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Accessing the Possibilities

Quite simply, I am writing this story because I believe it is an inspirational one for both the novice and the veteran massage therapist.

June 25, 2013  By Ute Gavel RMT

Quite simply, I am writing this story because I believe it is an inspirational one for both the novice and the veteran massage therapist. I am a recently retired massage therapist after 20 years in practice. One of the therapists I have had the privilege of getting to know is Marion Lemmon, a registered massage therapist who is involved in providing onsite massage therapy in Ottawa, Ontario. What is so unusual about Marion’s story is that she turned 70 years old on December 31, 2012, and she’s in her 18th year of practice. She began her massage therapy career in 1995 in her 50s at a time when most of us are looking to retire.

Marion Lemmon made the decision to provide on-site massage therapy treatments for those who could not acess care in any other way.


Faced with major changes occurring in the public service arena in the early 1990s, and the fact that her position was being eliminated, Marion Lemmon decided she wanted a change of career. In choosing a new career, she knew she wanted to be self-employed and portable, and to enjoy whatever she decided to do. She enjoyed the arts and felt most at home in the water – but she also enjoyed the mystery of the human body, so she did what she frequently advises others to do and that is “think outside the box.” She discovered that a career in massage therapy could provide a blend of being able to nurture her interests while being suited to her career vision and, so, she established a goal to become a massage therapist and pursued her training to do so.

Originally, Marion was going to open a clinic but happenstance led her down an unfamiliar road shortly after she became a registered massage therapist. She recognized that there were many in the community who could not access massage therapy. In 1995 most therapists who provided onsite treatments did them on a case-by-case basis. No one had a full-time, mobile onsite practice so she made the decision to provide massage therapy to those who could not access care any other way. Now, in 2013, not only is she one of the few therapists to be approaching 20 years in practice but her practice has been one of the most challenging types.


For those of us who have ever provided care in a patient’s home or in a hospital setting, we understand the challenges and risks that are part of offering this kind of personalized care.

For one thing, an onsite massage therapist needs to ensure (s)he is actually being called to perform massage on a patient who needs it and that some other prank is not afoot when a call comes in for an appointment. Marion has managed to ensure a safe working environment for herself by developing a thorough phone interview procedure with each new patient before the initial treatment to verify the legitimacy of the request for professional massage therapy treatment. And, much of her business comes from referrals from other health professionals with whom she has developed a good working relationship.

Next, unlike the environment most therapists work in, when one provides onsite massage therapy, each and every treatment requires the therapist to bring all equipment and/or supplies to the patient.  Therefore, the onsite therapist experiences additional physical challenges to those that usually threaten the longevity of a massage therapist. Marion has maintained her physical endurance with activities such as her lifelong enjoyment of swimming as well as kayaking, something she began at age 60, to help her sustain her onsite practice.

As well, during Marion’s early years in practice, public awareness of the benefits of massage therapy was still being cultivated and other medical professionals had not yet fully recognized massage therapy as an acceptable or effective modality. Marion was able to break through the professional barriers and be permitted to treat patients at the Elizabeth Bruyere Hospital and the Perley and Rideau Veterans Health Centre in Ottawa, specifically established for stroke, in-patient geriatric rehabilitation and palliative care. She continues to provide massage therapy services in many long-term care facilities and seniors’ residences.

But her biggest challenge, and what Marion is most passionate about, has been what Marion calls “ageism.” This is the concept that it is too complicated to treat the elderly, or that it is time wasted, or that it is too frustrating because most symptoms will be irresolvable – so why bother. Underestimating the value of touch, the benefits of keeping joints mobile and how it brings pain relief and comfort to those with debilitating disease, in and of itself, is a valid goal to achieve!

Soon Marion recognized that the patient’s caregivers themselves were exhausted and developing physical symptoms. So she began to educate and treat the caregivers as well, in order for them to be able to continue to care for their loved ones over the long term

Marion didn’t just want to practice massage therapy, but also to contribute to the profession. She has frequently been asked to share her valuable knowledge and experiences as a guest lecturer at the community colleges and has, throughout the years, mentored a number of new graduates. One of Marion’s protégés recalled the best and most pertinent advice that Marion has ever given her was “Always be on time – and when you can’t, call ahead and let the client know.” So simple and to the point, but it has served her and her clients well over the years.

As if this weren’t enough of a claim to fame for Marion, she utilized her administrative talents when she became secretary-treasurer of the RMTEO (Registered Massage Therapists of Eastern Ontario) for three years, supporting the association of local therapists in the Ottawa region, after which she looked to supporting the profession on a provincial level by serving on the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO) Council. The following are the dates and CMTO committees Marion has served on: Council – 1997-2000; Complaints Committee – 1997 to 2000; Examination Committee – 1999 to 2000; Communications  Committee – 1997 to 1999; and Client Relations Committee – 1997 to 2000.

Marion also took the opportunity to become an ambassador for our profession by accepting a position on the board of directors for the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) Ottawa-Carleton, which became Care for Ottawa in October 2006. This is a national  organization known for its outreach programs and home care. Aside from being on the board of directors, she was very involved as a board representative on the Ottawa Day, Stay and Away Committees, Secretary of the Board, a member of the Executive Committee and on the Transition Task Force.

Most recently, I have nominated Marion for the Ken Resynk Achievement Award with the RMTAO.

Marion is an inspirational example of what can happen when we think of ourselves as more than just individual therapists treating individuals, and begin to see ourselves as an integral part of the health-care community and therefore part of the evolution and improvement of patient care.

We are never too old to follow a new path or learn something new!


Ute Gavel has been a massage therapist since 1990, both in sole proprietorship and in partnership situations. From 1999-2010, she was a teacher at Algonquin College, CDI College and KineConcept College of Massage Therapy as well as a guest lecturer at the International College of Massage and Ontario Massage Therapists Association (OMTA) on matters related to massage therapy regulations, standards of practice, ethics and boundaries.

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