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Reiki Volunteers Help Norris Cotton Cancer Center Patients

Reiki Volunteers Help Norris Cotton Cancer Center Patients
Photo: NCCC patient Roger Dontonville and Reiki practitioner Jonathan Schechtman.

When Roger Dontonville started his cancer treatment at Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) in the spring of 2016, NCCC staffers told him that Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) volunteers provide free Reiki sessions for patients. He decided to give it a try and found he really enjoyed what The International Center for Reiki Training describes as “a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.”  

“It’s so relaxing that it puts me to sleep,” said Dontonville, an Enfield, New Hampshire, resident who was recently elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives. “It’s calmed me down a lot, and made me think about my breathing. And I can feel the heat from their hands and the energy. Today is my last session, and I’m leaving here a whole lot better than when I came in.”

Reiki is “administered by ‘laying on hands’ and is based on the idea that an unseen ‘life force energy’ flows through us and is what causes us to be alive,” according to the International Center for Reiki Training’s website. “If one’s ‘life force energy’ is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.’”

Dontonville’s wife Anne had a few Reiki sessions as well, and said she also found it to be calming. “It put me in a different place, which I needed as a caregiver. I could feel the positive energy replacing the negative energy.”

“But the most important thing,” she added, “was seeing what it did for Roger and how it added to his healing. It helped him to sleep, which he needed to do. The volunteers were so wonderful. They saw how fragile Roger was for a long time, and it’s nice to hear them say, ‘Wow, look at you now!’” 

Roger Dontonville with staff of Patient and Family Support Services at NCCC: Reiki practitioner Gretchen Fairweather (red apron), licensed massage therapist Beth Hazlett and therapeutic harpist Margaret Stephens

NCCC patient Roger Dontonville with staff of Patient and Family Support Services at NCCC: Reiki practitioner Gretchen Fairweather (red apron), licensed massage therapist Beth Hazlett and therapeutic harpist Margaret Stephens.

Reiki practitioner Jonathan Schechtman has been volunteering at NCCC for seven years, and provides Reiki sessions to patients in NCCC’s chemotherapy infusion suite for four hours a week. “I really enjoy helping others mitigate some of the discomfort and anxiety they have related to their cancer treatments, and I’ve met some really wonderful people here,” said Schechtman, who owns and operates Meeting House Furniture Restoration in Quechee, Vermont.

Deborah Steele, manager of NCCC’s patient services programming, said she is looking for additional Reiki volunteers “to help continue to provide this important service for patients.” Prospective volunteers should be at least Reiki I certified and be able to offer six continuous months of service. Volunteers are needed for three-hour shifts from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. Learn more about volunteering from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Volunteer Services website or call them at 603-650-7056.

Many of the NCCC volunteers learned Reiki from Linda Carley, who teaches Reiki level I, II, and III at the Women’s Health Resource Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Classes are offered from April-October. You can also use this Reiki website to find an instructor or practitioner in your area.

“I take volunteering very seriously, and if you like doing Reiki and have the time, you won’t feel burdened by it at all,” said Fairweather, who volunteers at NCCC once a week for three to four hours. “It’s wonderful to give back, the staff is very supportive and I really look forward to my Thursday mornings.”

Schechtman echoed her sentiments. “I enjoy the other Reiki volunteers, there’s a nice camaraderie and the staff is very positive and supportive. We’re all doing this great thing together and that’s a nice feeling. It’s being the best person you can be and bringing a little sunshine into the lives of these patients who really need our help.”


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