I can honestly say that all the various avenues, and there are many, of personal development which I have pursued and (this is the kicker) taken action on, have given me extra years of life. Let me explain.
In 1992, I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given 9 months to live. Whilst going through the conventional route of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy I decided I would try to beat the odds that were so heavily stacked against me. My journey of exploring what alternatives were on offer led me to experience some personal development methodologies and therapies.
For me, personal development encompasses anything that allows me (personal side of it) to grow and advance (the development part). I explain this, as I will, over the coming editions, be covering a wide variety of topics which might not traditionally come under the personal development banner and this article falls into that category.
My journey starts with massage and goes on to autogenic conditioning via becoming an international bestselling author and setting up my own business. Now if that life path is not one of personal development I am at a loss to think of what is. So I will start with the massage to show you the beginnings of the opening of my mind.
Being given a terminal diagnosis with a deadline date (interesting selection of the word deadline) certainly focussed my mind on the here and now. I was lucky to be a Royal Marsden Hospital patient. For our overseas readers, this is a world class oncology hospital which attracts the best and most innovative oncology specialists. This means that I was not only given a conventional treatment plan (operation, chemotherapy and radiotherapy), I was also offered a massage. Within my newest book, Achievement: Cancer Free For 20 Years, I wrote the following about my experience with massage:
Previous to being diagnosed with cancer I was very naive, I thought massage was what prostitutes offered. So imagine my surprise when the hospital offered massage to its cancer patients within a clinical trial. My mother always told us, ‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth.’ My horsey friends explained that when you go to buy a horse you always look into the mouth as you can determine the age of the horse. Therefore, the meaning of the saying is to just accept it, and don’t ask any questions. With this principal in mind, I volunteered for the trial. I was a little bit apprehensive as I had no reference points to guide me, except the prostitute version which I kept forcing to the back of my mind, telling myself that the hospital would not offer massage delivered by prostitutes to its patients.
The day arrived and I made my way through the hospital to the allocated room. It was a new experience and I was deeply moved, which has left such a vivid memory for me. When I entered, the room was lovely and warm, with dimmed lighting and gentle flute music playing in the background. The lady masseuse was dressed in a professional white tunic with a clip board in her hand as she guided me to a chair at the side of the massage couch. She proceeded to do a thorough investigation of my medical history. She asked about the type of cancer I had been diagnosed with and the treatment I had received. Once she had all the information she needed to complete her form she recommended that I have a back massage, which seemed like a good start to me. She asked, ‘Can you lie down on your front or will this be too painful for you?’
I was reassured by this question and replied, ‘I think it will be too painful to lie on my front because at night if I roll over onto my front I wake up immediately because of the pain.’
This was obviously not a new model of working for her and as I could not lie on my front (breast still very painful). She asked ‘Do you think you can manage leaning against this pillow on to the couch?’
‘I am not sure, but let’s give it a go and I will tell you if it if becomes too painful,’ I answered.
‘Yes, please do tell me if you are at any time feeling uncomfortable and I will stop immediately,’ she reassured me.
She asked me to take off my jumper and bra but as I could not wear a bra, I took off my top and gently leaned into a massively soft pillow.
She proceeded to warm some base oil and enquired, ‘Do you know if you are allergic to lavender oil?’
‘I know that I am not allergic to lavender oil as my granny used to rub it onto the bumps and scrapes I would often acquire as a child,’ I said.
She warmed her hands by rubbing them together and then she added some oil and started to gently stroke my back. She continued to perform effleurage, (I know this sounds like a very dirty word in the light of the fact that I linked prostitution with massage) but it comes from a French word meaning to touch lightly by using a series of gentle massage strokes when giving a Swedish massage. Without warning, I was overcome with a huge sense of loss. I cried silently, I could not stop myself it just flowed from me. I had no idea that up until this very point, I had hated my body since the operation. I think I felt that my body had let me down. The fact that a stranger could touch my body without being revolted by it moved me beyond myself.
The masseuse did not say anything during the massage and when she had finished and I had dressed I was embarrassed and apologised for crying. She told me that nearly every one of her cancer clients had cried the first time they had received a massage. I was so impressed with the power of massage, I have qualified as a masseuse and now I offer free massage to friends and family if they are suffering from muscular strains or just plain stress related tightness of muscles. I have a massage at least once a month to keep my body supple and calm my mind.
I have included this passage because this was the first opening of my mind to new ideas and was the first tentative step on my journey of personal development. Before I was diagnosed with cancer I was a narrow minded bigot. I was a very successful, bubbly, professionally accomplished high flying bigot. When I was faced with imminent death I suddenly was open to suggestions and the first was to experience massage. Having stepped through the door of personal development I have never looked back and I am grateful to the cancer for nudging, no kicking me, from narrow mindedness to a whole new world filled with interesting, sometimes magical and always fascinating experiences. If this is your first look at personal development – enjoy the ride!
© 2017 Curly Martin
Curly Martin AFC, AFM, MAOC, MFSB, MSOA,
is a best‐selling author, a sought‐after international
speaker, and a pioneer of Life Coaching in Europe