Soothing music played as Marsha Grissom's arm rested softly on a towel.

Two hands gently lifted her arm and began a gentle-touch massage, each of her fingers individually rubbed with soothing oil.

Grissom had come with her husband, Felton Johnson, from North Carolina to Rochester's Mayo Clinic for cancer treatment and a transplant.

She never expected a hand massage, but accepted one last week with appreciation for the time of comfort and relaxation.

The stress that accompanies a diagnosis of illness, and even coping with treatment itself, can affect both the patient and the family caregiver.

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Worried eyes look on as health providers take patients' blood samples, apply bandages and prod with earnest questions.

But, on Tuesday, Grissom rested as trained hand-massage volunteer Mary McCabe created a low-stress environment; an escape-within-a-hospital-room.

"Everybody here's so kind," Grissom exhaled in a tone of voice that could easily be translated to say "ahhh…."

About 90 volunteers campus-wide at Mayo's Saint Marys Hospital, Rochester Methodist and outpatient areas provide the non-therapeutic " Caring Hands" massages intended as respite from what can sometimes seem like unrelenting medical care. The service first began in 2006 at Rochester Methodist.

A similar service is also offered at Olmsted Medical Center Hospital, where medical-surgical patients get hand massages, as do orthopedic patients.

"We've grown," said Barbara Kermisch, Mayo's coordinator for Methodist Hospital Auxiliary volunteers. "We're in every single part of this hospital and the outpatient clinics and Saint Marys."

The simple, personal touch of hands "enhances our goal of making patients as comfortable as possible while they embark on their healing journey," says an online Mayo description.

"If you want to talk, I'm a good listener, or if you just want to set back and relax…" McCabe said to Grissom.

"I'll probably relax," Grissom said. "I'm pretty relaxed already."

Mayo's volunteers do not get to every patient.

But they do, when able, take hand-massage requests — hands because such massages are easier to give to somebody in a hospital bed and they're medically non-invasive.

Besides patients, family members and other health providers — each of whom might be having a stressful experience — can receive a massage.

Samantha Occhino gave birth to daughter Eden Nov. 11.

She, too, gladly accepted a hand massage.

While cradling Eden with her left arm, she got a massage on her right.

Because her husband, Dr. John Occhino, is a surgeon at Rochester Methodist, she already felt connected to the facility. The massage was a bonus she did not know about ahead of time.

"I'm looking forward to it," she said beforehand. "It's a great way to relax and just feel at home."

While getting her massage, she comforted little Eden, who joins older brother Fletcher, 3.

Her appreciation shone through.

Regardless of their medical condition, she said, she believes many patients would appreciate the service.

"This will be nice and soothing, relaxing," McCabe said when she entered Occhino's room. Would Occhino like some relaxing music? Sure.

What channel is that? Sixty-three.

"You can put a request in for a massage, or when we are on the floors we ask patients," McCabe tells Occhino. "It's a completely volunteer service, so there's no set schedule."

When she finished Occhino's massage, McCabe wrapped her arm in the towel to dry the oil, lowered her bed and slipped quietly away.