Healing hands, helping heart

She's trained in massage therapy, but Jenny James said she feels like more than just a pair of hands to her clients.

"Part of my role is that of an observer," said James, who is trained to be on the lookout for any diseases or conditions in clients, such as irregular moles.

James enjoys helping each individual client, figuring out how best to help them feel better.

"Each person I work with is different, everybody's body is different," James said, although she admitted that the majority of people who walk into her office complain of back and neck pain. "Still, every time a person comes in ... it's like a new journey for me. I enjoy the one-on-one experience."

James always has had a keen interest in the human body - growing up in Port Angeles she was a top-rated competitive swimmer and received a swimming scholarship to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, where she studied and earned an undergraduate degree in biology.

At age 16, James said she took a weekend class in massage therapy but it wasn't until several years ago that she enrolled in the massage therapy program at Peninsula College.

James thinks she takes to massage therapy in part due to her athletic background; she is able to concentrate intensely on the client's needs.

"It's almost like I feel as though I'm swimming through a client's body," James said, laughing self-consciously. "It's a matter of focus and I know I can stay focused."

James also is part therapist, allowing her clients to vent about whatever they need, gently prodding them with her soft-spoken voice. During her years as a massage therapist, James has had clients ranging in age from teenagers to 92. She's had a priest, an emergency medical technician and countless teachers.

"Some clients work though their tension verbally, too," James said of her sessions. "What gets said here, stays here."

Now James, who moved to Sequim three years ago from Port Angeles, works independently but is stationed at Sanctuary Day Spa. She sets her own hours, although she said she often comes in for last-minute clients.

She sometimes is asked if the worry over the downward spiraling economy has affected her business; on the contrary, she said she's never been busier.

"In these times, people want stress relief and want to be pampered," James said. "Instead of spending a lot of money on a tropical vacation, they come get massages to relax."

James said she truly has found her calling, a way to relieve people of their daily stresses and help them become happier individuals.

"I'm working with people who are interested in doing well, I'm at the happy end of health care," James said. "I have a curiosity about how to help someone get better and I can do that here."

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