I have had a ton of unusual experiences in my career. I’ve had a lot of jobs. So answering the question, “Why did you become a massage therapist?” becomes a convoluted and lengthy story.
I really wanted to go medical school. I was a super precocious kid, my nose always in a book, and sitting with my teachers at lunchtime. Paying for medical school, on the other hand, was not something I could easily do.
I seriously considered the military route. I took the ASVAB and had many meetings with the local Navy recruiter. We could not reach an agreement. I wanted to go through the medical program and study at Bathesda. He wanted to cram my 6’2″ frame into a nuclear submarine for six years. No, thanks.
I took a next logical step and attended classes at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City to get my Emergency Medical Technician license. At 18, I completed the program and accepted a position in a rural town at a county-funded ambulance district. In between shifts of responding to car accidents, hunting and farming accidents, and countless “weak and dizzy” calls to nursing homes, I pursued my Advanced Life Support / Paramedic license. I worked shifts in the local hospital emergency room, soaking up as much knowledge as I could along the way. I would get loaned out to the University of Missouri‘s Life Flight helicopter ambulance.
At some point, seeing people on the worst day of their lives really got to me. I decided to leave Missouri and headed to Nashville where I worked in radio broadcasting and snagged myself a record deal that ultimately fell apart.
Sidenote: I still perform in various bands as my alter-ego, Ace Fontana.
After a month of living in my car when the record contract dissolved, I moved back to Kansas City and worked for a home medical company that supplied in-home nursing, respiratory therapy, and durable equipment like wheelchairs and hospital beds. My job was to examine and approve all of the supporting medical records and documentation supplied by doctors to facilitate insurance billing.
San Francisco, Here I Come
Within five months, that company moved me to the San Francisco Bay Area where I mostly handled patients that were active military and veterans, and all the red-tape and paperwork that brings.
That company eventually went bankrupt and I got out of the medical business for a few years. I went back to school to get my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts while working as a communications director for the Department of Energy in Berkeley. That position eventually lead to my involvement in a project that received a Nobel Prize shared with Al Gore. (I mentioned that I have had a lot of unusual experience, right?)
That eventually led to helping create a start-up company that did high-tech ultrasonic analysis for the aeronautics and automobile industries.
The work was challenging, but as I bounced from job to job, I never found anything quite as rewarding as helping people in a one-on-one situation.
I eventually wound up working for a county-supported health plan, doing community outreach and health education for a population made up primarily of low-income, English-as-a-second-language patients.
Illness and Injury
In the summer of 2002, while I was working for the Department of Energy, I hurt myself during a volleyball game at a company picnic. I jumped up to hit the ball and landed in a hole, completely separating my left ankle and spraining all the ligaments and tearing tendons throughout my foot.
I spent more than a year in physical therapy and walking on crutches and a cane. All the inactivity from the injury lead to my gaining over 100 pounds.
I spent the next ten years fat, sick, and depressed.
I suffered from debilitating stomach cramps and pain that would leave me doubled over on the floor gasping for breath. Doctors were stumped. One year, I had five colonoscopies and upper GI’s in an effort to diagnose the pain. A specialist in San Francisco finally determined that my stomach was covered in pre-cancerous lesions and I was pre-diabetic.
I was referred to a surgeon who successfully removed 90% of my stomach, curing the pre-cancer and pre-diabetes.
Three days after the surgery, I enrolled in the massage therapy program at the National Holistic Institute. I wanted to get back to living a healthier lifestyle and helping others feel better. I used the major change in my health as the catalyst to completely “reboot” my life.
Over the year-long full-time program, I lost 170 pounds, and figured out a way to put my medical training and desire to help to good use.
Specializing in Chronic Medical Conditions and Pain
There are many paths a massage therapist can take. There’s the obvious: frou-frou spas serving cucumber and melon water to affluent women in plush bathrobes. And then there’s the path that I, like many other male massage therapists, decide to take: working with patients with chronic medical conditions and pain. I can use my skills to read medical reports and coordinate care with doctors and physical therapists to really make an impact in a patient’s life.
When I started my massage practice, I worked with a chiropractor/acupuncturist who ran a study/clinic for patients with HIV. He had been studying the health benefits of alternative treatments for these patients and finding amazing results: boosted T-Cell counts (improved immune system), mood elevation, and greater efficacy of HIV medications.
I built my business providing care on a sliding scale and as part of a free clinic. I eventually expanded my practice in Oakland to include 12 additional therapists.
That business eventually folded because I made a really stupid mistake: I went on a vacation and didn’t lock up my checkbook. A new therapist I had hired helped herself to my entire operating account. It was a $25,000 mistake that derailed my entire practice.
And now? I’m living in Burbank with my partner of five years and seeing private clients.
I told you it was a long story.
And now that you know a LOT more about me, maybe it’s time to book an appointment to meet me in person!