By MOLLY TOWNSEND
The Union Democrat
After nearly four years recovering from breast cancer, Cathy Flynn, of Crystal Falls, has taken back control of her professional life.
Flynn recently opened her own business and massage practice, Sierra Naturals Bath and Spa Specialties, and Sierra Spa and Massage, at 22500 Parrotts Ferry Road, in Columbia.
Flynn, 48, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 while working as a landscaper around Tuolumne County.
She says she struggled with depression for many years. The cancer diagnosis exacerbated her depression.
Following the advice of her doctor, Flynn quit her job landscaping while undergoing rounds of chemotherapy. She focused on treatment and healing, she said.
Over three years, the cancer returned twice, Flynn said, though it never really metastasized.
Along her path to recovery, Flynn realized her longing to get back in the work field and do something that had meaning to her.
“I knew that I needed to do something because I couldn’t be on disability forever,” Flynn said. “I just needed to do something and become useful in the workings of the human state.”
Flynn sought help from the California Department of Rehabilitation in 2009 to get back on her feet financially.
Department services are designed to provide people with training and other services needed to return to work.
Flynn said that she met weekly with a senior rehabilitation counselor through the Modesto branch who helped assess which career field might best suit her. They eventually agreed upon massage therapy, and Flynn was referred to a massage therapy school in San Andreas.
“I always enjoyed giving (massages). It was something I knew I’d be able to do, and be able to do well,” Flynn said. “When I started working on people and getting (positive) results it dawned on me that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
In December, Flynn opened her shop, which specializes in all-natural, organic spa products which she makes herself, including soaps, bath salts, facial scrubs, sprays and candles. Her shop is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Tuesdays and Wednesdays she dedicates to appointments, offering massage, herbal wraps and body scrubs.
Flynn runs her business out of the former Pickle Barrel deli in Columbia, which she is renting from her landlord and long-time friend, Samantha O’Brien.
“She’s got a great personality,” O’Brien said of Flynn. “She’s really alive. She’s fun and has a great sense of humor.”
O’Brien is impressed with Flynn’s massage and business skills, adding she has become Flynn’s guinea pig over the past months for testing new products.
Flynn strives to promote healing through the many forms of therapy her business offers, which in turn is therapeutic for her.
“There are ways of getting past the cancer and being able to go on and have a fulfilled life,” Flynn said. “Cancer does not mean it’s the end of your life.”