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Part I: Cancer and Skin Changes—Dehydration

By: Patricia Ringos Beach and Katie Morgan-Lousky
Posted: February 28, 2012, from the March 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
This mural, featuring tiles created by Ahava Spa and Wellness Center's "special guests," hangs in the facility's reception area.

This mural, featuring tiles created by Ahava Spa and Wellness Center's "special guests," hangs in the facility's reception area.

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The complexity of these treatments makes it easy to forget the individual whose life is deeply affected.

A special guest

At Ahava Spa and Wellness Center in Toledo, Ohio, the spa’s team does not lose sight of the person with cancer. It is a day spa offering all spa services and, embedded in the day spa is the ministry of offering a spa day to special guests; that is, anyone undergoing treatment for cancer or who has completed treatment in the past 12 months. Ahava, Hebrew for “cherished one,” has cared for almost 800 special guests throughout more than seven years. This experience has solidified the belief that dehydration is one of the most common and critical skin problems for those with cancer.

Sue, the special guest mentioned at the beginning of this article, came to the spa tired of sharing her body with the medical community. She eagerly anticipated her complimentary day of rest and relaxation. Her care, as is the care for all of our special guests, occurred in four stages: the initial assessment and analysis, the preparation and approach to the treatment area, the treatment itself and the evaluation.

1. Initial assessment and analysis. The first thing noted during the initial assessment was the severe effect of dehydration as a result of her long medical treatment plan, which included surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Sue told us she always had great skin, but a combination of poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, decreased fluid intake and stress resulted in dehydration that showed in her thinning, wrinkled and grayish skin. Bald, without eyebrows or eyelashes, and now with her great skin compromised, she looked tired and defeated. She was aging rapidly.

2. Preparation and approach. Compassion and touch are essential ingredients to the care of Ahava’s special guests. Recommendations in caring for these clients include the following.

  • Acknowledge the clients’ cancer—and yes, use the word “cancer.” Although cancer should not be the only topic discussed, recognizing and being up front with the elephant in the room is helpful in putting the clients at ease.
  • Inquire about any pain they may be experiencing at the time. This will help direct the care to be the most comfortable for clients.
  • Ask how they hope to benefit from their spa services. What are their goals for these treatments? What are they looking forward to?
  • Remember to look beyond the particular service or cancer diagnosis, and see the whole person.

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