Ayla’s Journey – How Massage Helps

If you are a part of AMC or have followed us to any extent, Ayla is a name you most likely know. She has been a therapist with us for YEARS – like a real OG. But something you might not know about Ayla is that she over the past few years she has been going through a journey of battling cancer. Through this leg of her recovery she wanted to give us an inside look into how bodywork helps with some of that process. Here is a bit of background into her diagnosis and where she is going from here:


1. Explain your diagnosis and what your recovery has looked like to this point:

I have no family history of breast cancer. In November of 2016 I found the tumor in my left breast while I was at a camping music festival. In July 2018 I was diagnosed with an estrogen-dependent “invasive” Intraductal Carcinoma, meaning that the tumor had grown outside of the boundaries of the mammary ducts. Thankfully the tumor and the 3 littles it sent to my lymph nodes were all removed. I went through 30 days of radiation treatments & chemotherapy wasn’t necessary. Physically speaking recovery has been smooth and has impressed the medical community!

2. Explain what you will be doing with AMC to aid in your recovery:
While I was undergoing all of the procedures and life changes last year I wasn’t able to get bodywork at all. I couldn’t lay on my belly due to what was going on in my chest or move my left shoulder. I have a LOT of scar tissue from the initial surgery and even more from the reconstructive plastic surgeries. My left shoulder mobility is painful and very limited & my upper back and rib movement is very limited from 10 months of tissue expanders. My right shoulder is now experiencing pain and movement problems likely from having to do all the work the left one couldn’t. I’m hoping to also address the stress that has built up from over a year of not being able to receive regular bodywork. I’ll be working with both Leah (who’s mother is a breast cancer survivor) to address a number of chronic and acute pain issues and movement problems resulting from scar tissue and fascial restriction.
3. How has the first leg of your diagnosis and recovery been? How do you feel? What process of procedures and medications have you taken?
The first leg was last year & it was rough. Life changing. I’m in the final phase now and I feel amazing! Due to having no restrictions in insurance coverage I’ve been able to undergo each procedure the medical community needed me to do. It’s been the biggest blessing both physically and psychologically.

Fortunately I’m only on ONE medication and it’s an estrogen blocker. I’ve also changed my diet to exclude all foods that convert to estrogen and increase foods that don’t. The downside to the medication I’m taking is that it tends to demineralize bones so they’ve put me on Vitamin D and Calcium and monitor my bone density regularly, which, considering I’m 51, is good to do anyway.

4. How has bodywork been incorporated into your recovery? How was it perceived from a medical standpoint?
This will be my first time back into bodywork but on my own I’ve been stretching the best I can but there are areas and depths I can’t reach on my own.

Oooo, the medical community. When I first arrived on the scene my chosen career was more or less laughed at in front of me. Spoken of like the only thing it’s good at doing is relaxing people as in a Swedish massage in a spa. Anyone who knows me or the bodywork I do is well aware that that direction in Massage Therapy is NOT what I do. I used the opportunity to raise their awareness that therapeutic soft tissue work can help the patient in recovery. The most interesting, and fun, thing I did was to help them understand the emotional changes that women are experiencing. They’re not trained in that aspect of healing. I can tell you the biggest frustration they have is when their patient’s families aren’t supportive in the patient’s healing. That needs to be known.

5. What do you hope to gain from the bodywork you are getting at AMC?
Michelle and I decided to make this into an educational experience for both the general public and the medical community. I’ll be sharing my very private experience through this in order to reach out to women who also need this type of work but don’t know where to go or may not know of its existence.
My goal is to get my shoulder range of motion back so I can lift my arms overhead without pain, free up my rib cage so I can move and breathe properly, and smooth out the scar tissue of my new breasts in preparation for my final surgery. Yes, I will be getting deep work on my new breast tissue so the scar tissue smooths out and doesn’t create further issues. This can be a tricky area to work on so finding someone familiar with the work who can maintain professionalism while setting me up for long term success is a gem of a find!

6. Are there things you know now about cancer that you didn’t before? What are they?
Only that you don’t get to pick the type of cancer you get, you just get one and are expected to deal with it. It’s a very stark and cold reality. 1:8 women develop the type of tumor I had. Do you know 8 women?
In my individual case, the discovery to diagnosis to year+-long treatments to 10-year monitoring has been life altering. I’m single and am the sole income earner so being prevented from doing massage for a living absolutely forced me to re-evaluate my abilities & potential. I had to rely on friends letting me live with them while I endured the treatments and couldn’t work. I moved 6 times in less than a year. That was humbling & unfortunately I wasn’t the easiest person to deal with. Being emotionally understood was what I needed more than anything but it was the thing that was starkly absent. My sense of vanity has also drastically changed. Cancer takes center stage when it shows up & releasing control over your known lifestyle isn’t easy, welcome, or focused but if you survive it the lessons learned can be astounding!
7. Anything else you want to add:  

In Texas, the Cancer Care Collaborative, run by all BC survivors, has a wealth of resources for patients and families. If someone you know does develop any type of cancer, I HIGHLY recommend the Seton network of providers over any others in the area. I’ve had a stellar experience with them.

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