The oncology massage portion of my business has been picking up lately, which is wonderful. I have spent many busy days feeling so deeply in my element that I forget what it feels like to doubt my skill. Right place, right time, all the time. Life is beautiful.
Last week, though, I got a little kick in the massage pants. It was a quiet day, with two clients. the first, straightforward manual lymphatic drainage to deal with complications from cancer treatment. The second, a new client. An athlete who came to me via a referral from a current client. The first session was gentle, quiet and rhythmic. There was snoring, snd a report of reduced pain and swelling.
When my second client arrived, I was briefly thrown by her health history form. No illnesses, chronic or past, no medications, no accidents, no surgeries. I got a little tongue-tied. What information do I need from this person? I jump started with the question I used to make all my students ask ("What are you hoping for from your massage today?") and eventually got rolling. Then, just before I stepped out to let her get on the table, she threw me again. "I like pressure," she said. "It's okay with me if it hurts a little." I gave her my standard response ("If you are holding your breath or tensing, the pressure is not therapeutic.") She nodded doubtfully.
Her massage was an exercise in digging deep for my shelved sports massage skills and attentively monitoring any changes in breathing or body position. I felt muscle tension in the places where I expected it, and, novel experience for me, I worked with it until the muscles released.
In short, I enjoyed the work.
It was a colossal mind switch for me. Not only to switch from the gentle mindfulness of an oncology session to the more clinical mindfulness of a sports-based session, but also the realization that I kind of like the clinical work. I know I don't want to do it all the time, or even half the time, but these little clinical breaks might be good for keeping me engaged with my career.
My heart and my best work is still with oncology massage, but it is nice to be reminded that my particular art of massage can take other forms, all of them effective.