When you have hands the size of baseball mitts, you are probably meant to be a massage therapist. It took me a long time getting here, but it has been interesting along the way.
I’ve been rubbing people since I was a little kid. My mom always had knots in her neck and shoulders and would recruit me to rub on them when she hurt and she had no other choice but me. I also had a grandpa with diabetes and his feet always hurt and he would ask me to rub them for him. I remember being a little hesitant to rub his feet the first time I took his sock off and he’d had a toe removed. Unfortunately he ended up losing several toes before he died.
As a kid, I was considered “rowdy”. Now days they would have medicated me, but in those days I just got in a lot of trouble. In fact, my 5th grade teacher said I needed either medication or counseling, so my mom put me in sports. I loved water and was always finding ways of getting soaked so my mom put me in swimming.
I went from being a little fish with the minnows to swimming with the big kids pretty fast and after watching Mark Spitz win all those medals, I dreamed of swimming in the Olympics. Unfortunately it turned out I was extremely allergic to chlorine and the doctor said I had a choice; breathing or swimming. I chose swimming, but for some reason my parents disagreed and made me quit.
Oh well, by that time I was also getting involved in other sports like basketball and setting records for the physical fitness program at school. I was the perfect “tomboy” and proved it by becoming the neighborhood wrestling champion which drove my mother crazy. At age13 she insisted I stop beating all the boys and start acting like a girl!
In high school I played basketball, but couldn’t stay out of the water and played water polo and joined the swim team too. By this time I started my own little business of teaching private swimming lessons during the hot Fresno summers, after my life-guarding job and was learning to paying attention to how bodies worked and moved.
When I got into college, I wanted to be a cartoonist for Disney or work in health sciences and was trying to decide. After meeting a freelance artist that was about 450 pounds and worked in a small room with no windows it was easy to choose health sciences so I enrolled in Anatomy, Physiology and later Kinesiology.
One memorable event in Anatomy was the dissection of the cadaver of an elderly woman. At first I was horrified that there was a dead body in the room but eventually I had my face right in there my horror turned to fascination with how complex and intricate the parts were and how they worked.
I had tough instructors! My physiology teacher had us draw our own blood and centrifuge it. Funny thing was that our class was after lunch and it was pretty obvious I ate a hamburger that day because of the fat layer between the plasma and platelets. Yuck!
In my kinesiology class for our mid-term, we were to identify the landmarks on a box of random bones and the final was describing all the muscles involved and their movements in throwing a baseball. You would be amazed at how much is going on in your body at any given time with even the smallest movement!
So at this point I thought I wanted to go into Physical Therapy, but the program was impacted and I wasn’t going to pin my hopes on getting in with a wait of two years. I had just begun swimming for Cal State Northridge, for Pete Accardy who was voted NCAA Division II coach of the year and I was so excited, but again, my body wasn’t having it and my knee blew out because I was a breast stroker and the kick was too much for my knees to handle for so many years.
My parents sent me to Dr. Frank Jobe of Centinela Hospital, one of the best orthopedic doctors in the country. He was doctor for the L.A. Dodgers; he did shoulder surgery on Jim McMahon, quarterback for the Chicago Bears, and was doctor to many professional and Olympic athletes. I was hoping that he would be able to fix me and I could continue my Olympic dream.
I couldn’t have had a bigger let down. He had no idea what was going on with my knee. He had theories but really wanted to open me up for exploratory surgery which in those days meant you ended up with a zipper scar and possibly not being fixed. I had had a few swimmer friends that ended up with a scar and were no better. I wasn’t willing to risk a scar to go through surgery without knowing what we were looking for or if it could be fixed.
Dr. Jobe and I finally agreed that he would give me a shot of cortisone at the location of pain, put me in a cast from my ankle to my mid-thigh for a month and see what would happen. He was hoping by immobilizing the ligaments and muscles that they would heal and the inflammation would go away.
Getting frustrated with the pain and lack of improvement I started researching knees and how to get them stronger with weight training. In college, I had been training with a coach at L.A. Valley College that had set me up with a strength coach and I learned a lot about what to do and how to do it safely.
So the day the cast is to come off, I get up on the table, grit my teeth as the saw cuts off the cast and take my first step on the injured leg. Immediately searing pain hits my knee and I almost lost my balance because the leg buckled.. It was a complete failure!
I was so emotionally destroyed by the failure of my knee healing that I dropped out of school. In the time since then, I have had a few serious injures and had to rehabilitate myself back to health and as a result I’ve learned a lot about how bodies get hurt and how they heal.
As a result of my using weights, I started to feel an improvement in my knees and I was able to run and do other things without the discomfort that I had suffered before. I got so into the weight training at one point, I actually played with the idea of bodybuilding and later entered the Ms. Fitness competition, but that is another story…
So skipping down the road about 4 years, I was in the middle of a divorce and had a little boy. I had an idea of becoming a massage therapist that traveled to offices and worked on people. There weren’t any good schools in Los Angeles County at that time, so I checked out a school in San Diego. I received my first massage by one of their therapists and it was a definite negative, but still wanted to pursue attending the school. However, my ex wouldn’t agree to let my son move with me to San Diego to go to massage school, so there went that idea!
My son and I needed a future but I wanted to be able to have a schedule that allowed me to be a mom too, so I chose teaching. This way, I could be working when he was in school and then be home when he was home too. Well, it sounded great, in theory.
So for the next 6 years I worked almost full-time and attended Cal State Long Beach full-time in order to finish as quickly as possible. Life was pretty busy and I will always give my son credit for the sacrifices he made so mom could finish school. It was very hard on both of us, but really tough on him.
During this time I was training and competing in Triathlons and several types of competitions. I also skied, snowboarded and played pretty hard at anything I did. This means I ended up with a compressed spine, torn rotator cuff, damaged cervical vertebrae and other dents and dings that I rehabilitated myself.
I received my B.A. in Physical Education with a minor in English, a secondary teaching degree and ended up teaching English…go figure. I taught for a couple of years but it was a full-time job and then 3-4 hours of grading papers each night, not allowing me very much “Mom” time.
While in college, the second time, I had become an aerobic instructor and personal trainer and was coaching Junior Olympic and college level swimmers. I was getting a “real world” education on how bodies worked; how to prevent injuries, how to treat injuries when they happen and how to rehabilitate injured athletes.
The thing I found frustrating about working with bodies was that there wasn’t much money in it and it was all about “the look” (hot bodies) instead of healthy bodies. In the fitness world, steroids, Fen phen and cocaine were pretty popular in attaining “the look” instead of focusing on health.
Between the time I originally looked into to massage school and ended up finally enrolling, it was about 20 years. Oh well, some of us are a little slow in figuring things out, but without the journey of those 20 years, who knows where I’d be now and what I would have missed out on in my education.
In 2009, I needed a career. I had had my own mortgage company for almost 10 years but with the economic melt down of 2008 and moving to the Central Coast, I ended up having to shut my doors.
I enrolled in California Holistic Institute and within 3 months I received my certification. My previous degree and knowledge really helped me skip right through the anatomy and physiology sections. I continued my education by taking classes in Trigger Point, Craniosacral Therapy, Herbs and Reiki.
I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about the body but learn new things all the time. The body is a fascinating and beautiful creation. There is so much known about the workings of the body and yet it is only a drop compared to what we don’t know. I continue to work on my education and increase my own knowledge so I can keep helping my clients.
Thank you for being a part of my journey and letting me assist you with your healing!
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