“I really think of massage as preventative maintenance; preventive medicine.”
- Lisa Wamsley, CMT, LMT
The human touch has a healing quality unlike any other. It can bring comfort to someone feeling lonely, depressed, and sad. It has the power to release tension and calm aggression. It enhances joy, love, celebration and appreciation. It can also be our greatest teacher.
Lisa Wamsley, CMT, LMT, is Making A Difference One Act of Self-Care At A Time. I met Lisa in November of 2005 in a writer's class taught by Elizabeth Buzzelli. Lisa is one of those individuals that lights up a room when she enters and gives a hug like no other. She is a woman of many talents and in this article, I am focusing on her career as a massage therapist and her experiences with diabetes. When she's ready to publish her novels, I hope to be there celebrating her accomplishments.
When I interviewed Lisa, my intention was to gain a better understanding of the effects massage has on the body. What I received in addition, was a heartwarming conversation about one woman's courageous determination to lower her blood sugar levels from the 280 range to an average of 99.
The seed to her career as a massage therapist was planted when she was a child. Lisa enjoyed giving her mother foot rubs, and giving her friends back rubs. “I always had my hands on someone,” she said. When she was a young adult, Lisa received a generous gift from a couple that allowed her to attend school to become a certified massage therapist. Lisa opened her practice in Traverse City, Michigan, eighteen years ago.
One of Lisa's specialties, is working with pregnant women, offering maternity massage. It was her sole focus when she first started her business. “I discovered that it was too narrow a niche market to make a living at. I now have clients ranging in age from ten – twelve years old and those who are well into their eighties. Women, men, those with chronic pain issues; just about anything people need massages for, I do,” said Lisa.
“What most therapists do in their private practice is a therapeutic massage. We address issues the body is having before they develop into something that is chronic,” said Lisa. “I often get referrals from doctors in the area. They could be for patients having chronic issues, like sciatica or neck pain, and even carpal tunnel, or plantar fasciitis. I'm lucky enough to have a network where doctors actually refer their patients as opposed to starting them on medications, or referring them to a surgeon. Often, the patient can avoid surgery altogether. Massage brings blood flow to an area of the body, releasing tension. I can help realign the musculature around the structure of the body. The benefits of massage are not just physical but also mental. Massage therapy helps people to be able to calm down, and still their minds; to get in touch with
their bodies and remember what it feels like to have hands on the body. The human touch can be so powerful for healing in so many ways. I really think of massage as preventative maintenance; preventive medicine.”
Lisa explains, “The most common issue folks in my practice experience are neck and shoulder issues. I believe it’s primarily caused from people working on computers all day. Between looking down at your cell phone or looking at your laptop or looking at your desktop. People are getting rounded shoulders and getting crick's in the neck. They tend to shoot their jaw forward a little bit, which compresses the spine in the neck, when they're looking at a screen. The second issue is sciatic nerve pain because so many people sit all of the time. The human body is not meant to sit like it does. I've read somewhere (I can't remember the exact source) that the human body is designed to walk between eleven and twelve miles a day and if any of us get a mile in on a day we're lucky. Our bodies are not set up to sit all day the way that we are now, so people are suffering for it.”
It's easy to take our bodies for granted. They function without us really having to give much thought to the whole process. Caring for our body, mind and spirit is vital for better health. We are given signs, through symptoms, that something is out of balance. It is up to us to pay attention.
“This is the short version of the journey,” Lisa began. “I was diagnosed with diabetes and did not immediately jump on taking care of that. I wasn't feeling any symptoms; which is the dangerous part of diabetes. I felt just the same, I felt fine, so I ignored it and I did nothing for a long time. Over the years I started to notice a few symptoms like some tingling in my toes. I didn't test my blood sugars. I basically paid no attention. I have finally hit a point now, where I was not feeling as well as I once did, so I went to my doctor and she confirmed the diagnosis of being an active diabetic, and that my blood sugars were fairly high.”
“She referred me to an endocrinologist. A wonderful, kind person, but their philosophy and approach to bringing my blood sugars down was based in medicine instead of looking at my nutrition and food intake.. We started out with an oral med and then they added a second oral med. When that didn't work, they added an insulin and then a second insulin. When those didn't work, they put me on insulin injectables. I was on five diabetes medications. It made me put on weight. It made me feel fatigued, lethargic and depressed. And with all of that, my blood sugars still were not coming down. They were not responding to five different diabetic medications.”
“I had the feeling that we could keep adding meds and upping the dosage for the rest of my life. My life wasn't going to be what I wanted it to be. I decided to take control of my health and my medical decisions. I found a nutritionist who has changed my life. Tiffany Stone, here in Traverse City, has bit by bit, taken me through the process of understanding the physiological reasons behind my diabetes, of getting to know how my body functions, physiologically, and why (while on all of those medications) they didn't work to improve my health. I have been working with Tiffany for a year now. I’m happy to say that I am off of all but one of the diabetes medications. I am just on a low dose of an oral medication, and I'm on it because my regular doctor thinks that it serves as good liver support until I completely regain my health. All other medications are off the table. I have lost 43 pounds. My blood sugars are now almost continually in the normal range with only occasional spikes that according to my health care professionals, are nothing to worry about. I am not on a diet, I have improved my way a life. I've had to completely change my relationship with food on an emotional, physiological, mental and ultimately spiritual level. I still have about 40 more pounds to lose, but I have every confidence that the weight will come off. I'm healing from the inside out. It has been an amazing journey.”
“I feel like I'm coming into my own, at 51 years of age, I'm finally becoming the best I was meant to be, and it is a really powerful feeling.” A common thread I have found throughout the experience of creating Elements For A Healthier Life Magazine is that we have to experience what we experience in order to discover who we are to become. It's all about adjustment. It's about finding out what makes our hearts sing and then following our hearts, to their fullest content.
To get a better understanding of Lisa’s experience with diabetes, I asked her to share the metrics of her disease - to look at the ups and downs of her blood sugars and to examine her average numbers.
Lisa said that, “My numbers, even when I was on all of the medications, were pushing 300. I was usually right around 280, sometimes up to 350 when it would spike. There were times when it would actually...” she paused, “the meter would not read, which meant my blood sugar was over 500. That only happened a few times, but I had my share of 400 readings, too. My average was closer to 300.”
“How did you not have a stroke, Lisa?” I asked.
“I know. I dodged a bullet. I really did. I just tested my blood sugar this morning before we talked and it was 99. I'm right where I need to be.”
By changing her lifestyle, and not dieting, she turned her health around. Once you start feeling better, you want to continue that sense of wellness.
Lisa continues, “Not to say that I don't miss pizza; I do dream about it sometimes. Once I reach my weight loss goals and my blood sugar goals, and they've been consistent, pizza's something that you can indulge in once in awhile for...” she paused and reworded what she was going to say, “I don't want to say a treat 'cause it's not like I'm not. I'm treating myself well everyday. I'm eating the foods that feed my body. Pizza is just not good for me in any way, shape or form. But, I think it feeds some of that reptilian part of our brain that still wants the comfort in the flavor and the pleasure. I try to get that in other ways now instead of looking to food to fill that void. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it, but it's no longer part of what I eat.”
In the way of exercise, Lisa attends several classes a week led by her friend Melissa. She teaches a class called Cardio Dance. Up until a couple of weeks ago she was also working with Melissa one-on-one, once a week, doing personal training, but has put that on a little Hiatus until the fall. “She's an incredible dancer with a great playlist. The energy in the room keeps you going, even when you feel like your heart is going to burst out of your chest.” Lisa enjoys Zumba and recently started attending Cardio Drumming. She also tries to do yoga once a week and get outside and walk at least three times a week.
Exercise is not about being on a treadmill; it is moving your body, in ways that you enjoy! If what you're doing, brings you joy, you'll find a rhythm that works for you, finding the body movement that touches your soul.
Cindy (C.K.) Kochis is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach who transformed her coaching practice as the foundation of Elements For A Healthier Life. She is providing a community space for people to share their personal stories, professional knowledge and healthy eating options. Cindy is a coach, virtual assistant, author, grandmother and sassy redhead. She self-published “Get A Compass Not A Clock” and “Unleash Your Inner Story”. For more information about Cindy’s services, visit ckkochis.com.
This article was originally published in the August 2016 edition of Elements For A Healthier Life Magazine.