Massage therapist celebrates 25 years in Minden
By Sue Tiffin
Jacqueline Ziorjen sits by the window in her massage therapy clinic, looking out onto Bobcaygeon Road in Minden while sun streams through the glass onto her smiling face.
This year marks 25 years – a quarter century – since she opened Of Sound Body Massage Clinic and Wellness Centre, in 1994, and while discussing her career she sometimes takes pause to marvel at that anniversary.
“I’m very proud of my accomplishment, particularly being in a small town and particularly because of the profession that it is,” she says. “But how I’ve seen our profession morph, in the acceptance of it over these 25 years is something that I just really want to celebrate with every other RMT that’s around here, it’s about all of us.”
Ziorjen was working as a pharmacy technician at a Minden drug store when her regular massage therapist – who she would later see as a mentor – left the area. Ziorjen had been suffering from headaches, and after seeing another massage therapist who was trained but not licensed, an idea popped into her head.
“Coming away from her that day, I thought, I think this town needs a registered massage therapist,” she said. “That would have been December 1991, because by September 1992, I was registered into the RMT program. It just happened.”
Ziorjen registered in the two-year program at the Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy in Sutton, “the birthplace of massage therapy education in Canada,” according to the school’s website. She commuted every day, sometimes staying at a relative’s house in Kirkfield to cram so that she could be that much closer to school, and oftentimes crying during the drive due to stress. At the same time, she had a two-year-old daughter.
“I would cook meals preparing for the week, and do the stuff you do,” she said. “The time that I would drive would be the time that I would transition from mother-wife-student and vice versa. It was a challenging number of years.”
Despite the challenges: the expense of school, the responsibilities at home, the intensity of the program, studying physiology and anatomy, Ziorjen has happy memories.
“I’d get to school, and before an exam, I would sit in my car and put on ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light,’ and I would sit in my car and [rock out],” she said. “And then I’d go into class, and this wasn’t me at all, I had a friend give me a deck of angel cards [cards of inspiration], and I was so not there, but I thought, cool, angel cards. So I would do my Meatloaf thing, go into the class, and I would pick an angel card, an d it got so that the whole class, it just became our tradition that everyone came and picked an angel card before class.”
Ziorjen already had a health science background, but said at times RMT training, which included the study of nutrition and the use of hot tubs and saunas in hydrotherapy, was “mind-boggling.”
“The schooling, you learn the name of every notch and line on every bone that every muscle attaches to,” she said. “To me ... I use the analogy of a big Mousetrap game. The most intricate, sophisticated piece of machinery. And you just think, who is at that drafting table, because it is mind-boggling that this does that which trips this and then that and then this happens. I found it fascinating ... just a couple of months into it there was no doubt in my mind.”
Upon graduating, Ziorjen opened the clinic at 114 Bobcaygeon Road alongside a physiotherapist, planning the interior decorating with her dad, whose paintings still hang on the walls of the bright space. And then, she waited.
“In terms of referrals, there weren’t referrals then,” she said. “I sat here and waited for the phone to ring. You came in every day and waited for the phone to ring.”
Ziorjen said she had no business background at the time, and credits Mary Coneybeare, then-bank manager at TD Bank, for helping her get started.
“She was, you have to think of the period of time this was, she was so pro-women in business,” said Ziorjen. “She was so supportive of women in business and I thank my lucky stars that she was there for me to help provide the financial banking. I had to pick a number out of the air and say this is how much I’m going to make this year, and you know what, I made it.”
For a short time, Ziorjen said she was the only registered massage therapist between Coboconk and Gooderham.
“I kind of had to dispel the myth of that whole mentality of backroom massage parlour thinking,” she said. “So I had to educate people. Any sort of opportunity that I could go to present or talk to people, any challenge that came my way, I took it. I took my table everywhere.”
She said she’ll never forget the day she got a referral from Dr. Heyes.
“Which was big, because I didn’t get referrals from doctors then,” she said. “And he referred me to see a client who was at home, terminal with cancer. As a result of medications and because of the cancer she was suffering from edema in her legs and it made her uncomfortable. He said, is there anything you can do? Well, did I learn specifically what to do, no, but I’m going to apply the principles of what I learned, swelling technique, and away I went. I think I saw her maybe three or four times before she died, but the doctor called me to tell me what a difference it made. And I was like, wow. That was cool.”
In year six, Ziorjen began getting referrals from insurance companies for people who had been in motor vehicle accidents, and that was the mainstay of her business for years.
Since she began her practice, she has worked on a dog, children as young as two, and has a 91-year-old bi-monthly client who Ziorjen says, “she wants to be like when she grows up.” She has worked on clients while they were in labour, and also while they were in the very end stages of life. She has had what she calls “soulful conversations,” from a cross-section of clients.
“Those conversations that I have, what I learn about people, and there aren’t always conversations that go on, that is what feeds my soul,” she said. “It sounds hokey, corny, but it just really, really, does. I’ve felt some of the greatest connections with people. I’ve had people have conversations in that room that they’ve never had with anyone else, because they trust.”
Ziorjen said the changes since the beginning of her career in the public’s understanding of massage therapy and the respect of the profession have been incredible.
“The changes in the profession, even just up here, it’s gone from having to educate the client to clients calling and saying, are you an RMT? So that’s been huge,” she said.
While reminiscing about her career, at one point, Ziorjen’s eyes fill with tears, remembering a career she calls “colourful.”
“I would not change it for a minute,” she said. “It’s just been ... it has been so fulfilling ... This part of my life is very peaceful. I still to this day never get up thinking I don’t want to go to work. I never don’t want to come to work.”
Besides celebrating the 25th year of business, Ziorjen was excited to announce last week that business is growing, with two practitioners – Tara O’Sullivan, an RMT, and Alana Coty, a rehabilitative manual therapist (Osteopathy) – sharing space at Of Sound Body beginning in May. Howie Owens, a naturopath, and Al Kwan, an acupuncturist, also see clients at the clinic.
“We’re growing and it’s just evolved into the next chapter,” said Ziorjen.
Of Sound Body is open from Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 114 Bobcaygeon Road. For more information, call 705-286-1123 or visit the Of Sound Body Facebook page.