Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Belanger.
Megan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I worked in the corporate world for many years, and after a while, I started feeling like I wasn’t doing much connecting with people. My days were filled with conference calls and spreadsheets and databases, and cubicle life began getting me down. I would occasionally get massages at different spas to de-stress, and I would ask career questions of the therapists. They all unanimously LOVED their jobs, and many of them were career-changers. It really got me thinking about how good it might feel at the end of a workday to say that I helped someone to feel better than when they walked in. I went to a one-day orientation at a local massage school and there was that strong, gut feeling that even though this was such a different world from the one I was used to, it was somehow very much the right place for me to be. I haven’t looked back for a moment.
As soon as I enrolled in massage school, I was very drawn toward the idea of massage in cancer care. I wanted to work with a population that, while going through diagnostic tests and treatments and experiencing plenty of accompanying stress and anxiety, might really benefit from comfort-oriented, pain-free touch. I found that I had a naturally gentle touch as I took my hands-on classes, and I enjoyed working in the more superficial layers of the body rather than working very deeply. Shortly after graduation, I took a specialized four-day oncology massage course, and that class really cemented my desire to work in this sphere.
A year later, after hearing how a number of people can develop lymphedema – a chronic disorder that causes fluid buildup and swelling – following radiation or surgery involving lymph nodes, I became trained as a lymphedema therapist, learning manual lymphatic drainage and compression bandaging. In following years, my continuing education took me into scar tissue mobilization and post-mastectomy rehabilitation, and my desire to keep learning more and to help as many people as I can just keep going. I love this work, I am proud of my practice, and I am so grateful that I took the leap into oncology massage therapy.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest struggle was getting through massage school. My husband and I were juggling taking care of our daughter, who was three years old at the time, I had quit my comfortable corporate job and left a good salary and health benefits, and there were many, many moments of “What am I DOING? I must be crazy.” But there was some strong, underlying force that kept me going and let me know that I was on the right road. There would be moments in class, or moments with clients in the school clinic, that just felt like, in some strange way, “home.”
I started my own practice shortly after graduating – another big leap – and it took about three years to really feel like it was successful and flourishing. At first, I’d only have a client or two coming in here or there, but as I went, I discovered that I like to get out from the four walls of my treatment room now and again and talk about this work with others. I connected with cancer support groups and gave presentations, I reached out to oncologists and surgeons, and eventually through speaking and educating, and through word of mouth, I felt like I had found my groove.
Megan Belanger, LMT, CLT – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I specialize mainly in clients with cancer, cancer history, and lymphedema. Massage can help with pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and depression (often called “The Big Five” symptoms for cancer patients), and manual lymphatic drainage can be wonderful for helping to keep chronic swelling at bay. I’m specially trained in post-mastectomy scar tissue mobilization and breast cancer rehabilitation, and I also see a number of clients for post-surgical rehabilitation for help with swelling, scar tissue, and mobility, whether it is for cancer or some other type of surgery.
I work with a gentle touch, and I tell my clients that “nothing hurts on my table.” It has been amazing to see the results of what gentle, non-painful work can do for someone’s edema or their range-of-motion, and I am also a big advocate of the intent of calming the nervous system. The power of relaxation and comfort and trust goes a long way. That translates to the touch itself, but also to the safe space I aim to provide in my treatment room – space to be in a place of empathy, of confidentiality, of empowerment, of personal, individualized, heart-centered care,
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I’m especially proud of my pay-it-forward program, called “Touch of Kindness,” which I launched in the Spring of 2015. I was getting more and more calls from clients with cancer or lymphedema who were seeking massage, but because they were dealing with so many medical bills, they often could not afford my services. I knew I still needed to make a living, but I hated the idea of turning anyone away because of money. I’d heard about this pay-it-forward thing a pizza place in Philadelphia (Rosa’s Fresh Pizza) was doing where customers can pay extra, get a sticky note, and place it on the wall so that those in need in the community can take a note off the wall and get a slice of pizza with no questions asked. I figured, “Why couldn’t I do the same thing for a massage practice?” Enter Touch of Kindness.
It’s been working very well over the past few years. There has been a steady stream of people contributing to the fund and a steady stream of clients using money from it toward their massage sessions. I don’t take gratuities, so it’s been great to have a place where clients can say thank-you by paying it forward so that someone with cancer, cancer history, or lymphedema can get a message who might not otherwise have been able to. It’s a win-win-win.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been working to get the word out about this setup, not only to other massage therapists but to other businesses in general. I love talking to other practitioners, walking them through how to get a pay-it-forward program going in their own practices, and hearing their success stories. This idea is now helping more people get massage all around the country, and that’s something I never imagined when I first kicked off Touch of Kindness.
- $85 for a one-hour session
- $120 for a 90-minute session
- Address: 45 Lyman Street, Suite 22
Westborough, MA 01581
- Website: www.meganbelanger.com
- Phone: 617-304-6915
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org