March 17, 2010

Meeting of the Massage Minds: Patti McGee

This Meeting of the Massage Minds interview is one that I am honored to host. A few weeks ago I shared a phone call with a strong, brave woman. A mother who has proved herself a cancer survivor, a humanitarian and a shining star to those around her. She has been given an amazing new page in life and with that new chapter - among many adventures, she decided to become a massage therapist. A person and a choice I knew needed to be celebrated here on Mending Hands.

Patti McGee, of Onieda New York, was diagnosed seven years ago with breast cancer. Mentioned in the article where I first heard about Patti...

Inspired by the massage therapy she received during her recovery, McGee left her 17-year post as the Oneida recreation director and got a massage therapy degree from the Onondaga School of Therapeutic Massage.

I asked her about her journey with massage therapy as part of her healing, and she was more than happy to share! Patty had to have two lumpectomies, then endured intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Most patients who undergo these forms of treatment have issues with the remaining scar tissue. Patti decided to explore massage therapy as an opportunity to increase movement and improve the resisted nature of her post surgery body. She meet LMT Lisa  Kirley of Mind Body Connections who helped restored her health and her heart. Lisa inspired Patty through massage to go back to school and become a therapist herself. Kirley remains a friend and mentor to this day.

It wasn't an overnight leap! For a few years Patty heard that voice in her head calling her to change her life. Speaking to this woman, I was struck with a huge sense that she is a true helper. Patty does so much, and has abundant energy to get out into the world and be there for people. In her own words she says "I find a need and I go after it!" So after having wonderful improvement with Kirley, speaking highly of how massage therapy has added health and happiness to her own battle with cancer, and seeing an episode of Oprah praising a woman who made a BIG change in her life - Patty applied to Onondaga School of Therapeutic Massage. She quit her long time job and went back to school to hit the books! During the week of my midterms, she sent me this anecdote:

I was thinking back to massage school and remembered a situation that occurred. We were learning about Cancer and massage. This was the avenue I wanted to pursue after graduation so I was focusing on it - learning about the lymph system.  When we finished the unit we took our exam.  After the exam a group of students and I were talking about the test in the classroom. They were asking each other what they put for different questions.  I remember telling them that I didn't have any true - false or matching questions on my test. Concerned I went to our instructor and asked. She assured me we had the same tests, but she would look into it.  When she came back into the classroom she told me that some how a make up test was  mixed in with the main test and I got it.  When she passed back the tests she told me that she couldn't believe I passed the exam and did as well as I did because it was extremely difficult (and mostly all essay). 

She said that we "attract what we need" and since that was the direction I wanted to go it was what I attracted.

Proving yet again that Patti is a giver, while attending class she tutored other students in Anatomy and Physiology, and was also given the award "Most Willing to Help Others". After graduation and passing the New York state board she started her massage therapy practice Time for Reflection, and has been touching the lives of her patients since 2008.

Since her diagnosis she has co-founded two support groups. The Oneida Area Cancer Support Group meets at the Oneida Healthcare Center and the second, I Can Cope, is a series set up as two four-week educational lectures at the Greater Oneida "Kallet" Civic Center. Both of which have full support with the American Cancer Society.

She spoke to me about how "Cancer literally bankrupts you. I know people who have had to choose between paying for their treatments and keeping their heat on." she praises the work of companies that raise funds for research "it's amazing that millions and millions of dollars can be raised to find a cure. It's amazing! But there are few placing raising money to help people survive cancer. To pay for grocery bills or make sure that they can pay for their monthly prescriptions or for what their kids need" . Because of this, Patti is starting a foundation that will do just that. Help with the day to day cost of fighting cancer as well as car payments, utility bills, gas and even college tuition. "This foundation will be open to anyone with any kind of cancer. All those in need of help will be given what we can give."

To help kick off this foundation, Patti is writing  "Hope: A to Z Guide for Cancer Patients, Survivors and Care Takers" she has invited those who have a story to tell to contribute. She wants to have a story for each letter of the alphabet, so if you or any one you know has a story that will help bring strength and support to people, families and care takers that are dealing with cancer, contact Patty at

Mending Hands will be staying in contact with Patti about her endevores and hopes that the massage therapy community will do what we can to help this wonderful soul continue to do all the work she is doing.

The power of touch can extend as far as we let it!

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