Hold On to the Dream:
Massage Therapist at Peaceful Valley

By Karen Putz, Illinois Hands & Voices

Leeanne Seaver, the executive director of Hands & Voices National, came down a flight of stairs at our H&V National Conference held at Peaceful Valley Ranch, with her hair rumpled and a silly grin on her face. She had just finished her massage by Julia Cameron Damon, a certified massage therapist who became deaf at the age of nineteen. The next day, I had a massage with “Cam” as she introduced herself, and I checked the mirror afterwards--I had the same silly grin and messed up hair. Cam is an excellent massage therapist!

Cameron’s journey into massage therapy started with a gift certificate from a good friend for a massage.  “I grew up in a very conservative environment and had never heard of massage, but loved the friend so much that I decided to go and check it out,” said Cam.  “It proved to be a pivotal experience in my life.  The woman who worked on me was phenomenal. I realize now how gifted she was. She was very kind and nurturing and it was the first time I had ever experienced that sort of kindness and relaxation.”

She decided that she wanted to be massage therapist and began to search for information.  In 1989, she applied and was accepted at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy. Her family moved to Boulder from the Island of Vashon, off the coast of Seattle. During her orientation session, she learned that the college would not provide her with interpreters.

Cam debated pursuing a lawsuit and fighting for interpreters, but decided against it. “I thought if I waited,” said Cam, “maybe they would warm up to what their legal responsibilities were in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. I was so naive I actually thought it would work itself out.”

Cam didn’t just wait; she went on to become a high school teacher and taught art, theatre and sign language. “I loved it,” she explained, “but also felt being the only deaf person in a hearing high school was profoundly lonely.”

It took seventeen years and the retention of an attorney by another deaf student before the college began to provide interpreters. Cam enrolled again and completed the coursework to become certified.

At the Boulder College of Massage Therapy, one of the classes focused on working with clients from all walks of life and included different physical disabilities. A variety of guests were invited to speak to the class and share their insights about what therapists can do for them. “I knew that class would push my buttons and it did,” said Cam.  ‘What I wish people knew is that no one but the individual in any given circumstance can tell you what they need, want and will benefit from.  We see this in the deaf and hard of hearing world, where there may be a common thread of hearing loss but there are so many other variables--we all need to find what works for us individually. One of the things I love about being a massage therapist is that I can connect with people one-on-one to serve them in a meaningful way, tailored to their needs, and even though there is very little talking, there is communion and communication. I love this aspect.”

It took many years and a long journey, but the wait was worth it to become a Certified Massage Therapist.  Cam works part-time at a spa in LaFayette, CO and has her own office.  Her work hours vary: from 20 hours to as many as 60 hours a week. “I love my life and job now!” said Cam.  For the many participants at the conference who also sported messed up hair and silly grins, we are grateful that Cam pursued her dream.    ~

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