Portland, Oregon's Cancer Survivorship and Bodywork Zine by Compassion Arts PDX, LLC
In July, I was invited to give massage therapy at the Be the One Run in Portland, Oregon, sponsored by the Be the Match Foundation. They match up bone marrow donors to cancer patients and sponsor awareness-building runs all around the country.
I connected with a couple recent massage school graduates, Hannah Hulett and Michael Taira and met them at the event. I checked with Diana Knott of the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists to ensure compliance with Oregon law. This was a volunteer situation, with no compensation for massage work. Individually, neither of them did any form of advertising for the event. I love being able to check with the OBMT about such issues. They are always quick to respond within a business day or two. We were all in accordance with Oregon state law and good to go.
I dig the connection with this new generation of massage therapists, who are far more science-minded and anatomically technical than previous decades of LMT’s right out of the gate. I welcome the new batch into the local community, this rich circle of compassion, offering as much support and nurturing within the community as I can muster. They are so eager to begin their bodywork careers, wanting to soak up everything they can from all the amazing teachers out there. They are a part of the cultivation of mindful consciousness that is beginning to root down here in Portland.
Another rainy day in Portlandia. Photography by Hamid Shibata Bennett
I met Hannah at my office at Earth Body Wellness Center on a really early, really raining Sunday morning. Something about the time of day got me thinking about roleplaying during the event. What if we were headed into a disaster area? What could massage therapists do for a population who had gone through a common trauma?
We loaded up the car and headed downtown, to the World Trade Center, meeting up with Michael, who was wearing a t-shirt that read “CANCER SUCKS” in bright bold, lettering. We all brought massage tables, not a chair in the bunch. I can’t really stand massage chairs. From a massage therapist’s point of view, they don’t promote economical body mechanics. As a client, they’re just not terribly comfy to sit in. The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies that utilize massage, use far more massage tables than chairs. I’m a fan of tables for event work.
An organized run is a bustling hive of energy, set to let loose. All this planning, all this training, all this support from friends and loved ones culminate into the day. It is a beautiful frenzy to be in the midst, from either runner or volunteer perspective.
We set up our tables and came together to set an intention for the day. Breathe a little deeper… And, pass along that breath to those we touch.
Now, time to make a presence.
I told ’em to go find somebody to work on. And, they did after I broke the ice and got someone up on my table. I grabbed a leg and began the Myofascial dance, sending bass note wavelengths up the entire body. In 10 minutes, transformation. Transformation of mobility, of pain level, of smile… Yeah, we change a lot in a brief amount of time. Enough to help someone carry on with their day with a little more light in their eyes, a little more ease in their step, a little more awareness of their breath.
The gathering of runners came to it’s pinnacle. The race began and the courtyard was emptied, save for the circle of tables and volunteers lining the covered outdoor area of the World Trade Center. I spotted a left hand that I just had to reach out and hold.
In the center of this circle, sat two ladies with a sign, reading “Jaden’s Aplastic Army”. I approached the elder and told her I’d love to offer a massage and we didn’t even need to go over to the tables. The lady agreed and I knelt down in front of her, taking her hands in mine.
I was holding hands in prayer with a nun, taking her forearms through gentle range of motion. Her shoulders let go and let go again.
We chatted and they told me Jaden’s story. Jaden is a 12 year old girl, going through the fight of her lifetime. She is a one in a million case. The family has inspiring gobs of hope. They had all come together to run for Jaden. Sometimes, that’s all a family can do.
The path of a healing artist is filled with stories of challenge that simultaneously break your heart and instill you with promise. Bodywork has this way of letting us move through our challenges, so the stresses of transition do not not become ingrained in our postural tensions and breath patterns.
I’m so appreciative of Michael and Hannah. They did so great! Between the three of us, we offered massage to twenty seven people in four hours! They’ll be licensed soon and ready to bring their gifts to our Stumptown community. (Update: Hannah Hulett is now OBMT #18316!)
My goal is to work with cancer patients, survivors and their families with little or no out of pocket expenses for them. I’d like to mentor other massage therapists to work with these populations. I don’t know how that can happen, but I could sure use some help in finding the path towards making that a sustainable living.
Here’s a quickie tune I recorded on the iPad 2 the other day, while hanging out on the back deck. The song is called Crow Call.