‘It doesn’t define me’: Richmond woman shares her unexpected path to massage therapy

Henrico County

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Relaxing music plays while the soft orange glow of a Himalayan salt lamp adds to the ambiance of Christina Spiller’s workspace.

She is a special kind of artisan, and her greatest works are a feeling.

“My whole thing is how connected everything is,” she explains. “I feel it all. I feel everything.”

Spiller never had visions of becoming a massage therapist.

At 32, she loved being a preschool teacher, nanny and newlywed until that morning more than eight years ago.

“January 29, 2010,” Spiller states. “I had to find a different path.”

Spiller took the same route to Norfolk to the same doctor for the same steroid shots she had received for a decade.

“Soon as he put it in, it was the most pain I have ever had in my entire life,” she remembers. “And my eye just swirled, and that was it.”

She was blinded by the very same treatment she had successfully turned to for years for arthritis in her eyes.

“It singed my retina and my optic nerve. It wasn’t coming back,” Spiller recalls. “I remember my family being in the room, and all I could say to them was, ‘I’ll still be able to work. I’ll still be able to have kids. I’ll still be able to live,’ you know. Screaming. I shouldn’t say saying it. I was screaming.”

Over the next six months, the shock behind that screaming turned to strength then sorrow for the life she lost.

To truly heal, Spiller knew she would have to leave Richmond.

Her path took her to the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

“I learned braille and computer and cane travel and kitchen and activities of daily living,” Spiller lists. “And oddly enough, my favorite subject was industrial arts.”

Spiller had a knack for creating, but what could she do for a career without sight?

The answer was there all along.

“I see things in different ways with my hands.” 

After a family member saw a movie about a blind massage therapist, Spiller explored if it could be her calling.

After getting turned away by some programs, Spiller found the Lotus School of Integrated Professions on Three Chopt Road.

“Every other word out of their mouth was we can do this, we’re doing this, we’re teaching you, we’re doing this, you’re going to do it,” she says.

Today she is a massage therapist at Healing Hands Massage, Richmond on Dickens Road in Henrico County.

“My favorite, favorite, favorite part about it is having somebody come to me right here and give me an hour to 90 minutes of their precious time,” Spiller shares. “All the compliments and the accomplishments, I really realized that I was helping people more than just getting a paycheck.”

Spiller says her eyes went dark that day eight years ago, but she only sees light when she is in her massage room.

“I try to pass my, what I feel, the positivity about it to other people,” she says about being blind. “It doesn’t define me. It’s just a part of me.”

Spiller also has a message for other individuals who are blind.

“Since the day it happened, since the day it happened, I have wanted a way to be able to tell people there’s something out there that you can find that you can be completely fulfilled with.”

She hopes her story not only reaches people who are blind and applying for jobs but also businesses.

Spiller encourages more to hire someone who does not see through their eyes.

“We walk by faith, not by sight.”

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