Last year, on October 12, my daughter, husband and I spent the evening at our local Massage Envy for the Healing Hands for Arthritis Event. We were so excited by the prospect that $10 from every massage was being donated back to the Arthritis Foundation, that I made appointments for my husband and daughter to get massages. Since my daughter was only 13 at the time, I remained in the room with her. We were attracted to the event, not only because of the philanthropy – the AF is near to our hearts, but because massage has been an important part of my daughter’s childhood.
Since she was diagnosed at age 3 with juvenile arthritis, Caitlin has spent most of her childhood years in pain. With all of her joints affected, she often could not even walk or get out of bed on her own. The simplest efforts left her frustrated and exhausted. We tried and failed numerous medications over the years, but often, the inflammation raged on in her little body. There is little in the world more frustrating than watching your child in pain and realizing you don’t have the answers to make it better. Naturally, you just want to hold your child close, eyes closed in silent, screaming wishes that the pain would disappear. During those early years, I was the massage therapist. I rubbed her neck and shoulders, trying to squeeze out just a little more rotation and range of motion when she tried to turn her head. I rubbed her wrists, as she flexed them, trying to maintain movement that would allow her to write, button her pants and tie her shows. I rubbed around her knees and down her calves as we tried to keep them limber enough to bend and straighten. And often, I just massaged her back at night, or at nap time, to help her get past the pain, so she could relax enough to fall asleep.
Years later, Caitlin developed avascular necrosis of the hips. Essentially – her hip bones were dying and the bones were crumbling from the inside. The pain rose to phenomenal levels and it permeated everything – her sleep, her personality, her energy. Living with chronic pain was like she was carrying bales and bales of wet burlap – we couldn’t even recognize her under the layers and it seemed hopeless. Massage was one of the best coping techniques we found in those days and she regularly received nurturing touch through the pain management clinic at the children’s hospital, as well as at home.
When Caitlin finally had her first hip replacement surgery at the age of 11, layers of that burlap were removed as the pain levels decreased tremendously. One week after having her left hip replaced with titanium, my daughter walked without a walker or crutches permanently. A week after that, she spent a full day at an amusement park. Both during that initial recovery and after her second hip replacement when she was 12, massage was an important part of the progress. Her muscles were traumatized and clenched from the process, and it took regular massage to retrain the muscles and recover well.
I was thinking of all of those things when I sat in the room last October 12 with my daughter. Accompanying her gave me a peaceful respite as well… sitting in the dim room, listening to calming music, hearing the quite conversation between the therapist and my daughter. As a working mom of three, just sitting for an hour in quiet is a vacation itself! I thought of all those massages, all those hopes and prayers that went in to all that touch, all the healing I wished for… and how far she has come now. Essentially in remission from active arthritis, the titanium princess is living the life of most 14 year olds!
At the end of the evening, I signed up for membership not only for her, but for myself. I have preached many times that as a parent, especially a parent of a child with a chronic illness, you truly do need to take care of yourself. Somebody recently likened it to being the captain of a ship. If the captain is not rested, healthy, and thinking properly, then everybody on the ship is in peril. So, I preach it… but I’m not always so good at the practice. Massage Envy helps me take care of myself.
If it were left to me, I may never decide to take the time to schedule a massage. I might never prioritize it over all of the other things that seem so critical for my time. A friendly reminder from Massage Envy helps me to carve out the necessary time in my calendar. Time to find that quiet place in my mind and spirit to be grateful for all my blessings and gain strength for all of our challenges. I will admit, that I often cry…tears of joy, tears of relief….just tears sometimes. But I leave rejuvenated and feeling cherished. Caitlin has a membership too…. So I get double the benefit. Relaxation accompanying her, and seeing her feel better.
I can’t believe that it’s been almost a year! But on September 19, we’ll be there for Healing hands for Arthritis, not only supporting a great cause (last year ME donated almost a half million dollars from this event!!), but because massage has given us better life.