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Las Vegas massage practitioner develops recovery technique for breast cancer survivors

Posted at 9:33 AM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 16:48:37-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Breast cancer is a life-changing diagnosis. But many will tell you, the battle isn't over even if you beat it.

13 Action news anchor Tricia Kean has more on a recovery technique developed right here in Las Vegas and the effort to make it available to more women.

Tuesday Martin says she did what was needed to save her life, but she wasn't prepared for the pain that came after her double mastectomy.

"Taking a shower, housekeeping, just caring for myself; I couldn't do it," Martin said.

It was too painful to even move her arm above her head, she said.

"And I was talking to my oncologist. I was like, 'you know, I'm hurting. What can I do to fix this?'" Martin said.

Her doctor recommended The Caring Place on Sunset Road, near Pecos Road. The Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation program provides no-cost services for adults diagnosed with cancer.

Massage Practitioner develops recovery technique for breast cancer survivors

Martin went and met Sally Spurgeon, a medical massage practitioner and cancer survivor. Spurgeon says she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, went through treatment in 2009 and started reconstruction in 2010.

Spurgeon went through 14 surgeries over a four-year period.

"What I discovered coming around from my surgery is that you feel as though somebody has put you in a bra that is two sizes too small made out of a steel girder," Spurgeon said.

Just like Martin, Spurgeon says she found it hard to move and even breathe.

"So, being a massage therapist, I just opened an office, luckily, and had people working with me that could help me with that," Spurgeon said.

But Spurgeon met plenty of others who weren't finding the help they needed. In one case, she met a cancer survivor desperate for any relief.

"She was suicidal when I was called in to meet her. She couldn't move. She couldn't raise her arms. She couldn't dress herself," Spurgeon said. "It took me 45 minutes to give her her range of motion back. That's all it took."

That's when Spurgeon decided more needed to be done. She eventually developed a therapeutic massage technique called the Spurgeon Method. It combines massage and body work with some lymphatic drainage, she said.

"Because following mastectomy surgery, there's a lot of swelling, and the swelling causes pain," Spurgeon explained.

Massage Practitioner develops recovery technique for breast cancer survivors

The problem is the treatment isn't covered by insurance. But there's a study being conducted at The Caring Place in hopes of changing that.

"We want to make this available for every woman who goes through mastectomy surgery. It makes such a difference in their recovery," Spurgeon said.

Martin can't agree more. She says the treatment changed her life.

"I don't think about the mastectomy. I just know my life is better now," Martin said. "I mean, I had no range of motion. Now I have full range of motion."

Again, the Spurgeon Method is not currently covered by insurance. The Caring Place offers the treatment at no charge for those who need help.