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More than Education…A Massage Therapists’s Experience

September 25th, the fourth day.  Things come in and out of focus so quickly it’s as if a flash goes by; the days are so beautiful now so golden brown and blue; I wanted to be out in it, I wanted to be glad I was alive, I wanted to be glad about all the things I’ve got to be glad about.  But now it hurts.  Now it hurts.  Things chase themselves around inside my eyes and there are tears I cannot shed and words like cancer, pain and dying.   Later, I don’t want this to be a record of grieving only.  I don’t want this to be a record only of tears.  I want it to be something I can use now or later, something that I can remember, something that I can pass on, something that I can know came out of the kind of strength I have that nothing else can shake for very long, or equal.–Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals  On the first day of the oncology massage class, we sat in a circle and took turns stating our names, where we practice and the name of someone in our life that has or had cancer.  For me, it was my dad who is thankfully healed.  Our instructor wanted us to honor them and others during the course time.  A list of their names was hung on a classroom wall and songs and poems, written by people who had lived with cancer, were played and read throughout the three days we were together. These three days were filled with a week’s worth of information: debunking the myths surrounding massage and cancer, the benefits of massage, contraindications and complications, reading research, when and how to get the physician’s input, history taking, and how to modify a massage based on tumor location, metastasis, activity level, treatment, surgery or any other risk factors, etc.   It all seemed a bit overwhelming and then nerve-wracking when we had to use all this new information, on the last day of instruction, to meet and work with an actual patient. Each patient was extremely different in diagnoses, symptoms and treatment, but each was a fighter and had a thoughtful willingness to teach us.  The time we spent with them was not about pitying them or putting them in a box so we could “fix” them, but about being a part of the journey that sets them free; sets them free to live life to it’s fullest; whatever “full” means for each individual in that moment in time.  It was a wonderful reminder of why we all chose this humbling, invaluable (and sometimes downright exhausting) profession and to slow down, be still and listen.   You’re not going to find that in corporate america.  Luanna Palazzolo, B.S., LMT