The simplest tool in my cancer comfort kit often gave the most profound results

My two most invaluable tools for pain control and comfort when I was caring for John at home were never mentioned by any of John’s doctors or nurses. Both were ultra low-tech and completely unrelated to drugs. The first I have already mentioned elsewhere in this blog– the hands-on ancient healing modality of Reiki. The second is so profoundly simple that mentioning it to others completely escaped my attention until this morning, when I applied it to myself as part of my own everyday early morning self-care ritual.

What I’m talking about is a tubular bag filled with rice or flaxseed that can be quickly heated in a microwave oven and applied to virtually any part of the body for instant, soothing relief for a wide variety of bodily discomforts. This is something that is readily available online or at most health food stores– but better yet,  very workable and emminently inexpensive versions can be easily created at home.

One of John’s most constant sources of distress was what he described as “a bone-chilling cold” that would come over him suddenly, causing uncontrollable shivering. Our solution was to drape the warm rice bag, heated for a minute and a half at high temperature in the microwave, along his solar plexus area from chest to groin. This provided a deeply comforting, slightly moist warmth that lasted for at least half an hour and almost always allowed him to drift off into a deep and peaceful sleep– especially when I added Reiki along with the rice bag.

This heated rice bag therapy was a Godsend for all kinds of aches, pains and cancer-related discomforts. It soothed headaches and helped tight muscles to relax.  John liked to drape it around his neck for the shoulder and neck pains that drugs didn’t seem to touch.  When the shivering and  bone-deep chill was particularly severe (as was often the case when he slipped into a cool bed), we used two heated rice bags, one along the solar plexus and the other between his legs. Within minutes, John was radically, visibly at ease. The transformation never ceased to amaze me.

Here’s a photo of my own homemade heatable rice bag:

This one is filled with rice, but flaxseed works equally well. The rice or flax can be mixed with herbal teas or with medicinal herbs, if you like. An even simpler variation would be to fill an extra-long sock with rice or flax and either knot the end or sew it closed. The strap handles are useful to hold the bag around the neck or over the shoulder. I added ribbon ties so that I can tie mine around my waist for soothing warmth on my decrepit back as I fix breakfast. Variations are limited only by your imagination.

Here’s a link for more information on how to make your own:

For those who just don’t have the energy for do-it-yourself projects, you will find many ready-made products by Googling on “heatable rice bags”.

I know that this sounds ridiculously, almost impossibly simplistic, but I cannot describe the peace that this humble tool brought to my beloved, long-suffering husband. May many other cancer patients benefit from a similar peace and comfort…

Shedding Light On The Cancer Journey is now in E-book format, readable on your PC/Mac, Ipad, Android, Blackberry or Kindle. If you would like to learn more about other cancer-related issues such as :

  • troubleshooting pain control issues
  • the decision about when to stop chemo
  • differences between palliative care and hospice care
  • how to choose a truly excellent hospice
  • and the myriad of other considerations of cancer patients and their loved ones that most doctors never discuss

Shedding Light On The Cancer Journey is available on Amazon: The author speaks from from first-hand experience with  palliative care in the home when her husband was dying,  from 25 years of experience at the bedside of dying patients, as a trainer of new hospice volunteers in the area of contemplative care,  and from having successfully transformed several non-functional aspects of her HMO for the benefit of all future cancer patients.

Shedding Light On The Cancer Journey is a not-for-profit  labor of love.


About surfingon

I live in Hawaii. I surf in the winter and swim in the summer. I have been a hospice volunteer with a contemplative-care oriented hospice for 25 years have been part of their team that trains new volunteers for the last 9 years. I have walked the colon cancer path with my beloved husband these past 5 years. He died very peacefully in April 2009. I now seek to share what we learned, to shed light on the many dark corners of this often mystifying, heartbreaking and heart-opening journey.
This entry was posted in caregiver to cancer patient, coping, end of life, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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