Fifteen years ago, my friend called me to wish me a happy birthday and asked me how I was celebrating. I told him I’d just gotten home from work and I had no plans. He said he would pick me in an hour. I showered and got dressed not knowing where I was going.
When I got in his car, he said he was planning to get a massage before our phone conversation and asked if we could get massages, his treat, and then go to dinner. I gladly accepted, and a few minutes later I was peacefully lying on a table while a Chinese lady was taking a few knots out of my shoulders.
Relaxing music was playing and I must have fallen asleep because now my feet were getting massaged when suddenly the lady, who had been completely quiet until then, blurted out something that sounded like, “You have kidney problem!” I jumped up and asked, “Excuse me… What did you say?” She repeated more slowly with the same heavy accent, “You have kidney problem!” I was shocked… because I did.
A few years earlier, I’d had a stone in my left kidney and after two weeks of high fever, nausea, and excruciating pain, it had passed, but the doctor told me when it happened once, it would probably happen again. I told the masseuse, “Yes. I know, but how do you know?”
She showed me a mole on my left foot, one I’d had since I was a child, and said, “Problem on kidney line.”
Kidney line? I had no idea what she meant, but I could feel the language barrier would prevent her from explaining it to me, so I just smiled, nodded, and thanked her. I took a deep breath and lay back down.
After our massages, we savored a delicious dinner, and my friend dropped me off at home. I said goodbye and got on my computer as soon as I got inside.
I typed “kidney line” in the search engine. I got a lot of information about dialysis. That wasn’t what I wanted. I added the word “foot” to my search, and, to my surprise, several results popped up, including some strange foot charts and reflexology.
The following day, I went to the bookstore and, with the help of the store clerk, found three books on reflexology. I opened the first book. There they were, the lines, drawn on the foot, and sure enough, my mole was on the kidney line.
I took the books, went to the bookstore cafe, and got myself a large hot tea. I sat down and read that book right there in the store. I found it all very fascinating. I bought that and the other two books.
A year later, I was attending reflexology school and learning, along with eleven other students, the techniques of applying pressure to the specific points on the hands, feet, and ears and pairing up with different classmates so that we could practice on each other.
The classes were on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, every other week, and they lasted all day. The school was far from home. I had a two-hour commute. My friend Susan lived relatively near the school, and I had a standing invitation there.
I truly enjoyed Susan’s company as well as that of her husband and their two daughters, Stephanie and Sara, lovely teenagers, but when I went there, I didn’t get much sleep because we ended up going out until very late.
Since class started early in the morning and I needed sleep, I usually stayed at a motel right next to the school, and, one night a month, I went to stay at Susan’s place.
Once, at Susan’s, she said her daughter was scheduled to have surgery that following week. She’d been experiencing back pain for months and recently it had gotten so bad that she had trouble sitting down.
Various tests later, the doctors still had no clue what was wrong with her. Finally, one doctor had suggested getting in there to find the problem. The surgeon was reputable and Sara’s pain wasn’t going away, so they’d agreed to surgery.
I looked at Sara. I don’t know why I looked at her ear. Maybe it was because I’d worked on my eleven classmates’ ears all that day, or maybe it was because of all the earrings she was wearing.
I got closer and looked more carefully. She had six piercings in her ear in the strangest places. “When was the last time you took those earrings off?” I asked her. “Why?” she asked. I smiled and said, “Just curious… Please take them off for an hour.” “Why?” she asked again. “Just humor me. It’s just for an hour.”
Sara looked a little annoyed. The fourteen-year-old reluctantly took off her earrings, one by one, carefully placing the backs on them before laying them on the coffee table. When she was done, she gave me a smile that meant, “Happy?” I smiled back and said, “Thank you!”
We spent the next few minutes chatting about the movie The Peaceful Warrior, which we had recently watched together at the theater. Then we got up to go out to dinner. As soon as Sara got in the car, she yelled, “Mom, it doesn’t hurt anymore!” She readjusted herself, “The pain is gone!”
Susan looked shocked. She stared at her daughter and then at me. Susan’s husband got out of the car, stopped Stephanie from getting in, and asked Sara to get back out and see if she could do squats. She hadn’t been able to since this pain had started. Sara did a squat and then another.
Everyone was stunned, including me. I couldn’t believe it. The earrings had been causing the pain. “It was the earrings. Probably one of the piercings was on the wrong spot.”
Susan was in tears, “I don’t know why you decided to learn reflexology, but whatever trouble you went through, it was totally worth it.”
When I went to bed later that night, I thought about how I had gotten there, to their house and to that moment. Susan was right. Learning reflexology had already been rewarding. What made it even more rewarding was how quickly it affected the body. The results were immediate, as our professor had told us.
Needless to say that Sara didn’t need that surgery anymore. When I showed her my reflexology textbook, she became curious and started googling the charts. She didn’t wear those earrings again. She let all her piercings heal.
Learning to do reflexology has allowed me to help a few friends and many strangers. I’ve also used it on my own hands and feet when I had pain and nothing else seemed to work. Every time I use it, I remember how it all started. None of it would have been possible if my friend hadn’t treated me to that massage on my birthday all those years ago.