Last night my colleague and I got the chance to talk to the members of Gilda’s Club about oncology massage. Our dear friend, and oncology massage educator, was going to do the talk, but her class was cancelled, so she didn’t make the trip to Chicago. My colleague and I spent time preparing, putting together a slide show, discussing points of interest, and generally trying to calm each other down.
I rushed to Gilda’s from school, trying to shake off the nerves and student frustration as I went. We arrived early, prepared and ready to speak. Although we only had an audience of three people, we both felt the evening went well. We had a long, intense conversation among the five of us, going off script and improvising — which only seems appropriate in a venue named for Gilda Radner.
All three of our attendees had vastly different stories of their cancer experience. What surprised us (but shouldn’t have) was how freely they all shared their experiences. They all seemed to want to talk, compare and weave in their own experience even as they learned from us. It made the whole thing much more powerful to be able to give them the space and time to use their own lives to integrate what we were telling them.
At the end of the presentation I told them, “I learned more today than I taught.” They gave me a richer insight into living with and beyond cancer, beyond what I learned my professional and personal experience. It strikes me that this is all part of the joy of being a massage therapist. We give people space and time to be themselves, and share themselves. We are open to hearing whatever a person brings to us, without judgement. I am eternally grateful to Greet the Day for trusting me and my colleague with this moment.