Top 6 Questions about Reiki and Colorectal Cancer Treatment

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) are helpful ways to find peace, comfort, and healing – both mentally and physically – after diagnosis, through treatment, or into survivorship, and it’s exciting to know that scientific evidence shows they can benefit people with cancer.

It is important to find your own balance when planning for standard of care and possible complementary medicine approaches. CAM can work very well when implemented alongside standard therapy recommendations. (NCCN guidelines for colon and rectal cancer treatment).  We view CAM as an addition that must be discussed with your healthcare team to ensure you are advancing your treatment and not interfering with it. CAM is not intended to replace standard of care.

Reiki is a complementary therapy. You can find reiki therapy at hospitals across the United States, including some very prestigious institutions such as Memorial Sloan Kettering, Cleveland Clinic, New York Presbyterian, the Yale Cancer Center, the Mayo Clinic, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Standard of care

Standard of care is, “Treatment that is accepted by medical experts as a proper treatment for a certain type of disease and that is widely used by healthcare professionals.” It’s also called best practice, standard medical care, and standard therapy, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Complementary and alternative medicine

“Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the term for medical products and practices that are not part of standard medical care,” as defined by the NCI. CAM may also be referred to as integrative medicine, and may fill the mental, physical, and spiritual needs of a survivor. 
While standard of care treatment involves a thorough research process, which can take years, CAM and CAM practitioners are not regulated. Types of CAM include:

  1. Manipulative and body-based: massage, chiropractic, reflexology
  2. Biologically based: vitamins, dietary supplements, botanicals, special foods or diets
  3. Manipulative and body-based: massage, chiropractic, reflexology
  4. Energy healing: reiki and therapeutic touch
  5. Whole medical systems: Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathic medicine

Fight CRC is committed to informing patients about all of your care options to help your mind, body, and spirit. We recently had the opportunity to ask Eudilma Sole-Kaifman our top 6 reiki therapy questions. Sole-Kaifman is a physician's assistant and reiki practitioner whose husband passed away from colorectal cancer in 2019. Since then, Sole-Kaifman has been an advocate for colorectal cancer in both adults and kids. She feels passionately about helping cancer survivors and their loved ones find peace, healing, and comfort – physically, mentally and emotionally – through reiki. 

Reiki and colorectal cancer

1. What is reiki?

Reiki (pronounced “ray-kee”), as it is practiced in the U.S. today, is a form of complementary and alternative medicine using touch therapy dating back to the teachings of Mikao Usui in Japan in the early 1920s. Reiki, which uses touch therapy, is energy healing based on the belief that a vital energy flows through the body. Over the past decade, reiki has been adopted in healthcare systems to help address stress, relaxation, depression, pain, and wound healing management, among others in the care of cancer patients. 

2. Does the NCI believe reiki therapy is valuable to patients?

While the NCI says there is not enough evidence to support the existence of energy fields, they believe there are no harmful effects in using reiki as a complement to standard of care treatments for colorectal cancer. In fact, a reiki clinical trial is currently enrolling in the Rochester, New York area and can be found on the NCI website for Reiki Therapy in Cancer Patients Hospitalized in an Inpatient Setting.

According to the NCI, reiki therapy can help patients to reduce stress and anxiety and promote well-being. Some NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers, such as Penn Medicine in Philadelphia and Cleveland Clinic, recognize the importance of integrative and lifestyle medicine, and have reiki practitioners available to patients.

3. What steps do you need to take to become qualified to practice reiki?

Becoming a reiki healer took Sole-Kaifman about a year, since she had to complete three levels. She said her Sensei (teacher) was strict. To become a reiki practitioner you must complete a formal series of training in the healing arts. To become a reiki master (a Sensei), you must train someone else in the art of reiki.

In 2009, Sole-Kaifman’s husband had a tumor on his spinal cord, and a reiki practitioner (now her Sensei) administered reiki to her husband. In that moment, Sole-Kaifman became personally interested in the healing power of reiki. As a reiki practitioner, Sole-Kaifman says she doesn’t have a special power or energy of her own, but because she has been formally trained in reiki, she channels energy from the universe and passes it to the person lying or sitting before her.

4. How do you find a reiki practitioner?

The Center for Reiki Research website provides a list of hospitals, medical clinics, and hospice programs where reiki is offered as a standard part of care. Many nurses and other healthcare professionals who do offer reiki as part of their patient care may offer it either through integrating moments of reiki touch into routine care or through longer reiki sessions. 

5. Is reiki therapy about religion?

Sole-Kaifman is quick to point out that reiki is not a religious experience and that she is not religious. She says people don’t have to believe in religion or God to benefit from the restorative and healing benefits of reiki.

For Sole-Kaifman, the most important thing about reiki therapy is seeing the patient at peace when the session has ended. 

Sole-Kaifman has seen firsthand the benefits and relief that patients stage I through stage IV have received through reiki. She has been told that she has given them an unbelievable amount of peace and has seen people receive anxiety relief or calmness in their lives and move forward peacefully. 

While Sole-Kaifman says that reiki is not a miracle, she believes that when people believe in the reiki concept, they do find peace, healing and grace.

6. What can I expect during a reiki session?

Reiki sessions are generally about an hour long and use hand positions, starting at either your head or your feet. The hand positions are well spaced and several may be utilized to cover the entire body. 

According to reiki practitioners, like Sole-Kaifman, they use their intuition to lead the hands to positions to be used in each therapy session. One common method is to sweep, in which the practitioner sweeps his or her hands through the clients energy field looking for hot spots. These indicate places needing healing energy. For Sole-Kaifman, she uses massage techniques and oils. She always asks the person if they are comfortable with her hands touching them, and then uses her hands to detect where the pain is by feeling temperature changes. When her hands feel hot, she is most likely closest to the person’s point of pain on their body, usually where the tumor is located.  

TIP: It is extremely important for a reiki practitioner to ask the patient if they mind being touched. Reiki therapy doesn’t require touch, practitioners can hold their hands close rather than directly touching a person.

Sole-Kaifman creates a peaceful ambiance with candles and oils, as long as the person is not affected by smells and is OK with her using oils. She says reiki is beautiful because the recipient can feel the power, peace, and healing gently enveloping them as the session moves forward.

TIP:  Be sure to tell your reiki practitioner if you have strong reactions to aromatherapy or have any allergies to oils.

Reiki has a calming and peaceful effect on patients. Sole-Kaifman uses lavender essential oil, which can make people feel sleepy but says it isn’t necessary to use essential oil. The reiki touch alone can have calming effects.

TIP: It’s OK to fall asleep. A reiki session is to feel peaceful and calm.

Reiki should be in addition to standard of care treatment – not “instead of”

Sole-Kaifman also points out that people need to follow the standard of care that their doctors prescribe, and reiki is a supplemental treatment. Reiki enhances the standard of care by providing peace and comfort, all while a patient may be feeling the harsh effects of chemo, radiation, and surgery, or post-treatment anxiety and stress.

Reiki therapy is a process. Sole-Kaifman recommends that the patient have at least three reiki sessions, and from there, they can decide to continue at whatever pace they choose, or they can walk away from reiki completely.

Sole-Kaifman also recommended continued reiki “maintenance” to provide the same trend of tranquility. Generally, people who feel peace and comfort from reiki with Sole-Kaifman choose to continue with it.

Reiki results may vary: But all results are peaceful

Through the years, the one constant reiki result Sole-Kaifman has seen from patients is the peace and comfort as they become relaxed and at ease from the healing properties of reiki.

“Some people are very afraid of death. Reiki can help calm and relax people, and during a session, people can talk about things and work through them,” said Sole-Kaifman. “I try to guide them, help them, and prepare them.” 

Sole-Kaifman has received calls when someone is dying so that she can administer reiki and provide tranquility and a peaceful passing when it is time.

Wondering if reiki will work for you

Sole-Kaifman recommends that anyone interested in reiki should try it. The only time she would tell someone not to try reiki is when they are resistant or just not interested in it. Reiki should not be imposed on someone, said Sole-Kaifman. As long as someone’s mind and heart are open to reiki, they will benefit from it. Sole-Kaifman said, “Reiki is beautiful. It doesn’t have anything to do with doctors, hospitals, medicine, God, or religion. Reiki is a transmission of energy from the universe.”

Reducing anxiety and stress can lead to emotional healing. Sometimes in a reiki session, people have strong feelings that come to the surface. They may cry or become angry. Sole-Kaifman said it is good to feel the feelings, embrace them, and then release them. She wants people to get rid of sadness so they can leave the reiki session peacefully and with healing.

TIP: Reiki therapy is a safe space. You may cry, laugh, or grieve.

Sole-Kaifman said when you leave her reiki therapy session, she wants you to feel like you do when you leave a spa. “Who doesn’t feel relaxed and calm when they leave a spa?”

Reiki is a helpful tool in the fight against cancer. Sole-Kaifman gets a lot of positive feedback, which, “I hold in my heart to keep going and keep doing and keep helping people,” Sole-Kaifman says.

Because reiki is not like talk therapy, “The patient does not have to tell me anything else other than what they felt at the session. Everything is felt with so much love and an open heart,” said Sole-Kaifman.

For more Fight CRC resources complementary and alternative medicines read our blog post.


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