Touch of Relief -

VNA Stories

Touch of Relief

When Willie Payne realized he wouldn’t win his fight against cancer and didn’t want to keep enduring the treatments, he decided to turn to VNA Hospice Care.

He wasn’t sure what to expect, but as each of the services VNA Hospice Care offered was explained to him, he was particularly surprised to hear that massage therapy was one of the options available. When he heard it could be effective in relieving pain, he was skeptical, but requested the service anyway. Pain in his side and his arm had grown to the point it was difficult for him to sleep without a heavy dose of pain medication.

“I didn’t realize how effective it was when I had my first treatment,” Willie said. “But that night, I went to bed without any medication and the pain was almost gone.” Since that first treatment, he’s been receiving massage therapy from VNA Hospice Care for 30 minutes twice per week, which allows him to dramatically reduce the amount of pain medication he takes.

“Many clients cut down on pain medication with massage,” said Jessica Kanski, a licensed massage therapist who volunteers her services for VNA Hospice Care patients like Willie. “They often show more range of motion, less pain, reduced swelling and other signs of relief from their symptoms.”

Jessica began volunteering with VNA in the fall of 2015 as part of a massage training project which required 30 hours of community service. After learning about VNA Hospice Care, she wanted to try to bring the benefits of massage therapy to hospice patients. She said massage for hospice patients is a little different from normal massage, in that most patients require less pressure in the touch and more communication about the therapy itself.

“Many older people have no experience with massage,” Jessica said. “And many of them are nervous at first. But when I come back after that first session, they almost always have a huge smile on their face because they know I’ll help them feel better. That helps them psychologically, which helps them feel better physically as well.”

After his initial skepticism, Willie has completely embraced the benefits of massage therapy, and the benefits of VNA Hospice Care as well.

“VNA is no stress,” Willie said. “The people are just great. Prompt, on time, courteous and knowledgeable. I love my nurse, my social worker and of course Jessica too. She even taught me how to do the therapy on myself,” he said, demonstrating the pressure her puts on his arm and his side. “But it doesn’t feel as good as when she does it.”

If you would like more information about VNA Hospice Care, or if you’re interested in donating or becoming a volunteer, please contact VNA at or call us at 1-800-CALL-VNA.