By Michelle Haugen
At a turning point in my life, I decided that I wanted to change careers and do something that was a benefit to other people. As I was reviewing different paths within the many health professions, my first granddaughter, Eva, was born. This was a wonderful and exciting event! But there was one caveat — Eva was born two months premature and we were not sure whether she would make it.
As I was searching for information about preemies and what might benefit them, I discovered research being done by Dr. Tiffany Field at the Touch Research Institute, University of Miami. Her research found that a well-defined protocol of touch helped infants thrive in neonatal intensive care units, and significantly shorten their time in the hospital.
That discovery indicated to me just how powerful massage can be, especially since premature infants have no preconditioned notion of it. I had received massage therapy myself as a means to reduce neck strain, and found it therapeutic. As I researched the benefits of massage more extensively, I learned that it was beneficial for a myriad of health conditions, and could be useful for people of almost all ages. This was it! I had found my new career choice.
As part of my massage therapy education and training program, I chose Rush University Medical Center for my internship because I felt that it was a place where healing happened. After graduation and additional testing for Illinois licensure and national certification, I continued volunteering as well as working as a massage therapist in child life and in the women and children’s unit at Rush.
As I continued to investigate the benefits of massage therapy, I learned that many studies have supported the use of massage as adjunct therapy for cancer patients. One of the benefits most strongly supported by current research is decreased anxiety, and an increased sense of well-being among cancer patients receiving massage therapy. Given that I have been touched by hardship and loss from cancer in my own life, I decided that I wanted to work with people with cancer. To pursue my passion, I completed an advanced training program, and received a special certification in massage therapy specifically for cancer patients. I also became involved in the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program here at Rush.
I’ve been part of the integrative medicine team for a couple of years and honored to provide massage therapy for our patients. I find that when patients come to receive care from the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, they are looking for some relief and relaxation, and massage therapy is one way to provide that. My vision of having a job that helps people is fulfilled when I see the often brighter and always more relaxed and less anxious faces of my patients after receiving a gentle, therapeutic massage.
Michelle Haugen, LMT, CLT, is a licensed massage therapist with the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program at Rush University Medical Center.