Picture this: It’s your first time sitting down for an intake interview with a massage therapist you’ve never seen before. You may even be about to have your first massage ever. The treatment room is unfamiliar, not to mention the person sitting across from you and asking you pretty personal questions about your body, your medical history. Sure, there are pillows and towels and calming artwork around, soft music is playing, you know you’re supposed to be relaxed, or at least on your way there, but right now it just feels…weird. You’re answering the practitioner’s questions, but you can hear that part of your brain rapid-firing its own questions: “What is this person going to be doing to me? What if I don’t like it? Is it going to hurt? Is she going to touch my feet, because GOD, I hate having my feet touched.”
The short answer is: You’re in charge.
Let’s zoom into that picture a little more: You’re going through treatment for BRCA2 breast cancer. You’ve already had a lumpectomy and 18 weeks of chemotherapy, which is what your medical team recommended as the best course of action. You still have your chemo port in place, just under your collarbone, and during your massage intake, you’re thinking, “Is she going to want me to lie on my stomach? Ugh, I really don’t want to do that—it’s not going to be comfortable for me. Do I say something?”
Yes, say something. And no, you don’t have to lie on your stomach. Your comfort is the top priority.
Now that chemo is finished, you’re in the middle of external beam radiation therapy and, once that’s over, you’re told you will need a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy, because BRCA2 is an aggressive cancer, and the doctors don’t want to take any chances. You feel like you’ve been doing what your medical team has been telling you to do for quite a while now. You really like and trust your doctors and nurses, you know they are drawing up and executing your treatment plan because they feel it’s the best plan of action, the highest chance of success. You show up to the hospital or the treatment center, they tell you where to go, what to wear, where to sit or lie down. They administer the injection, turn on the beam, and, well, you do as they say.
Not so in the massage treatment room.
Whether you’ve been traveling a complex medical road and having a lot of decisions about what happens to your body being made for you, or whether you have a history of good health and just hate having your face touched…YOU get to call the shots during your session.
In my own practice, I tout this often, and with pride. I love asking, “What can I do for you today?” and many times I’ve seen a look pass over someone’s face when I do. Perhaps it’s relief, or a feeling of empowerment. Clients have heard me say many times: “This is your show.” Don’t want to lay face-down? You don’t have to – we’ll get you comfortable with pillows and towels lying on your side, and I can still work on your back that way. Sound good? Having your feet rubbed makes you feel instantly relaxed? Guess what—that’s on the menu.
And this your-show concept applies to every client, every session, not just the first time. Yes, you come in every week for lymphatic drainage for the lymphedema in your arm, but today can we add in 5 or 10 minutes of work on your neck because you slept on it funny? Done. You got it.
The massage treatment room gets to be your space for the time that you are in it. Sometimes there is quiet, sometimes there is sleep. Sometimes there are kvetch sessions, belly laughs, or excited last-night’s-football-game discussions. Sometimes there are tears. The space is what you need it to be, the treatment tailored for you, as you are that day, for those moments. Your voice is heard, you are listened to, you are honored, you are supported.