In one day, you hear a lot. It’s either seamless commentary about the weather, or ailments that come in pairs or threes (by the last client, you almost want to say, “Let me guess…”). But sinister tales and folk remedies arrive en masse as well, and some days you’re either perpetually breathless, or constantly putting down your pen to listen better, or both.
Thursday was like that: anecdotal evidence at its best. I’ll let you decide which ones you want to believe.
“Lyme disease does not just come from ticks you know,” she said, darkly. My new client was my age, staggeringly beautiful, having just gone through years of harrowing pain and suffering from this illness that ravaged and haunted her still.
“Really,” I said, horrified at the thought (what kind of flying insects? mosquitoes? it wouldn’t surprise me…maybe noseeums? Deer flies? Oh they just would!)
“I remember the insect, I remember the bite, and I remember how it made me feel,” she said. “It was a flying insect. People think Lyme is only carried by ticks. Imagine when most of us who have Lyme, not from a tick bite, actually get the ear of the world.”
Restorative, basic massage therapy, with enhanced attention to pressure depth and body temperature, as well as speed and rhythms, was what she needed, I felt, and that’s what I gave her. Carefully selected essential oils and hot towels, too. (“I’m always freezing.”)
It occurred to me, while I contemplated her in repose, that I was in the presence of a modern-day Cassandra, with full clairvoyant powers and a message for the masses, and no one, as yet, who believed her. I was so happy she was in my office: I was determined to catch her every word and help her in every way I could as she crawled towards recovery. She even looked like artist renderings I’d seen of that tragic Greek heroine. It was uncanny.
“You know, I went to Brazil, and while I was there I noticed the arthritis in my body was slowly diminished.” I love new clients and their stories. They serve to tell me the most – in the shortest amount of time – about this new person in my life.
I leaned in on my elbows. This was going to be good.
“I finally realized it was the manioc. You know, yucca root? They put it in everything there. Use it just like potatoes: make a mash out of it. I noticed when I ate manioc my arthritis decreased.”
“When I got back here to Maine I talked to my doctor about it, and he said, well sure, why not. You could be on to something there. So I got some at Hannaford and it doesn’t work quite as well – not as fresh you know – but I make soup with it from time to time.”
I was very impressed. “I’ve heard a lot of remedies over the years for arthritis but this is a total new one for me,” I said. “I really appreciate you sharing it. I’ll pass it along.”
“And, remember,” she confided, sotto voce, “you gotta cook it the whole way through. It has traces of arsenic in it. Whoo!”
“Guess I gotta put Ivory soap at the bottom of my bed.”
It is both a pleasure and a pain to know clients for the duration, for the long haul. Quite a few of mine are past the 10 year mark with me, and what began as occasional twinges and hampered style is now, more often than not, auto-immune, inflammatory, bacterial, herniated, deteriorating and/or disintegrating conditions that are multi-faceted, confusing and difficult to treat. It is hard to see these dear people bewildered, fearful, stressed out, resigned.
I sometimes struggle with being unable to do more than offer a “there, there” for them as they wrangle with the latest. Most of what they have, massage can’t cure. But, it can do wonders for the coping with it all: the reprieve from mental churning: and their sessions are so personalized by now, they know they can fully relax. I got it.
My final client of the day has had so much happen to her in the past few years I almost couldn’t keep track. The latest was numbness in a various limbs, uncontrollable allergies and cough, and pain in her back when she slept. And, the restless legs. Oh my God. The RLS.
I’m used to being with clients when they are completely still: only when working on the highly agitated have I experienced limbs going perpetually. The minute my dear client dozed, began to drift, her legs would key up and writhe around.
“Anything I can do for you?” I’d asked numerous times, wondering if I wasn’t getting the pressure/temp/bolstering/timing thing right in some fashion, gettting tenser myself with every jump.
“Ah, there’s nothing. Doesn’t matter if they’re bolstered or flat, they just go. I’m getting old. What can I say.”
She made the soap comment. I said: “….Huh?”
“Yeah, it’s something I heard. You put a bar of Ivory soap at the bottom of the bed and it supposedly makes your leg cramps and restlessness leave.”
I was going to engage her further on the topic but I have a rule: speak if spoken to. She didn’t continue her train of thought: I let it go. I knew I’d have to look that one up, so I did: by far, this was the weirdest – and best? – explanation I could find.
You probably won’t find it on the Mayo Clinic site. But you will hear it – and many other helpful, curious and stunning things – in my office. And, dare I say, the office of many other massage therapy practitioners. We have time to listen. Tell us more.