Our teaching staff returned from the 4th Oncology Massage Healing Summit in high spirits last month. Nanci, Erika, Cindy, Joan, Megan, Julie, Michelle, and Kim raved about their 4 days in Minneapolis, where they felt a strong sense of community among oncology massage therapists and a renewed respect for OMT teaching and clinical work.
Kim Turk, from Durham, NC told me “It was the best conference I have ever attended, in 19 years. It was action packed. In the three days I’ve been back, I’ve already used some things I learned.”
Saving Your Seat
Joan Rau especially appreciated the enthusiasm: “I was tickled that at the end of each session, we all RAN to the next session to save our seats and make sure we got to attend that session. Only then would we take a break.”
They were sprinting across the large campus of Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, MN, a training ground for massage therapy, chiropractic, and acupuncture. NWHSU has been a perfect host.
Before Erika Slocum became a MT, she worked in event planning. She knows of what she speaks when she observes, “There are so many pieces to a conference. I so appreciated it from the back end of things. It was seamless.” She added, “I had a great experience. I loved being in the room with that many people doing the same kind of work.” She joined many others in praising the conference organizers.
Julie Streeter was busy as Conference Chair, working behind the scenes. She noted, “I really liked seeing the different groups of people. There was always someone to talk to. There was a lot of mixing and matching. You would see people together talking, then some of them with a different group. I really liked the mingling.”
Don’t I Know You?
Julie told us there were 265 registrants and 30 vendors in attendance. They came from all over the continent, as well as Scotland, India, Australia, The Netherlands, and France. Erika summed it up for everyone when she enthused, “It was incredible to hear from the international attendees and presenters. To hear what is going on in Scotland with the Iris Cancer Partnership, to hear from the teachers in Australia about the extent of their trainings.”
Yet one irony in such an international gathering is also getting to talk to people who live down the street from you, but whom you never see back home.
Cindy Gillan, who works part-time as a MT at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, was thrilled to spend a little time with Bambi Mathay and Theresa Ochenkoski, who have also worked there for years.
Likewise, Joan Rau remarked, “This was the first time at this conference that I met other oncology massage therapists from Georgia, and I enjoyed checking in on them throughout the conference. Now I feel like I have a few more people down here I can call and have lunch with.”
From Marketing to the Message to the Massage
The team fanned out to attend as many different presentations as possible. It is impossible to capture them all here, but here are some highlights: Lauren Cates on authenticity, Jack Blackburn on cultivating presence, Rhiannon Lewis on aromatherapy, Laura Allen on ethics in oncology massage, Jamie Elswick on working with scar tissue, and Tina Allen on pediatric oncology massage. David Doubblestein on lymphatic work, and Dianna Dapkins on the makeup of massage lotions and oils.
Our own Nanci Newton and Erika Slocum presented two breakout sessions on the bolstering techniques we teach in our oncology massage course. Megan Belanger was invited to present a poster on her Touch of Kindness project, a pay-it-forward approach to ease financial barriers to oncology massage care.
Pre- and Post-Event Sessions
Most of the staff attended the pre-conference Educator’s Forum, a day-long gathering of OMT instructors and instructors-to-be. The forum saw about 60 in attendance, and was devoted to all aspects of instruction. There were breakout sessions on clinic resources and teaching online.
Jerrilyn Cambron, Massage Therapy Foundation President, offered her wisdom about competencies and curriculum design. Her presentation prompted deep discussions about how we teach clinical skills in oncology massage education.
Nanci Newton, Cindy Gillan and Erika Slocum presented our new clinic format, the “Peer Practice Clinic” in which students pair up for a clinic simulation, using realistic case scenarios. Together, the educators looked at the merits of different clinic approaches in preparing students for oncology massage practice. Rich exchanges continued throughout the conference.
You Are not Alone
Both Cindy Gillan and Michelle Shields spoke to the strong shared purpose they felt from the conference experience, and to feeling less isolated than they might feel back home. Cindy remarked, “I was tired when I came home but SO filled up with everything. Being with the team, meeting new people, putting faces to names that we just hear about through S4OM all the time.”
Megan came home with more energy. “It was so good to be reinvigorated. To be around all these other therapists doing the work. Sitting down with people I don’t know and talking about work! Nerding out. It was really cool. I got to talk about Touch of Kindness a LOT which I love. Everyone said, ‘this is so easy!’ And they’re right. I stole the idea from a pizza place. You can certainly steal it from me.” (Look for our Massage Today column soon on the Touch of Kindness idea, and steal it for yourself!)
As Kim noted, “It was a conference I won’t miss again, ever. Everyone was very supportive. It was nice to have the group of people of that caliber as participants and presenters. I don’t think I had one boring moment. Not even sitting around at lunch. My head is still swirling.”
You Don’t Have to Wait 3 Years!
Some of the best news to come home from the conference is that the next gathering will be in 2018, not 2019! From here on out, it will be held every two years. Keep an eye out for the 2018 Oncology Healing Summit at www.s4om.org.