Heart Massage

Heart Massage

From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul

Heart Massage

The first time I met Jeanie, she was walking down the path in front of my apartment, and I was walking toward her. I noticed that she was wearing a pink ribbon, and I was wearing mine, too. I stopped in front of her and said, “Wow, looks like we have something in common.”

She was taken aback and replied, “What do you mean?”

“Well, you’re wearing your pink ribbon and so am I. Do you know some one who was diagnosed with breast cancer?”

“Yes,” she whispered. “Me.” She walked away quickly.

I’m a licensed massage therapist, and in my work over the years I have seen many people in pain. Recently, I have been seeing a lot of women with breast cancer.

A few days later I received a phone call from Jeanie’s husband. I had given him a massage the year before, when they visited my island home.

“I’d like to give my wife a massage as a gift and surprise her. She said she met you yesterday and had a good feeling about you.”

When Jeanie walked into my massage room a few days later, she seemed tense and angry. It was a warm, beautiful day, and her treatment had been a gift from her husband, so I was puzzled why she was upset.

“Are you feeling well?” I asked.

“My back hurts, and I’m a little nauseous.”

And yet she was here and wanted to have her body massaged. I left the room, as I always do, to give her privacy for changing clothes and positioning herself on the massage table.

After I got her situated, the bed adjusted and my hands washed, I began by resting one hand at the base of her neck and the other on her lower back, allowing us both to become quiet.

In a calm voice, I suggested, “Let your eyes close and bring your attention to your breath.” After several minutes, I applied warmed lotion and gave light, delicate stroking motions to her back and neck. I used long, slow movements to soothe her and encourage rest.

As I give a massage, I remind myself that there is nothing to “fix.” I need only to “be present” with the person who is going through discomfort.

As soon as I turned her over onto her back, her breathing became ragged, and she began to cry. I let her cry quietly for a while, and then asked, “Would you like me to incorporate mental imagery into the session?” She nodded.

“You can soften the discomfort you’re feeling and be open to it rather than push it away.” That was all. No other words. Just “open” and “soften.”

At the end of the treatment, as I was holding and stretching her neck, she began sobbing. I continued holding her without comment, allowing her a safe place to cry, to release, to heal.

While Jeanie was getting dressed, she quietly but firmly said, “I would like to reschedule at least one more treatment with you while I’m here in Maui. I recently had a double mastectomy. As part of my healing process, I tried massage, but the therapist was clinical and cold, and the massage was painful and traumatic. I was terrified to get another treatment—and that’s why I was so upset when I came here.

“I can’t begin to tell you how much lighter in body and spirit I feel right now. And so connected! At the risk of crying all over again, I want to let you know how much you have helped me today to take that first huge step back toward allowing another human being to touch me . . . without fear or shame or remorse! Thank you!”

It is an honor to be able to perform this type of healing work, and I was filled with a profound sense of grace and warmth. Light filled me. A completely transformed woman emerged from the massage session, and another transformed woman prepared her massage studio for the next client.

Pandora Kurth

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