Bodyworkers Confidential: Anchor Woman in a Medical Relay Part 1

This summer I had an alarming situation in clinic that cemented in my mind how critical the component of teamwork is in an integrative healthcare environment. A woman was referred to me for breast massage after one of her silicone implants ruptured. Fortunately, the implant was completely encapsulated by her body. But she had discomfort and was advised by her primary practitioner that breast massage might help. 

During the intake she mentioned an issue with her bowels. They "pooched" out when she had a bowel movement. Part of the referral indicated lymphatic massage of the liver, and I gently palpated the abdomen as part of that protocol. 

I found a mass. I don't use that word lightly. It filled the hollow of my palm. And there were (possibly) two others, but less distinct. Now, the abdomen has a lot going on anatomically, and I have by no means reached expert status in this region. And I'm Not A Doctor (but I play one on TV!). 

So I asked if she had been to the doctor recently about this issue, and told her that this was not something I typically noticed while massaging the abdomen. It was probably just a cyst, but it would be worthwhile for her to have it checked out -- just to be sure it didn't require further treatment. She reported that she had shown the naturopath the "bump" she had felt on the right  side, but hadn't mentioned the one on the left. It wasn't bothering her, so she didn't bring it up. A prescription for an ultrasound had been  offered to her and she was going to think about it. 

Some of you may think this is crazy, and some may feel it's par for the course: When I touched this mass I immediately thought it felt like a uterine fibroid. (I had palpated these before, as lymph drainage therapy can be of benefit for this condition.) What is more remarkable, though, was the physical sensation that coursed through my entire body of terror and darkness. It could be described as a panic attack, or a "flight or fight" response. Honestly, I don't have the right words to portray the sensations. 

Further, it was as if my hand was magnetized to this growth. Then my hand (or the mass? Both?) grew hotter and hotter. Since I have studied Reiki work, I switched to that modality. Wanting to avoid any other deep tissue techniques around this unknown, I asked her to feel into this part of her body and describe the sensations. 

Then I free-styled a generic guided visualization about releasing negative energy and filling her abdomen with healing energy. I listen to guided meditations a lot, and I have read that visualizations are often used as a complement to cancer treatment. The idea popped into my head and my hand seemed to have a mind of its own, so I went with it. Otherwise I would just be standing there with this terrible feeling and a hot hand. How was I going to explain that?!?

The visualization helped me center myself. The client confirmed that her belly was feeling warmer while my hand rested there. I closed the session and strongly reminded her to schedule with her primary doctor. 

In a regular routine, I would have avoided any further massage to this region until it was cleared by her doctor, and that would have been the extent of my involvement. But I am blessed to work in a supportive, multidisciplinary environment and I frequently confer with the other practitioners about fascial restrictions that I find and how they may be affecting the client's treatment progress.

I had shadowed the practitioners in this clinic as part of my orientation. So I understood their treatment approach. Also, I make it a point of discussing cases with them and thanking them for the referral whenever I find something of note. Due to the relationship that I had established, I found the courage to share this experience with the client’s naturopathic nurse and doctor.

Be sure to sign up for the Massage Your Practice newsletter or attend a Bodyworkers Confidential meeting for more stories like these.

Continued in Part 2...