Integrative medicine helps kids fight cancer
Through acupuncture, massage, healing touch and other CAM (complementary and alternative medicines) services, the UNM Center for LIfe is able to help support the whole person in their healing process. But not all of integrative services are paid by a patient’s insurance benefits. So UNM pediatric oncologist Dr. Linda Butros and David Lang, Center for Life director of advanced manual therapies, have organized Kids Supporting Kids, an initiative to raise funds for integrative oncology services for children fighting cancer.  
Credit: Rebecca Gustaf

There’s something especially distressing about seeing a child in pain. Without life experience, children can associate pain with punishment – or justice – wondering if, somehow, it’s deserved.

David Lang sees it every day as director of advanced manual therapies at UNM’s Center for Life Integrative Medicine Clinic. He spends his days in part massaging UNM pediatric cancer patients and other ailing children, hoping to provide relief while opening physical, emotional and psychological doors for improved recovery. “Healing comes one touch at a time, one person at a time,” Lang says. “Massage helps give the healing process a chance to work, while providing relief, at least temporarily, from pain and associated anxiety.”

While Lang’s professional mission is to help children relax before intensive chemotherapy or after grueling physical therapy, his personal mission is to raise funds for massage and acupuncture treatments that aren’t always covered by insurance. In 2014, Lang built from the ground up Kids Supporting Kids, a dynamic group of young performers that includes dancers from the National Dance Institute, a chamber group from the Albuquerque Youth Symphony, solo singers and more.

Kids Supporting Kids is set to take the stage Saturday, March 7 at the Hiland Theatre, 4800 Central Avenue SE, beginning at  7:30 p.m.  The special-themed show, "Stories on the Rivers of Life," will raise funds for much needed alternative treatments.

Tickets are $25, or $50 for the pre-show gala, where there will be food and the chance to bid on paintings, jewelry, art and more. The pre-show gala begins at 6 p.m. One-hundred percent of net proceeds will go to the Integrative Medicine Pediatric Fund.

Lang is more than empathetic with kids in pain. Born with a leg malformation, he was the recipient of healing touch himself at an early age. “My mother and older siblings would work and stretch my little body every day so I would be able to walk,” he recalls. “Eventually I began to dance to strengthen my body, which led to a career on the Broadway stage.”

“I personally experienced it and believe our young performers will gain a greater sense of purpose,” he says. “They’ll come to appreciate the power of the arts to transform lives.”

Last year’s Kids Supporting Kids event raised more than $25,000. Lang’s goal this year is to top $100,000. “We hope to raise enough money to bring comfort and healing to oncology and other pediatric patients at UNM Hospital for a full year,” he adds.

"Stories on the Rivers of Life" will feature images of pediatric cancer patients projected behind the performers, along with stories Lang has collected from both the children who have had cancer, and the family members who have been affected by cancer in some way. The stories will be integrated into the show while some of the most talented children in the state perform.

For more information on UNM’s Center for Life, or to purchase "Stories on the Rivers of Life" tickets, visit the clinic's website.