Three Lake Oswego women begin new careers as massage therapists

Terry Jordan applies gentle pressure to Kate Gerity. If there is one thing a massage therapist likes it is getting a massage from another therapist.  REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTOS: VERN UYETAKE The technology revolution will never, ever replace the touch of hands that can heal.

That is why three Lake Oswego women — Kate Gerity, Cindy Gellinger and Terry Jordan — are beginning new careers as massage therapists. All of them are more than 50 years old and have had long, productive careers in other fields. Prior to recently receiving their degrees at the Oregon School of Massage they did not even know each other, but now that they are friends, they are thrilled about it. One reason is that massage therapists really like to receive massages as well as give them.

“Now we can do trades,” Jordan said. “It’s wonderful!”

But for the most part, the three new massage experts will focus their skills on helping others. It is an exciting prospect, even though all three of them took different paths to end up at the same place.

Gerity is making a comeback after getting knocked down by economic misfortunes beyond her control. Jordan, who already had several careers in progress, is more qualified than ever for her life’s mission. Gellinger merely received a miracle to help start her new career.

Gellinger had already put in 35 years as a medical transcriptionist, but she saw her job disappearing before her eyes as the hospital system she worked for went through several rounds of layoffs. Starting with 100 transcriptionists, the company whittled its number down to 15. Gellinger was one of those 15, but she knew the future was shaky.

“I wasn’t ready to retire,” she said.

Her inspiration to go to OSM was simple. A friend suggested that she get a massage, and Gellinger liked what she saw.

“I went to a massage chair on the beach,” she said. “I thought, ‘This seems pretty easy, and it hasn’t been taken taken over by computer technology.’ When the therapist told me about OSM, I immediately looked it up.”

The school looked great, but the cost was a bit daunting: $10,000. That is when God stepped in.

“I told a friend that it would cost $10,000, and she said, ‘God told me a couple weeks ago to put $10,000 in an envelope for you,’ and she gave it to me. I was just amazed. She has been my inspiration all the way through,” Gellinger said.

With God on her side, Gellinger plunged through the curriculum in 18 straight months. But she made a discovery.

“Massage therapy is so hard, so hard,” Gellinger said. “It’s not easy. There’s physiology, pathology, kinesiology. Oh my goodness!”

The changing times also threw a tough curve at Gerity. She had achieved a successful career as the vice president in charge of a children’s software education company that had some of the biggest clients in the world — Hasbro, Mattel and Microsoft. Gerity was in charge of the creative sector of the company, which included artists, musicians and animators. Things were great until the dot-com bubble burst in 2001.

“I had been with my company for 15 years,” Gerity said. “The dot-com thing sunk them. I was laid off at age 50 with no golden parachute and worthless stock options.”

However, this major personal setback resulted in a rejuvenation for Gerity in a totally unexpected way.

“I had never dreamed of being a massage therapist, but I always loved massages,” she said. “I started volunteering with a naturopath who worked in alternative pain control and energy-balance medicine.”

The more Gerity worked as a volunteer therapist, the more she liked it and the more she desired to learn. Her massage therapist, who had introduced her to the Healing Touch alternative medicine program, suggested that she get a degree in massage therapy.

“I thought, ‘Why not go to OSM?’” she said. “I found I really enjoyed massage. I loved the personal touch I couldn’t get in the corporate world or computers.”

Unfortunately, two-thirds of the way toward achieving her OSM degree, her money ran out, so Gerity took a job in the health care industry. Again, she did well as the manager of a dermatology clinic for six years, but cutbacks started hitting the health care profession, too.

“They cut my hours in half. I saw the writing on the wall,” Gerity said. “At age 60 I decided to finish my degree at OSM in 2011. I saw it as an opportunity. I had to pass six very stiff assessment tests before I could go on. Now I am very excited I can have a practice with my partner (and fiancee) Gregory McDonald.

“Now I can work with people on the heart level, which is where I want to shine for chapter three of my career. I want to do really good things without conforming to the corporate world.”

Gerity has already lined up a big believer in Jordan, who told her, “This is so much more in line with what you are!”

Jordan comes by her exclamation points naturally because her natural state of being is highly enthusiastic. This makes her seem more like age 15 than 50.

Jordan already has had several careers, including being a master of Reiki (Japanese healing), a hypnotist and a professional storyteller. All of her life’s work stems from her desire to connect with people, to help them and to heal them in what she calls “the world of wellness.”

“I love people and having one-on-one time with them,” Jordan said. “When I was a nurse in the 1970s the profession got away from having a one-on-one touch. The touching part was given to nursing assistants and aids. I really missed it. That love of touch is in line with whatever I have done.”

Becoming a massage therapist was a slam dunk choice for Jordan.

“I never get enough massage,” she said. “Getting my degree at OSM has helped me learn more about my own body and emotions than I ever did before. I feel so grateful for this.”

Even though the three women are just starting out, they want to move ever deeper into massage therapy.

“I want to do massage for people living with cancer,” Jordan said. “I want to present them with unconditional love. Love without judgment, like Reiki. I will tell them, ‘Let’s find out together what your body needs.’”

“There is such a need for massage therapy for cancer patients,” Gellinger said. “Less than 1 percent of massage therapists specialize in cancer. I want to combine my medical background with massage therapy.”

Now that Gerity, Gellinger and Jordan are part of the wonderful world of wellness they could not be happier.

“One of the biggest things I love about this work is that every single time a person will leave feeling better than when they came in,” Jordan said. “What other job can give you that?”

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