A demanding career in banking taught Michelle Savin-Jones how important it is to listen to your body and look after your mental health.
Now a complementary therapist, she started volunteering at ellenor in 2019, offering reflexology, aromatherapy massage and more recently, reiki. Although she has her own private practice, she gives up one afternoon of her time each week to ellenor patients and their families.
She said: “I find it really rewarding knowing I am making a difference. Some of the people I treat might not otherwise consider complementary therapies, and I can just see how much it helps them. Volunteering has done two things: It has widened my understanding of the therapies I offer but it has also given me a feeling that I am doing something that really matters.
“I work with patients, their carers and people who have been bereaved. Many of them have cancer but there are patients with a range of life-limiting illnesses such as COPD and Parkinson’s. We tend to use much more gentle pressure and treatments at ellenor. For instance, reiki is generally hands off or a very light pressure. It’s so beneficial if people don’t want to be touched, and of course they can stay fully clothed.”
Like so many other lifelines, Michelle’s services were put on hold during the Covid lockdown, but she joined the charity’s Check in and Chat team, phoning patients and the bereaved during their long periods of isolation.
She said: “I had always known that I wanted to give up some of my time to work with people who have life limiting illnesses like cancer and luckily enough I saw that ellenor were advertising for volunteer therapists. I spent some time shadowing Sally, ellenor’s Senior Complementary Therapist, and then I started to come into the hospice once a week to help.
“When I first became a massage therapist, I still had a banking job. In fact, I was in banking and finance for 25 years. In the early 2000s I was working long hours in the city on the trading floor and I was going through a divorce. I started to suffer stress and health problems, so I started to look at different therapies. I began seeing a reflexologist, who would come to my house on a Friday evening. I would be in my pyjamas and after they left I would go to bed and get a really good night’s sleep. These treatments made a huge difference to my health at the time.”
Twenty years ago Michelle was made redundant and finding herself at a crossroads, she decided to train as a massage therapist. She was also lucky enough to find a banking job more locally to her home in Wrotham, and she worked there for a further 12 years.