News breaking headlines were being made as we headed out of town. Would DOMA be over turned? What about the voting rights for many people? Tried to listen in and understand the ramifications as I packed and prepared to head to Maine, to connect with Oncology Massage Therapists. As I waited to leave for the airport I checked my mail and came across a news blog, can’t remember the news source but was so impressed by the content of the story about Kennedy, a Reagan appointee talking about the concept of liberty at his 1988 confirmation hearing, “A very abbreviated list of the considerations are: the essentials of the right to human dignity, the injury to the person, the harm to the person, the anguish to the person, the inability of the person to manifest his or her own personality, the inability of a person to obtain his or her own self-fulfillment, the inability of a person to reach his or her own potential.” We all wished for these rights and hope to keep these words close to my heart.
At the Tampa International Airport it seemed that more messages were mysteriously being placed in my path, or maybe I was aware of the need to search out messages to live by. An art exhibit had a ceramic high rise sculpture and these words were included by the artist, “High rise- we all think we’ve arrived through the work accomplished in our individual lives. We struggle through the war of doing, pushing and forcing things to happen the way WE want it to be. What if we all had the same goal, to experience bliss and absolute knowingness in accomplishing all that we want…we just need to relax and connect? There r no separate issues.” Could this message co-exist with the earlier quote? Is it possible to be aware of local, national, global and personal events and at the same time experience bliss and absolute knowingness? Can we have faith, in ourselves, our higher power, God, and wait for whatever is lacking in our lives? Can you let the thoughts swing through your mind, like the preverbal monkey swinging from tree limb to tree limb when life hits us with illness, life crises out of our control? Or is it more like the other art project that had this quote, “We have the key to unlock a hidden treasure within every perception. The key is attitude. We can see whatever we want to see.” And have Faith and Hold On.
Then my trip started and immediately the chatter in my head was put to the test. Visiting with family noticed that just like my contact with patients, bliss was about not knowing the true medical conditions for their family member. It became obvious that “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” was the perspective and to upset the thinking would be to create conflict and emotional injury. My training in boundary issues as an oncology massage therapist has taught me to recognize what a patient or family member wants to know and to not cross that boundary with comments or questions. Sit, listen and pay attention, graciously acknowledge with a hug or maybe find a way to show compassion quietly. Realizing their faith in the outcome, with their physicians, will be forever firm and no need for any discussion. Have learnt that when you are not in the inner circle of conflict, giving hugs and listening is all you can do.
Traveling the Mt. Washington Auto Road, we listened to the instructional CD as we started our 8 mile, 6288 ft. drive up the mountain to be “in the clouds.” Heard the saying for years, “your head must be in the clouds,” and now the significance of that saying became crystal clear, especially when I couldn’t see 200 ft in any direction. We had chosen to take this trip, to put a strain on our rental car, paid attention to the instructions to avoid overheating the transmission, when to move over for oncoming traffic with a ledge with no guard rail, how to cool off the breaks on the trip down the mountain. The history of this road is amazing, since 1861 travelers have come to this mountain, by horse drawn wagon for an 8 hour trip. Lodges were built, a cog train was built to the top of the Mt. Washington, supplies were carried up the mountain, the weather station was created and it is still in operation. This mountain was a very rugged place to choose to live and work and explore without modern transportation. These early explorers were “hardy”, a trait we could all use today for our challenges. They were strong, resilient, had a sense of purpose, and believed that every obstacle was to be overcome; a community of like minded souls that believed in working together to overcome adversities.
We chose a cloudy day to drive up the mountain and hoped that once we got to the top the clouds would clear. Took a chance, we had spotty views, but still enjoyed a few rigorous rock climbing experiences. Can’t do long rough hikes anymore, but still feel a thrill when I can get my footing under me and pull up a steep incline. Want to enjoy these moments as long as possible, even if the time is measured in hours, not days. When I return home can’t wait to share these stories with my clients, hopefully to encourage talk about what they love to do, to instill in them the desire to push themselves a bit again someday when they have more energy to travel. Cancer treatment is a journey and the end of the journey usually involves wishing and hoping to return back to the sports, hobbies and traveling to see new sights and visit family and friends.
Our hiking trips were wet and messy, walking stick in hand, when I remembered it. We walked along winding trails that bordered the fast moving streams. It had rained a lot, our usual for a Maine vacation, so leaving nothing to chance is a good thing; bug spray, hats, long sleeve shirts and hiking pants, stable shoes, water, walking stick and a helping hand. Accepting a helping hand helped me remember that life is slippery. Knowing when to take a helping hand, over large boulders reminded me that I can’t be stubborn and charge on alone on a rocky path. Sometimes a stick is left at the beginning of a hike by a previous hiker to use and leave for someone else. The kindness of strangers surrounds us, even on a lonely trail. Returning home to life’s messes I hope to remember to have faith and accept help from others.
My husband has consented to these little walks, not true hikes, for my benefit and I am grateful for the choice he has made for me. My mantra is always, “right foot, left foot, keep your feet under your body.” Doesn’t hurt to whistle to let the bears know that you are in their backyard. Always remember to pick your boulder wisely, a wobbly boulder can twist an ankle or cause a stumble.
My choice, I would rather take a 1 ½ hour walk in the woods, than never enjoy this experience again. We all age differently and my joints and back enjoy more serene outside adventure these days. I love remembering the more intense trips, but those days for me are over. Constantly in search of balance, for myself, my husband, family, friends and in my work. If I do too much to please my husband’s high activity and adventure level, I suffer. If I do nothing, I suffer. Now he goes off to get his adrenalin high and I stick to my sure and easy pace. Best of all, he learned to relax at the Sandbar Yachtclub after an intense activity. Kayaking out to the sandbar to sit back and relax with an old friend was priceless.
Love the cairns that are everywhere up north; front yards, hiking paths, businesses. They are stacked boulders that mark the trails. Even though you see them as artwork or fences, they serve a very useful purpose when hiking and they come with instructions; don’t move them or you could disorient a hiker. Don’t dislodge other boulders to make new cairns as you could cause soil damage and cause erosion. Made me think of people in my life that are my guides and how precious they are. My “to go to people,” my source of comfort, strength and courage. When I see cairns now, I think of those lights of love and wisdom in my life. There is a cancer clinic that has created an altar of rocks on a counter, can’t wait to return there, present my stone and teach them about the needs for cairns or “caring souls” everywhere.
Many spas that I visited use cairns on their brochures. I wish they understood the significance of these stones when seeing their clients that are cancer survivors. There is oncology massage training to help with massage modifications; during and after treatment. Spa owners need to understand that as well as individual massage therapists. Ignoring oncology massage training or feeling what they have always done “is just fine,” is a dangerous business plan. Interesting enough, cairns can be replaced when paths are washed out or new paths are introduced to existing pathways. We can learn from this model of fix what is broken for the benefit of the public. Too many massage therapists in the small towns I visited don’t have access to good oncology massage training and too often they listen to their clients when they tell them, “I’m out of treatment for years, no need to worry about my nodes being removed, go as hard as you would like.” New improved oncology massage training is about “when you know better you can do better.” Old training needs to be replaced with safe guidelines for oncology massage; it is good patient-driven healthcare.
Is life better when you are in the clouds? Yes for some, for me not so much. Never have liked being in the dark or my head in the clouds. Rose color glasses don’t suite me. Had a great conversation about learning to lower my expectations about other people’s choices, doesn’t mean I don’t have to have any expectations at all.
Professionally or personally knowledge is power. So appreciative of my blessings when I take a chance and my adventures turned out well. I am amazingly grateful for new opportunities to work with oncology massage. Thankful for those people in my life that help me stay current in world happenings and healthcare changes for massage. Mindful of others that choose to concern themselves only with the happenings that center on their families. Special hugs to those that help me to reach my potential, be self-fulfilled, self-love my personality which is usually compassionate, often stubborn, sometimes a bit bossy. I want my perspective to be based on facts and not generations of falsehoods and fabrications. Have faith; look for wise guides, read my map to locate the cairns. It’s a lot to tackle, but moving forward in work and relationships make it worthwhile.