Michelle Malone always wanted to join the military.
"I always thought I'd go into the Navy, but it was the National Guard who caught me first," she says with a laugh. She spent 16 years as a "92 Yankee" supply specialist and logistics manager; first in the National Guard, followed by the Army Reserve, and then six years on active duty. "I worked directly for the commander," she says, with evident pride.
But that was all before she found out that she has lupus.
A "Devastating" Diagnosis
"I had gotten sick while I was on active duty, but I didn't know why I was sick," Michelle remembers. When a doctor was finally able to diagnose her, it was, in her words, "Devastating. I had no real history on what it was, but it also gave me a sense of relief. I wasn't crazy, I knew something was wrong."
Lupus can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including body pain. During the time leading up to Michelle's diagnosis, she turned to massage for relief at the recommendation of one of her Army doctors.
"Even before I knew I had lupus, one of my doctors while I was in the military would often schedule me for massages," she says. "There was something about massages that always made me feel so much better."
That inspired her to consider studying massage therapy, and soon after found the Concorde Career College-Southaven (Mississippi) campus, in the suburbs of Memphis.
Concorde's class scheduling made it easy for Michelle to decide she was going to "go ahead and go, and not procrastinate anymore." Once she started attending, she found a supportive and nurturing environment. "Our classroom became like a family, and that it made it so much easier," she says. "We all looked out for one another, we studied together, meditated; it was an awesome experience, the whole thing."
She remembers the contributions of one instructor, Monique Thomas, with particular fondness: "She has such a passion for massage; I've never met anyone with such a passion. And she pushed us to the limit to learn everything. If it wasn't the muscles, it was technique, teaching us how to listen to our clients, to listen to their bodies with our hands. It was her passion that drove us."
"Getting Their Body to Speak to Me"
Through Concorde's program leading to certification, Michelle discovered her passion for practicing massage. She graduated in October 2020 and she is preparing to take her board exam in February 2021. While the chance to set her own schedule is exciting, her favorite aspect of massage therapy is meeting new people.
"I like getting to know a client," she says. "Once you do one massage, I can learn what their body needs and get their body to speak to me with my hands," and make sure the client gets the massage they want.
She also wants people to know that massage therapy can provide benefits to people in all sorts of situations, and she's grateful for the chance to introduce them to it.
"I love letting them know that massage is for everyone!"