Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Guilty Pleasure

I did a lot of driving over the holidays, and a lot of switching around to unfamiliar radio stations.  Formats are similar everywhere, but there was still some regional flavor in the way the DJs interacted with each other and the audience, and in the time of some of the commercials.

Somewhere in between playings of "Dark Horse," I landed on a station playing a teaser for one of their end-of-year "person on the street" features.  The subject was guilty pleasures and holiday season indulgences.  In between the gushing over chocolate and sleeping in, one woman said this: "Massages.  That's my guiltiest pleasure."


Apparently we still have a way to go in the public education area.  Because while a massage may be a pleasure, it should never be "guilty."  I have written in this blog about how your massage really benefits everyone you care for.  I have written about the modalities I practice, and the science behind massage.

Now I think I need to take a minute to address the idea of guilt and massage.  We overuse guilt for many things, but especially for those things which give us pleasure, and even more so if that pleasure involves touch.  Somewhere along the way, many of us learned to associate pleasure with things that were "bad for us" -- the taste of chocolate or coffee, for example.  And somewhere along the way, especially in American culture, many of us were taught that excessive touch was "bad for us."  The truth, as research proves again and again, is that touch is necessary for our emotional health, and really our basic survival.

So, please, stop calling massage your "guilty pleasure."  Where is the guilt in taking care of yourself, and engaging in activities which are necessary for your survival?  And when you hear someone else talking about massage this way, remind them that they are worth the time and the cost of massage.  Because I think that's what the guilt boils down to -- somewhere along the way, we decided that we are not worth it.

But we are.  You are.  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Oncology Massage?

I am in the process of getting all the training and experience I need to teach other massage therapists how to do Oncology Massage. This is one of my specialties, along with Manual Lymphatic Drainage, and one of the things I am passionate about teaching.

When I talk to people about it, usually the first reaction I get is a slightly quizzical look, and a statement like, "I didn't know there was such a thing," or, "Is that just massage for people who have cancer?"

Well, there is such a thing, and no, it is not "just" massage for people who have cancer.  It is so much more.  Anyone who has been through cancer treatment knows that the treatment (not just the cancer) can change and challenge your body in so many ways.  And often the treatment has long term, or lifelong effects.  Oncology massage therapists are trained to ask about these effects and work safely within them.  The Society for Oncology Massage has a great resource for patients and family members here.  If you want to know more about Oncology Massage, or if you wonder why it might even need to be a thing, I highly recommend you check out this link.

For myself, I have been struggling with one of the exercises we give to students in the Oncology Massage Workshop.  We ask students to come up with their own (short) definition of Oncology Massage.  I struggle because I find it difficult to convey all the education and all the mental maturity required to do that kind of work.  I struggle because the second reaction I usually get when I talk about it is, "Oh.  I could never do that.  It would be too sad."  Which puzzles me.  Why is it sad to give someone respite, space to breathe, an hour to reconnect with their physical body as more than "cancer patient?"  And how can I convey all of this in a short statement?

Here's my best attempt.  I'd love to hear yours, if you have one:

Oncology Massage is informed, mindful massage adapted to the effects of cancer and cancer treatment on the body.  It combines all of a therapist's education and training with an awareness of how cancer and cancer treatment change the body so that therapist can use their skills to create a safe, effective massage for anyone with a history of cancer treatment.