Posted by Diane Klick, Massage Therapist
I visited a recently admitted pediatric patient, 17-year-old Lucía. Here from Mexico City for treatment in Chicago, she was later discharged to hospice in her aunt’s home in a nearby Illinois town. In reviewing the most recent notes for this young cancer patient, I was upset to find that her parents were not here with her. Her dad had died, as well as one of her brothers, and her mom was recently hospitalized. Make-A-Wish Foundation was trying to get her mom here on a temporary visa to visit.
But when I arrived, a large support group of well-dressed cousins and aunties were there. They were all in a celebratory mood. They had brought home-cooked food, and were smiling, friendly and happy. And her wonderful brother, Alonso, who was also her best friend, was by her side.
Lucía’s cell phone rang a lot, with well-wishers and cheers from far away, to “get strong, be strong, you are strong.” She seemed to be somewhat weary and tearful, as she pushed her bolus/pain pump now for the third time, so we set her phone aside for the next hour and allowed her to just be and rest. She deserved rest with all she had been through mentally and physically.
Lucía spoke only Spanish, but her young cousin proudly translated every word to me. She said that Lucía really wanted a massage and that she was waiting excitedly all morning for the therapist to arrive. Both her feet and legs were severely fluid-filled through her abdomen and up to her diaphragm. My intention was to reduce her pain and help her feel human.
She was able to roll on her side for massage access to her back, then she laid on her back for specific work on both legs and feet up to the hips. Lucia’s right leg was very restless and every position caused her more pain, so I positioned and repositioned her until we found an elevated, comfortable place with pillow and rolled blankets under her thigh. She closed her eyes on and off the entire session. She sighed a lot. It seemed like there was an emotional connection to the massage that relieved her pain.
I tried my utmost with my hands and heart to relieve some of the intense anguish that I felt now under my fingertips. After work on her neck, shoulders, head and scalp, including finer work to both scapulae, she dozed off a bit. She finally sat up and I sat next to her and just held her and hugged her. A vibrant young girl appeared, like a goddess with her beauty, regal head and a gentle and kind expression.
I educated her very supportive family with some helpful tips and positioning tricks, which they confirmed and demonstrated to understand.
The entire group of her family members lined up to express gratitude to me. I really was the grateful one now. I left thinking, what marvelous support – that all came out for Lucía today!
As I headed to the next patient in the area, I heard a band playing nearby behind a small library – a mariachi band! I got out of my car to listen. As I neared the wonderfully vibrant music, I noticed that all the colorful sparkling costumed musicians were just teenagers, young boys and girls. They played so professionally and so proudly. I approached the outdoor field-arena, with perhaps only a dozen moms, dads and maybe siblings of the band, but otherwise there were rows and rows of unfolded chairs set up that were all empty. So I sat down in one until the music completed. Everyone applauded wildly and the crowd cheered “Viva Mexico!” I realized later it was Independence Day in Mexico!
I was glad to have visited Lucía that day. I think it was meant to be and that we are always in the right place at the right time.
Every day can be a Celebration of Life and Independence Day for someone, especially for our hospice patients.
Note: Names have been changed.