Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tips to Reduce Shoulder Pain - Change Your Habits and Do These Post Massage Exercises

How to Reduce Shoulder Pain

by Kathleen Lisson CMT, CLT

When I provide manual lymphatic drainage to reduce swelling after surgery, I also take care of my client's other aches and pains, and they often have neck and shoulder pain.

Massage can help reduce shoulder pain, but if we go right back to the habits that caused the shoulder pain, the relief will only be temporary.

Luckily, Physical Therapists Bob Schrupp and Brad Heineck recently recorded a video describing 10 daily habits that can cause your shoulder pain. Watch the video and see if you can modify the way you reach for items, drive your car, sit at work and sleep to get long-lasting relief from shoulder pain. They even show a few stretches that are good for reducing shoulder pain. 

Watch the video here:

Book an appointment in San Diego, Del Mar or Rancho Santa Fe to reduce swelling after facelift,  tummy tuck or liposuction with manual lymphatic drainage at I make Housecalls!

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Weekend Wisdom - Articles on Health and Wellness for Women over 40

Weekend Wisdom - 

What I'm reading this Week on Health and Wellness

Rick Hanson's Just One Thing newsletter (sign up for free here) focused on the power of words. In this time of 'gotcha' and 'fake news,' is what we are saying to others well-intended, true, beneficial, timely and not harsh? More importantly, can we discard what we think about OURSELVES if it doesn't follow these rules? 

Did you know that self-massage can help reduce pain after biopsy as well as increase milk flow in nursing women? I learned new information about lymphatic drainage of the breast and really liked the helpful video. (Romper)

One reason why there is an opioid epidemic in America: opioids prescribed after surgery are used by some patients to reduce their chronic pain from earlier traumas. (Pacific Standard)

My new book review video of 'Ouch a Chronic Pain Workbook' by fellow Massage Therapist Raechel Haller. (YouTube)

This article on the high cost of drugs brings up an interesting question - should you doctor know the price of the drugs he/she is prescribing? (ProPublica)

Laughter can boost the immune system. (Trumpet)

Warning to night owls: your bedtime can affect your perceived ability to control obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior the next day. (PsychCentral)

Researchers have found there is some overlap between "genes linked to insomnia and the genes linked to other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and neuroticism" (LiveScience)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

MLD after Revision Facelift - Testimonial Tuesday

Will Lymphatic Massage help after a Revision Facelift?

How to Reduce Swelling after Facelift in San Diego

Sharon was visiting family in San Diego after undergoing a revision facelift. She was troubled by her swelling and needed a trained expert in lymphatic massage that could reduce her swelling and keep the stitches and skin on her face and neck safe. 

Sharon's Testimonial:

A wonderful experience! Very professional... everything was explained and understood. After undergoing facial plastic surgery (revision) I noticed my swelling was greater than in the past. Now I have new hope! Try it ... you will love Kathleen! 
Sharon F., recovering from a facelift February 2017. 

Dr Kristina Tansavatdi is a double Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon and she specializes in the face and neck. Watch as she shares her tips on 'What To Expect After Facelift Surgery Recovery'

Learn more about how manual lymphatic drainage massage can reduce swelling after a facelift.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Old Glory in the Eastern Sierras

Old Glory 

My husband and I spent Memorial Day Weekend in the Eastern Sierras and stopped at a roadside diner festooned with flags for lunch on the way home. Here is a snapshot of my in front of Old Glory.

Linking to for Visible Monday.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

How to Do an Morning Digital Detox

How to Do a Morning Digital Detox

by Kathleen Lisson, CMT, CLT

I have been forced to rethink my eating schedule because the antibiotic I was recently prescribed must be taken twice a day on an empty stomach. The result: I had been falling into a habit of eating after 8 pm at night and now I 100% have to stop eating by 7:30 pm so I can take my pill at 9:30 and have enough time to pee one last time before I go to bed. Super annoying, but it taught me that it's easier to change my behavior than I am giving myself credit for.

So I'm ready to use this momentum to challenge myself.

I'm going on a digital detox before 8 am every morning. Instead of rolling over and checking my phone, I am going to focus on completing my list of First Five Actions before I check my email and social media.

I'm choosing to focus on myself before I focus on the thoughts and needs of others.

My First Five Actions:

Hydration - drink water as soon as I wake up.

Meditation - complete at least a three minute body scan with my Bellabeat Leaf Urban Health Tracker/Smart Jewelry, Rose Gold Edition app. I can also continue with app and then record it on the Leaf as Vipassana meditation.

Intention - Set my intentions for the day.


Nourish - Prepare breakfast for my husband and myself.

Of course, my current habit is to stay on social media until I have to roll out of bed and rush to make breakfast, then stay on the Internet until I am squeezing a workout any trying not to run late to my first engagement of the day. These five actions will bring more value to me than looking at social media.

Have you ever done a digital detox?

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"Easy #digitalDetox - focus on yourself before 8 am" CLICK TO TWEET

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How to Do Self- Massage for Constipation

Abdominal Massage for Constipation 

 by Kathleen Lisson, CMT, CLT

Constipation can make our tummy bloated and is a common problem after surgery. I recently met Michelle Lyons, an Irish physiotherapist, at the Klose Lymphedema Conference. She recommended several ways to improve digestion in her conference presentation and I will share some of her wisdom with you.

Her first tip is how to get your digestion started off on the right foot every morning. You will love this. She recommends a self-massage of the abdominal area to encourage that first poop of the day (see the diagram) and insists that we have our significant other or family member/friend get us a hot beverage to sip on while we are still in bed. Many people swear by coffee, but I prefer tea and am happy to report that my lovely husband does bring me Indian milk tea most every morning!  

If you want to make your own Essential Oil blend for your abdominal massage, here’s my home recipe:

6 drops of sweet marjoram essential oil
6 drops of rosemary essential oil
2 drops of black pepper essential oil
15 ml of coconut oil

Directions: mix well and store in a bottle in your night table.

Here's a video of how to perform abdominal massage for constipation from Naprapathic practitioner Lorn Allison.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Reducing Swelling with Lymph Massage after Tummy Tuck and Liposuction - Testimonial Tuesday

Reducing Swelling with Lymphatic Drainage Massage after Tummy Tuck and Liposuction

Rebeca from Santee had a tummy tuck and liposuction and was feeling pain as well as a heavy, swollen feeling that left her stuck on the couch for weeks after surgery. Manual Lymphatic Drainage massage helped her feel lighter and happier! 

I highly recommend Kathleen. I have seen her twice so far and have greatly benefited. She is very knowledgable, soft-spoken and soothing. Her technique has helped me along in my recovery greatly, I definitely plan of referring her to any loved one. 

Rebeca B. from Santee, recovering from abdominoplasty and liposuction October 2016. 

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons offers this information on how to recover from a tummy tuck:

Please visit my website for more information and to book an appointment (I make housecalls!) http://www/

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Do Sleep Lightbulbs Really Work?

Do Sleep Lightbulbs Really Work?

I tried sleep eyeglasses and a Sleep Ready Lightbulb to see if they made going to sleep easier. Of course, I had to give them a real test - we had thrown a dinner party with a dozen or so people enjoying my husband's Indian food and I had a full day of massage clients the next day! 

I used the lightbulb as my only light and the eyeglasses to cut the sleep stealing light from my computer. As soon as I turned on the lightbulb, I felt calmer. The light made the bedroom look more romantic, too. 

 I found it easier to fall asleep the last few nights with this lightbulb in the bedroom. It is helping me to train myself to go to sleep right when I get into bed, instead of hang out on the computer into the wee hourso f the morning.

In the New York Times article 'Light Bulbs That Help You Sleep'  Ronda Kaysen profiles how a family dealing with teenaged study habits and grandparent's dementia uses sleep light bulbs to regulate circadian rhythms and boost melatonin production. Read the article here: 

I have also activated my iPhone and iPad's 'Night Shift' function to dim the screen at 9 pm every night. I found it be swiping upward from the bottom of the screen and clicking on the moon shaped icon. 

My Top Tips for Falling Asleep

I avoid napping late in the afternoon or evening - allowing myself to get increasingly sleepy

I don’t drink alcohol in the later afternoon / evening or eat heavy foods too close to bedtime - it ruins my sleep

We don’t have television or other distracting electronics in the bedroom (this is one we are still working on)

I don’t use my bed for lounging - I train my body to associate the bed only with sleep

I don’t use LED light within an hour of bedtime - I allow my body to sense it is night time (this includes my beloved iPad)

I give myself a 9 hour window for sleep at night - I try to wake up without an alarm and don’t use a snooze button!

I get into a habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even weekends

We don’t have clocks within view of the bed

I set an alarm 30 minutes before bedtime so I can start my bedtime rituals

I like using a warm foot bath to relax. After removing my feet from the foot bath, the drop in body temperature allows me to fall asleep more quickly

We leave the screen door to our balcony open at night. Alternately, we could also turn the thermostat down to 65 degrees. Back East, we called it ‘sleeping weather’ when we left the window open at night on cooler spring and fall days

I use a meditation or breathing technique if thoughts are preventing sleep

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

MLD After Liposuction for Lipedema - Testimonial Tuesday

Lymphatic Massage after Liposuction 

for Lipedema Client in San Diego

by Kathleen Lisson, CMT, CLT

I recently helped Michelle, a lady with lipedema, reduce her post-op swelling after she received liposuction on her legs and arms in Beverly Hills, CA. San Diego is a popular vacation destination and only a few hours from Beverly Hills. 

Michelle's testimonial: 

"Kathleen was extremely knowledgeable and gentle during my lipedema MLD session. I Cannot recommend her highly enough!

Michelle K. from North Carolina, on vacation in San Diego in between receiving liposuction treatments for her lipedema in Beverly Hills, CA. in May 2017.

Lipedema can be treated with liposuction. Here is Dr. Amron speaking about lipedema and liposuction.

Find out more about Lipoedema by watching 'You Mean It's Not My Fault: Lipoedema, a Fat Disorder'

Monday, June 5, 2017

Handing out Medals at the JROTC Ceremony

Handing out Medals at the JROTC Ceremony

 I am so fortunate to have a clever cousin on my father's side that really loves geneology. Her hard work on our family tree allowed me to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. As a member of the San Diego Chapter NSDAR, I get to present medals to students who have excelled at the JROTC and ROTC program. I visited Lincoln High School a few weeks ago to present medals to these young students. I am proud of them all and so humbled that I could have a small part in recognizing their achievements.

I also paired the dress and hat with a different coverup when I attended the Daughters of the American Revolution District Meeting a few weeks ago.

Linking to for Visible Monday.

Friday, June 2, 2017

How to Take a Deep Breath to reduce anxiety

Can deep breathing reduce anxiety 

and make me happier?

Kathleen Lisson, CMT, CLT

One happiness hack that does NOT work for most people is attempting to calm down by taking a few deep breaths.

Deep, slow breathing can make us calmer and more happy, but many of us are just doing it wrong. We can test ourselves to see if we are breathing right. Take a deep breath.

Wait, did you just open your mouth and take in as much air as quickly as possible? This is very similar to what causes hyperventilation. Deep breathing this way may actually make us MORE anxious.

Now try the 4-7-8 breath. Breath in through your nose for four counts, hold the breath for the count of seven, then release the breath steadily for eight counts with a small sigh or 'whoosh.' Repeat this four times and see if this slow steady type of deep breathing with the nose isn't more calming then the traditional ' Take a Deep Breath' breathing.

Emma Seppala confronts the 'common sense' that we have to work hard, have stress and suffer in order to be successful in this TEDx talk:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How to take care of Invisalign Retainers / Trays

How to Wash and Clean your Invisalign Dental Retainers / Trays 

by Kathleen Lisson, CMT, CLT

I have had a long, tortured history with my teeth. I got braces when I was a child but didn't use my retainer enough to keep them straight. My teeth became crooked again and I ended up smiling with a closed mouth through my teens and 20's. When I turned 30, I decided to try to fix my teeth again and asked my dentist if there was anything I could do. He suggested Invisalign and took molds of my teeth to send off to the company. We crossed our fingers, and it ended up that my teeth could be fixed! I had some of my teeth removed, others shaved and changed those trays every two weeks for about a thousand weeks, and ended up with straight, beautiful teeth. The same opportunity laid before me at 30-something that I had in my teenaged years - wear the retainer trays every night for the rest of my life to keep straight teeth. I was older and wiser, so I have done just that for the past few years.

This post is NOT sponsored by Invisalign, I am just sharing some tips I found useful to keep those trays clean.

1. Dish soap.
I wondered how to clean the aligners and keep them from staining when I was switching them every two weeks. I tried denture cleaners, but they never got them clean or white enough. I think it was my dentist that shared that cleaning them with dish soap and a toothbrush might help. It does! This is less of a problem now that I only wear them at night. When I was wearing them all day, I would have to brush after every meal and snack, and the retainers seemed to get scummy (I was drinking things I shouldn't have with the retainers in back in those days).

2. Closys
My dentist recommended Closys and I have been buying it ever since.

  • It is a great mouthwash and overall germ killer. 
  • I was surprised when I saw that it is also recommended for cancer patients suffering from oral mucositis / mouth sores at a meeting of the Oncology Nursing Society. 
  • Closys is my secret weapon when I am camping and don't have access to a bathroom. I wake up and swish a capful first thing in the morning and it gets rid of my bad breath. 
  • I sanitize my Invisalign retainers with a capful of Closys to make sure there are no germs on them when I wear them at night.

3. Store the trays in a mouthguard case. I didn't one morning and found my dog munching on them like a chew toy. That was an expensive mistake!
One thing I have not found is an attractive mouthguard case. There are plenty of adults with Invisalign! Why do I have to keep my aligners in a case for a 1. tween or 2. lacrosse player?
If you have seen a classy aligner case, please leave the link in the comments.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Skin Cancer Awareness for Gingers

Skin Cancer Awareness for Gingers

May is skin cancer awareness month! Each year, over two million people are diagnosed with skin cancer. I was diagnosed with basal call carcinoma in 2016 and had to undergo a procedure called Moh’s surgery on my right cheek. Gingers - ladies and gentlemen with red hair, pale skin and freckles - have to especially protective of their skin. I am a ginger and so is my brother. My father was a redhead when he was young and has German, Irish and British genes.

After Mohs Surgery in 2016

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation website, Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most frequently occurring form of skin cancer and are “abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells … (and) often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, or scars and are usually caused by a combination of cumulative and intense, occasional sun exposure.” Because I was in my early forties and wore sunscreen and a hat every day, I wasn’t expecting to get skin cancer. I am grateful to my fellow volunteers at Moores Cancer Center who urged me to get my ‘pimple that never healed’ checked out by my doctor.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends examining your skin from head-to-toe monthly, and seeing a dermatologist once a year for a professional skin exam. If you spot anything new or changing, see your physician or ask for a referral to a dermatologist. We can all take simple steps to protect our skin every day.

  • Did you know that denim and polyester offer better sun protection than loosely-woven fabrics and natural materials? 

  • Another great tip is to wear a broad-brimmed hat when you’re outside in the sun. The hat should be large enough to  protect your face, head and neck. 

  • UV-blocking sunglasses can protect the skin around your eyes. 

  • Keep sunscreen in the car and in your purse!

  • My best tip is to apply SPF sunscreen first thing in the morning, so you won’t forget it later if you have to step outside to run a few errands.

I want to mention again that those of us who are especially fair and burn easily can get skin cancer even when we wear hats and use spf daily. Don’t be afraid to urge a friend to see her doctor if she has a mark that may be skin cancer!  

For more information visit

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Best Tips and a Shopping List for Recovering after Surgery in San Diego

Best Tips and a Shopping List for Recovering after Surgery in San Diego

by Kathleen Lisson

I gave a short presentation at the San Diego Library’s How-To Festival 2017. 

 I introduced myself and shared that I am a surgery veteran, with ‘emergency’ surgery at 18, dental surgery in my early thirties, complicated reconstructive surgery at 37 and Moh’s cancer surgery at 42 with only local anesthetic under my belt. 

The Visualization Part

I shared a little about what Peggy Huddleston’s Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster with Relaxation and Quick Start CD: A Guide of Mind-Body Techniques is about, including the questions: 

  • How do you want to feel in your hospital room? 
  • How do you want to feel when you are recovering well? 
  • How do you want to feel when you are fully recovered? 

We can separate pre-surgery worries into two types - is it a concern your doctor can answer or is it a fear? If it is a fear, Huddleston advises to turn your attention to your fully recovered end result for 30 seconds to a minute. 

Huddleston’s book focuses on how to use relationships to improve healing, relationships with loved ones, friends, and your doctor and anesthesiologist. 

Your Shopping List

I also shared some tips on what to have in the house or hotel to help you recover from surgery. My list for post-surgery bag (if you’re staying in a hotel) includes what you would normally pack, plus: 

Your favorite Lavender essential oil, rose essential oil, orange/lemon essential oil, geranium essential oil or frankincense essential oil and a diffuser like the URPOWER 500ml Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser Humidifier with 4 Timer Settings, 7 LED Color Changing Lamps and Waterless Auto Shut-off

Laxative like Senna Plus Natural Vegetable Laxative with Stool Softener - 100 Tablets

Maxi pads 

Pee pads like the AmazonBasics Pet Training and Puppy Pads, Regular - 50-Count

Baby wipes 

Slip on shoes (I brought my slippers to show)

Foot stool like the Folding Step Stool - 11" Wide - The Lightweight Step Stool is Sturdy Enough to Support Adults and Safe Enough for Kids. Opens Easy with One Flip. Great for Kitchen, Bathroom, Bedroom, Kids or Adults.

First aid kit and bandages like the ones your surgeon will use.

Large hand mirror like the Goody Hand Mirror 27847 (Pack of 1), 11 Inch

Plastic mattress cover like Vinyl Mattress Cover Protector (Queen)

A great tip - you can use your ironing board as an extra table when you can’t bend down!

I also reminded everyone to make sure their refrigerator is stocked with easy to prepare, easy to eat foods. 

I shared that a recent tummy tuck client introduced me to Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service. 

I shared my horror story after my facial reconstructive surgery and showed everyone a great resource, Dr. Buford’s Plastic Surgery nutrition book Eat, Drink, Heal: The Art and Science of Surgical Nutrition

Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Doc Says I Need Surgery - Now What?

My Doc Says I Need Surgery - Now What?

Peggy Huddleston's Prepare For Surgery, Heal Faster Workshop in San Diego

I am teaching my popular workshop for reducing anxiety before surgery in San Diego at OASIS. Here are the details! 

Are you feeling anxious before an upcoming operation? Learn how to use your own personalized healing imagery and support from friends and your surgical team to improve your recovery. This well-researched method has resulted in patients reducing their anxiety levels before surgery and using less pain medication afterward. Based on Peggy Huddleston's 'Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster' method. 

Kathleen Lisson is a Meditation Teacher, Board Certified Massage Therapist and owner of Solace Massage and Mindfulness in San Diego, CA. She specializes in helping people prepare for and recover from plastic, orthopedic and reconstructive surgery. Kathleen has successfully recovered from reconstructive and cancer operations and has a passion for helping others get back to living their life after surgery. 

The class is on Wednesday, 08/02/17 from 10:00 - 11:30 at the Lifelong Learning Center at Grossmont CR. 

Sign up here:

Buy the book and tape here:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Klose Lymphedema Conference 2017

Klose Lymphedema Conference 2017

by Kathleen Lisson, CMT, CLT

MY CLT Certificate! I am a Certified Lymphedema Therapist

I am looking forward to attending the Klose Lymphedema Conference this weekend! I will learn about treatment for head and neck lymphedema, lymphology, pelvic oncology, risk reduction for breast cancer related lymphedema, lipedema, dercum’s disease, obesity and lipedema, multicausal lymphedema, aquatic exercise for those with lymphedema, and lymphatic imaging.

I will post my top A-Ha moments soon!

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Book Review: Taking Charge of Cancer by Dr. David Palma

Book Review: Taking Charge of Cancer by Dr. David Palma

Taking Charge of Cancer Dr. David Palma

As an oncology massage therapist, I want to make sure my clients have all the answers they need and feel like they are a partner in their medical care, not a disease to be treated. I recently read an advance copy of a book that makes the process of being an informed patient easier.  

In this easy to read book, radiation oncologist Dr. David Palma gives advice on how patients with a cancer diagnosis can ensure they are getting the quality medical care they deserve - care that maximizes both survival and quality of life. This book provides guidance on what questions to ask during your initial consultation with a surgeon, medical oncologist or radiation oncologist, detailed step by step information on how to read your medical records, checklists to make sure you understand the most important aspects of treatment, proven tips on how to choose the best surgeon and lists of questions to ask your doctor about your surgery, radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Taking Charge of Cancer confirms several things I had been suspicious of with respect to cancer diagnosis and treatment. In the book’s forward, Dr. Anthony Zietman puts it plainly when he states, “physicians prefer to do what they do.” This may mean that a surgeon may recommend surgery and physicians may recommend only treatments that are well covered by health insurance. His wisdom for patients with a cancer diagnosis? “Ask questions, get different opinions, read wisely, and then, after discussion with family and friends, make thoughtful, informed decisions.”

Taking Charge of Cancer can be a valuable resource if you are a patient who wants to take charge of your medical care or a caregiver or trusted friend who will accompany the patient to doctor visits and offer a kind ear to listen and comfort, particularly if your loved one will receive palliative care.

I received an advanced copy of Taking Charge of Cancer for review through NetGalley. It will be released July 1, 2017 an is available to preorder at Amazon: Taking Charge of Cancer: What You Need to Know to Get the Best Treatment

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How to stop leg, knee and arm swelling in San Diego while on vacation

Swelling can stop a fun San Diego vacation 

in it's tracks! 

by Kathleen Lisson, CLT, CMT

When I am on vacation, I always end up trying to jam in a week's worth of activities into only a few days. San Diego in particular is a hard city to vacation in - how can we visit Balboa Park AND the Beach AND learn how to stand up paddleboard AND ride bicycles around the bay AND swim in the ocean AND watch the surfers AND try out fish tacos? If there are kids on the trip, it might extend into Legoland and Disneyland, which means time in a car and walking around all day in the park. 

The result: just tired feet if we're lucky, but more often - swollen feet, legs and knees. 

On vacation in San Diego? If you have an old injury or a mild case of lymphedema after cancer surgery you may find that the increased lifting, walking and cabin pressurization that comes along with a vacation can cause swelling in the arms and legs. A swollen leg or knee can mean skipping spending time with family members or not participating in many of the touristy things that make vacation so memorable. 

I'm Kathleen Lisson, a Board Certified massage therapist practicing in San Diego. I specialize in a type of massage called Manual Lymphatic Drainage, which reduces swelling from lymphedema or after surgery or injury. 

The solution may be a relaxing treatment from a massage therapist skilled in Manual Lymphatic Drainage. I have provided massage to clients with lymphedema and orthopedic injuries and have seen the positive difference it makes in their bodies, especially after a few days of standing, walking and riding bikes to explore our beautiful city. 

It's best to search for a person who has experience in using Manual Lymphatic Drainage, and ideally choosing a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) if you have or are at risk for lymphedema. 

Please visit my website for more information and to book an appointment (I make housecalls!): http://www/

About Kathleen Lisson (CAMTC #70128)
As a Board Certified massage therapist with advanced training in Manual Lymphatic Drainage, I help women and men in the San Diego area reduce the tight, full, heavy feeling that comes with swelling after facelifts, tummy tucks, liposuction and other plastic surgery operations. I make housecalls! To schedule a treatment, please visit

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Feeling Anxious Before Surgery? Learn from my mistakes!

How to Reduce Anxiety Before Surgery in San Diego

By Kathleen Lisson, CMT, CLT
(CAMTC #70128)
Anxiety Before Surgery
"Basal Cell Carcinoma" 

Those three words spoken by my dermatologist as she shined a bright light and peered at my right cheek felt like loose sand being stolen from under my feet by an undertow. 

"I'll take a biopsy to make sure"

Carcinoma, I thought dully. Carcinoma. Both my parent's had died from cancer, so I knew what the word meant. 

I had skin cancer. 

The next ten minutes: scraping of the pimple that had never healed on my cheek, then an explanation of how I would book surgery that went over my head. I asked if it would be written on a sheet of paper - "I'm just not thinking clearly right now." My Derm smiled, "Yes." 

I didn't know that that sheet was just the beginning of the paper trail that cancer created. Even a simple skin cancer, the 'no big deal,' the 'we get hundreds of cases a month' it's just surgery type of cancer. 

It was decided - I would get an outpatient procedure, booked in the late afternoon, an operation called Mohs surgery. No chemotherapy, no radiation. 

One day I would have cancer, the next I wouldn't. 

Maybe I would have been fine, maybe I would have been as relaxed as other people who take a small operation like this one in stride. Maybe.

But I made one big mistake - I Googled Mohs Surgery. 
Then I waited until it was late at night, after my concerned, loving husband had gone to sleep and I searched on Youtube for "Mohs surgery cheek."

That's when the anxiety started, an empty levitating heaviness in the pit of my stomach and pressing tightness in my heart. 

All I could think of was being permanently disfigured. 

Instead of imagining a healthy recovery, I was mentally preparing myself for the worst - and giving myself a huge case of anxiety.

Post-op visit to my dermatologist after skin cancer surgery

Hello, my name is Kathleen Lisson and I am a Meditation Teacher and Board Certified Massage Therapist in San Diego, CA. I specialize in helping people prepare for and recover from plastic, orthopedic and reconstructive surgery. 

Why do I have such a passion for helping others get back to living their life after surgery? I have had both really good operations and much more traumatic surgery experiences, and I spent time last year thinking deeply about what happened differently in each situation to make my experience so different. 

I had reconstructive surgery almost a decade ago after a skiing accident and felt completely at ease because I intuitively had positive thoughts about my recovery. In contrast, the 2016 surgery to remove skin cancer from my face didn't go so well because I spent time looking at worst-case scenario Youtube videos instead of thinking positively. 

A few weeks after the Mohs surgery in San Diego

Whenever I have a traumatic experience, I try to find a way to use it in a positive way to help others. After my surgery and recovery were underway, I searched for the answers I didn't find before my operation - how can people facing surgery reduce anxiety and keep their mind focused on healing?

I was very fortunate to find Peggy Huddleston's Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster with Relaxation and Quick Start CD: A Guide of Mind-Body Techniques earlier this year. Huddleston's method of focusing on positive imagery before surgery has resulted in patients reducing their anxiety levels before surgery and using less pain medication and recovering faster after their operation. The power of focusing on personalized positive imagery has been documented in research studies at the Lahey Clinic (Tufts University Medical School), New England Baptist Hospital (Tufts University Medical School) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Harvard Medical School). 

After reading her book, I jumped at the chance to personally train with Huddleston and I now offer a workshop in San Diego based on the methods and research in Peggy Huddleston's Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster with Relaxation and Quick Start CD: A Guide of Mind-Body Techniques. This one hour program provides San Diegans facing surgery with the many of the tools we need to use personalized positive imagery to help reduce anxiety before an operation. 

I know how anxiety-provoking surgery can be. Invest an hour of your time to learn how to use personalized positive imagery, family and friends and your surgical team to improve your recovery from plastic, orthopedic or reconstructive surgery in San Diego.  

To find a list of upcoming workshops, visit

Buy the book here: Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster with Relaxation and Quick Start CD: A Guide of Mind-Body Techniques

Tips to Reduce Shoulder Pain - Change Your Habits and Do These Post Massage Exercises

How to Reduce Shoulder Pain by Kathleen Lisson CMT, CLT When I provide manual lymphatic drainage to reduce swelling after surgery,...