It started with her cleaning business. One of Michelle R. Bailey’s clients lost her son to AIDS. After his death, the woman told Bailey that the most comfort her son received in his final days was from massage therapy.
That news came at a time when Bailey was looking for a change. She’d been in the cleaning business for 18 years and was drawn to the woman’s words.
“She said it was so amazing the care he got and the only time he found peace and comfort in his final weeks was through the healing touch of massage therapy,” said Bailey. “I believe then and I do today that human touch is a gift and not everyone has the gift to give or receive it.”
Bailey went to school focusing her profession on hospice, palliative care and oncology. She graduated in 2002 and spent the first seven years of her new career working at a family-owned spa. She eventually moved to a medical spa and began volunteering with hospice and palliative care programs. She’s board certified for massage therapy and has received additional training in working with oncology patients.
At Simon Cancer Center, Bailey works three days a week with outpatients in infusion and radiology oncology providing soothing foot and hand massages. She also provides massages for caregivers.
“I recently had a man come in who had been caring for his wife. When he came in his breathing was rapid and his shoulders were as tight as steel belted tires,” said Bailey. “After a few minutes I could feel his pulse even out and his heart rate slow. He began to relax. He looked up and said, ‘you made a believer out of me.’”
Bailey’s role is part of the Complete Life Program at the Cancer Resource Center – offering services that nurture the mind, body and spirit of patients and their families. In addition to massage therapy, Complete Life Programs include art, yoga, music and cosmetology.
“I’ve had patients just absolutely be so rigid in pain and so tense that every fiber of their being is on high alert. Just the act of putting my hands on them in a comforting healing way, helps their bodies settle. Tears roll down their cheeks. It’s safe for them. They trust I know what I’m doing,” said Bailey. “After 16 years of doing this, I still love to go to work every day. I love to interact with the patients and I know I’m fulfilling my purpose. Even if it’s for just 10-15 minutes, I know I can provide comfort – a healing moment on any level – and know I’m doing what I’m called to do.”
More About Bailey:
- She has one son and one daughter, both college students.
- She is married to Kathy Martin, a physical therapy professor.
- Together they enjoy outdoor activities such as camping and hiking. They also are active volunteers with the Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN), an accredited service dog-training program.
— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.