massage education, Modalities, Oncology Massage

The Impossible Task

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I have two hours this coming Thursday to teach a roomful of massage students about Oncology Massage.  I will fail at this task.  I know I will fail because I have deliberately, and with careful attention, set myself up to fail.  I look forward to it.

If you’ve been around me for anything more than an hour or so, you know that I practice oncology massage, and I teach oncology massage basics whenever I can.  This is a three day, 24-hour, continuing education workshop where we routinely end the class by telling people how much more they have to learn.

About 8 weeks ago, when I took a good long look at the syllabus for the Pathology class I’m teaching, I saw that I had one class period to cover oncology massage.  Just one class.  Two hours.  To me, this is barely enough time to really make sure the class understands what cancer actually is, other than something you wear pink or run 5Ks to “cure.”  I decided that I needed to get in front of this topic right away.

The information I can cover in two hours is maybe just bordering on enough to give students the right intake questions to ask — the questions that will help them know when they need to refer someone to someone who is trained in oncology massage.

Fortunately for me, every class mentions a cancer of whatever system we happen to be studying, so I have frequent, relevant times to set expectations.  I have repeated variations on the phrase “more training is needed” since the first week of class.  I have tried to repeat often that the best therapists are those who work within their knowledge and skill set — those who are generous with admitting they don’t know something.  I am trying to set them up to know what they don’t know.

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This Thursday, armed with our textbooks and the 70-or-so slides that go with it, we will attempt to talk through oncology massage.  We will fall short.  We will, in other words, fail.  And in doing so, we will gain the much more valuable knowledge of our own limits.  I will be happy with that.  If I can release these students from this class with more questions and curiosity than answers and certainty, I will have done my job well.

Let’s get to falling short.

Oncology Massage, S4OM

Report from S4OM

This past weekend was the Society for Oncology Massage’s Healing Summit.  It was a gathering of oncology massage therapists from around the world and a chance to learn from each other and geek out about science, research, and other things that make our practice deeper.

As I did for the last Summit, I arrived a day early so I could take part in the Educators’ Forum.  This is a day-long meeting of people who teach oncology massage, or who are interested in teaching oncology massage.  As I suspected, the day was both inspiring and frustrating.  In the morning, we sat in small groups and I gathered a lot of business inspiration from my colleagues.  They reminded me that creativity is not just the realm of the fine artist, but of every human endeavor.  And collaborative creativity is the finest idea generator of them all.

In the afternoon, we gathered as a larger group and tried to talk through some challenges facing us as educators.  Although nothing was decided, and I am not sure anything will actually get done as a result of those discussions, It was good to see again how much we all share the conviction that what we do is needed, important, and should be held to high standards.  Even if we do often disagree on our definition of “high standards.”

The rest of the weekend I got to be a student again, and learn about radiation therapy, research into massage on cancer pain, and music therapy.  It was wonderful, and I am still buzzing with the information.

Now that I am back at home, going into my office again, my challenge is to translate all of this material into something that will actually benefit clients.  Something beyond the benefit of a knowledgeable and curious therapist.  (Although I still strongly believe a curious therapist does better, more effective work.)

What keeps resonating for me right now is not specific information, but rather more of the feeling.  That unique and energizing feeling of being completely “all in” with what you are doing.  That delight in moving towards the obligations of the day.  It helps that it is Spring in my part of the world, and the colors of the flowering trees are brilliant in the radiant days we are having this week.  My task, my goal, my object now is to carry the dedication and energy all the way through to the next Summit, or the next gathering of like-minded souls.