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Blind massage therapist has just the right touch

Kelly Beckett, who lost her eyesight in 1996, has been a certified massage therapist since 1998. She’s worked at a variety of practices, but now runs her own business out of her home. - Seraine Page/staff photo
Kelly Beckett, who lost her eyesight in 1996, has been a certified massage therapist since 1998. She’s worked at a variety of practices, but now runs her own business out of her home.
— image credit: Seraine Page/staff photo

Despite the darkness that surrounds her, Kelly Beckett has learned to find the bright side of things in life.

The local massage therapist is completely blind. Her sense of touch is how she gets around in a world where the lights are always off. It’s also her way to make a living as she relies heavily on her sense of touch for her business, 5th Sense Massage.

“At first you’re depressed and you feel the hopelessness,” she said of losing her eyesight. “I had to learn to be blind. I was still trying to rely on my sight.”

In 1996, she lost her eyesight slowly over the year due to diabetes and after complications from nine surgeries.

While recovering from the eye surgeries, her grandmother took her to get massages to relax. During that time, Beckett started gathering information from therapists about massage school.

They told her she didn’t need to see to be able to massage someone. Beckett pondered the possibilities of going to school for massage therapy. It made sense to her since the way she got through life blind was through touch anyhow.

“I didn’t want to be on social security,” she said. “I wanted to work.”

In 1998, she got certified and started working for a variety of practices. At one point, she took the ACCESS bus to downtown Bremerton and worked out of an office there. She realized she didn’t want to continue spending time traveling to work. With the help of a fellow massage therapist friend, Sheila Hansen, she was encouraged to open a space in her own home for her business.

“I can work my own hours. I can have total control over everything which is great because I can do things the way I need to,” she said.

It seems to have worked out well for her since many of her clients have stuck around for some time. Tom Danaher has spent the last 10 years as Beckett’s client. After incurring a serious back injury, a friend told him to visit Beckett because she was “a good masseuse” in the area.

“She has a solid knowledge of the human muscle system and explains everything. Along with regular treatments, she gave me many exercises to do to strengthen my back,” he said. “It took me over a year to fully recover, but Kelly kept pushing me to get better. It was important to her that I recovered; that impressed me.”

Beckett holds degrees in medical massage, deep tissue, spa, aromatherapy, therapeutic stretching, reflexology and Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy, which relaxes muscle spasm and increase circulation. She graduated with honors and a 4.0 with the help of her peers who often recorded notes for her to listen to again at home.

In her own space, Beckett doesn’t use a white cane to feel her way around. She doesn’t have any employees, and she does everything in her office from cleaning to entering customer information into her computer. She even has an iPhone, which talks to her to let her know what app she is using.

“Everything talks,” she said with a laugh.

She walks around her office, feeling her way around, softly touching walls and furniture to ensure she doesn’t displace herself.

“It’s kind of like walking in your house in the dark at night,” she said of walking around as a blind person. “You go until you hit something.”

Despite her nickname “Crash” given bestowed upon her by her father, Beckett won’t let anyone feel sorry for her. In fact, the massage therapist calls her life “blessed” due to her support system of friends and family.

“I think I’m just a happy person. It could have been so much worse,” she said. “I can pretty much do everything a normal person can do.”

Hansen believes Beckett when she says she can do most things just as seeing people do.

“I don’t think Kelly operates any differently than any other therapist,” said Hansen. “She is great, I am always amazed at how she knows the time. She used to have a talking watch —  that was a long time ago.  Now, she just knows how long an hour is.”

Her clients have called her “inspirational” but Beckett notes she is just doing what she needs to do. Some, she said, don’t even know she is blind at first.

Danaher thinks that Beckett sometimes forgets herself, too.

“Sometimes I am not sure that Kelly realizes she is blind. She is not only very good at what she does, she is a good businesswoman. She keeps her own books, sends her appointments out via the computer, handles all of the phone calls, cleans her business site, and stays up to date with the changes and advancements of her business,” he said. “She is always upbeat, daily positive, and has a great sense of humor. She moves around in life so easily that, if you did not know beforehand Kelly was blind, you would be fooled.”

For Beckett, it is all just a part of the life she’s learned to live since going blind.

“I like when my clients come in; it’s like seeing a friend every week,” she said. “”Massage therapy has been very good to me. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I plan on doing it for at least 20 more years.”

To schedule an appointment with Kelly Beckett, LMP, email kelly@5thsensemassage.com call 360-710-7359. More information can also be found online at www.5thsensemassage.com.

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