Bodywork and End of Life Care

Bodywork and End of Life Care - Hospice, Oncology and Palliative Care with Meg Robsahm

Massage for People Living with Cancer © ~ Meg Robsahm, M.Ed, LMP, BCTMB

Life inspires transformation. Often, major illnesses such as cancer become a wakeup call to attend to something that is missing in our life. A diagnosis of cancer can stop us in our tracks. Requiring us to shift so many gears in life that we discover what once was normal is forever changed. 


Not surprisingly, our clients in their efforts to regain a sense of normalcy will forget or neglect to share with us that they have a history of cancer; or that they are receiving treatments. What are we to do when this information comes out while they are lying on our massage table? How do we respond?  Do we become overly concerned and begin to rethink our work, wondering if we may have harmed them in some way? Do we find ourselves overwhelmed with grief or pity for the person, which shifts the focus of the session away from our client and onto our self? Or, are we able to find a balance in being present with this new information and mindful of how we need to make accommodations to support their healing process? 


Working with a person who is living with cancer, regardless of where they are in their journey, may be extremely challenging yet is also extremely rewarding. It asks us to shift our own way of being with clients. Instead of examining just their disease we open to see more of who they are as a person. Instead of pathologizing, we work to humanize their massage experience by helping them feel better. Instead of fearing what we do or how we should do it, we embrace the whole of this person and come to understand that they too shape us. We are partners with them in their healing.


Massage for People Living with Cancer © offers an opportunity to explore your relationship in working with those living with cancer while giving you necessary tools to work skillfully and with compassion. We will review major treatment methods and their side effects and learn how to make bodywork accommodations. We will also learn how to work with someone who is at risk for lymphedema. The culminating experience will be to provide a comfort oriented massage session with a person living with cancer. CEU Value: 24


Words from Meg~

When I first began working with those in end stages, now ten years ago, I quickly noticed how different my role was with this clientele.  My training in massage school had not prepared me for this kind of work; yet I felt called to walk with people in this way. The training I received from the hospice organization (where I was aspiring to volunteer) provided me with a rich opportunity to learn more about myself, as well as those in end stages. I am forever grateful, as this is the foundation upon which I have evolved personally as well as professionally.


Journeys in Dying: Presencing Deep Peace

With Meg Robsahm, M.Ed, LMP, BCTMB


Whether you attend for professional or personal considerations, this class will expand your awareness of one of the great transitions in the lives all human beings.

This two-day class, will focus on fundamental concepts of Hospice Massage and Palliative Care. We will review various hospice settings and clinical considerations to work safely with this unique patient population. It will give the practitioner an opportunity to clarify their own perceptions and identify methods for self care, helping them move beyond their concerns in working with their clients, or family members, at this stage of life. The intention of this class is to help practitioners find peace in being present without an agenda, and open to sharing sacred moments with another.


The following questions are among those for reflection and personal growth:

  • What brings me comfort in difficult times?
  • What beliefs do I bring to my work in end of life care?
  • How do I “let go of” my need, my agenda to fix?
  • How can I ‘just BE” with my clients?
  • How do my clients shape me?
  • What are my personal and professional boundaries in this work?
  • What are my support systems and self care methods?

Life is relational; we come to know who we are in each others presence. As bodyworkers, we are used to tending to the physical body. When we work with those who are elderly, ill or dying, it brings forward an emotional component that bodyworkers are sometimes uncomfortable with. Yet, end of life care calls us to share our hearts and our compassion as a human being. When we share and serve in this way our common human vulnerabilities are revealed; we are no longer just massage therapist and client.

Lecture, discussion, case studies and hands-on time will bring a sense of ease and confidence in working with people at the end of life. Class goals for students:

  • Gain an overview of the various hospice settings
  • Review basic clinical considerations to work safely within this setting
  • Gain insight into their beliefs/experiences in working with terminally ill
  • Practice caring touch and offering comfort with each other
  • Identifying personal/professional boundaries, and self care methods
  • Share Case Studies

When we comfort one another, we offer our strength and hope by simply being present in their life. Caring touch offers connection, comfort and compassion when isolation, pain and suffering are constant companions. The time we spend with clients gives them an opportunity to reconnect and heal into their own sense of self and well-being at any stage of their life. Through this connection, this contact, we can help relieve another’s suffering and pain. This is one of the most gratifying experiences we have as bodyworkers, and may be among the most profound experiences in our personal lives.



Sacred Moments…

As I prepared to write a few words about bodywork in end of life care, I noticed myself watching a dozen or so birds flying around the feeder on my deck. As I stood there, I paused to ask … how is it that I came to be a bird watcher. “Hum!!” I said to no one but myself.

Suddenly, I recalled that my very first client in end of life care was an avid bird watcher, and on occasion, we would sit and watch her birds. She took great delight in tending to the smallest of things in life. Her birds, the blossoms on the cherry trees and other often unnoticed events in nature were among her favorite moments. Moments she shared with me.

At first thought, this experience may not seem like a sacred moment. After all, it was simply two women sharing a cup of tea and looking out the window. That was all it was, simply two people sharing time, being. Yet, how nourishing it was to simply be present!

In today’s present moment, she and I are reconnected. I am humbled and reminded I learn the most about living when in the presence of the dying. I recognize that my clients are my most revered teachers. They shape me at a profound level; they share with me stories that will remain untold to their children. They reveal their deepest pain and unspoken sorrows. Their suffering lifted just enough, allows them to open their heart for us to touch.

Bodywork and End of Life Care is about living. It is about being present without an agenda and opening to sacred moments. Bodywork extends a kind of olive branch of peacefulness to the soul, opening a pathway for our client to connect with more of themselves. Perhaps even a new dimension of their inner self. Perhaps they are comforted just enough to ease into a new way of being.

Through lecture, hands on time, discussion and case studies, Journeys in Dying offers the following:

  • Continue to explore the concepts in caring touch
  • Learn about the dying process
  • Explore our roles, boundaries and experiences in working with the dying
  • Review simple touch techniques to share with families for their loved one
  • Explore ways to connect with clients who have impaired communication
  • Identify methods of self care in working with this population
  • & Enjoy a few sacred moments!




Meg Robsahm, M.Ed, LMP, BCTMB
Owner, Compassionate Therapies, LLC

Meg’s classes are designed to help you adjust how you work while developing skills in being present with clients. Combined with information and supervised hands-on time, classes are as interactive as they are technical. Based on years of professional experience and a deep personal understanding of oncology massage and end of life issues, classes offer time to refresh and renew hands-on and presencing skills while reconnecting with your peers.

Meg has been in practice since 2001 specializing in oncology and hospice massage. Currently, she practices in Rochester, MN and is focused on teaching around the country. She teaches Massage for People Living with Cancer © as a part of the Oncology Massage Education Associates and has developed and teaches Bodywork in End of Life Care: Journeys in Dying©. Meg recently co-authored chapter 11 in the 3rd Edition of Medicine Hands, Massage for People with Cancer, with Gayle MacDonald.  She has authored articles on EOL Care in the 2012 & 2014 fall edition of WA-AMTA Journals. She has taught at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN and is a regular presenter for many organizations on topics such as Oncology Massage, Hospice and Caring Touch. She is the First Past President of the Society for Oncology Massage,; a 2007 Graduate of the Peregrine Institute of Oncology Massage Training and advisor to the April 22 – 24, 2016 Oncology Massage Healing Summit in Bloomington, MN. 

For more information, please visit