wellness Center in Westborough. The women had been sharing space, running the Natural Healing Center off the rotary in Westborough, but needed more space, so they joined forces and moved to Chauncy Place on Lyman Street in Westborough.
In May of 2011, Terhune began offering intermittent clinic days that provide no-cost access to trained oncology massage practitioners for individuals with cancer. The Abbott Road Project was established in honor of Terhune's maternal grandmother, Geneva “Dynamite” Brotherton, and her dream to create a place where all people were welcome, regardless of socioeconomic status or background, and where individuals would be comfortable regardless of the challenges being faced without judgment or demand. (Abbott Road is a place in the town in eastern Washington where Brotherton grew up and lived most of her adult life.)
During Abbott House clinic days, Terhune provides oncology massage therapists an opportunity to come together in community, to reinforce standards of practice, and to support local individuals living with cancer and their caregivers with free access to safe, comfort-oriented oncology massage services. The clinic days are very special, Terhune said, with hour-long massage sessions and yoga classes for those living with cancer.
“What I love about the Abbott Road Project clinic days is that they are days of breathing room and giving,” Terhune said. “We have had a number of those who have received massage turn around and volunteer their own time at other clinic days.”
The massage sessions are by appointment only, and each individual's medical teams are involved in planning treatment sessions to accommodate medical devices, medical histories, current cancer treatment protocols underway and surgical interventions.
Terhune chooses a nonprofit to spotlight each clinic day (for example: Lucy's Love Bus, the PINK Revolution, 15-40, and the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden) so that the therapists can learn more about groups that support their clients and their clients’ caregivers. Additionally, it allows for clients and their families to learn about other support services that might be available to them. Additionally, there is art created on clinic days. Inspired by Robin Batchelder, of Sparks Art Studio in Hopkinton, the therapists, volunteers and participants all end up working on art projects throughout the day. According to Terhune, it is a wonderful way to provide the clients with a way to ease back out into the work and to allow for space for them to network with each other without outside pressures.
Quilts have been part of the Abbott Road Project since the beginning.?One of Terhune's clients brought a quilt for the first clinic day – they have it and another alongside for people to hold and sign, if so moved. The quilts have also traveled with Terhune and inspired oncology massage therapists around the country about the project and its meaning.
“There aren’t words that describe how this work feels,” Terhune said. “I have the honor and privilege of holding people when they are traveling some of the most complicated pieces of their lives and helping them come to a place where they don’t feel like diagnoses but, rather, feel like themselves despite diagnoses, if even for a little while. It is a very humbling, beautiful kind of work to be able to do.”
Since the Abbott Road Project began, 25 oncology massage therapists, five nurses and physician's assistants and 50 lay volunteers have volunteered their time with the project. In all, over 70 individuals living with cancer have benefited from the services provided (with some returning more than once and some returning to volunteer).
Anyone interested in participating in the clinics can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Healing & Wellness Center, 508-366-8133, ext. 2.