Student Spotlight: Starting Over to Come Out on Top

Published on May 8, 2014 by arothstein

(MERIDIAN) Massage therapy student Michelle Fenn is not what you would call a typical college student. In fact, she is about as nontraditional as you can possibly imagine. A wife, mother and now full-time student, she had everything going for her. That is, until about five years ago. Following several bouts with a variety of cancers, Fenn has slowly but surely fought her way back. Her positive attitude, care for other students, and great grades and attendance has earned her the distinction of being named as Broadview University’s Student of the Quarter for the winter term.

Michelle Fenn (left), a massage therapy program student, was selected as Student of the Quarter for her academic drive and strong desire to continually help others.

In 2009, Fenn was diagnosed with cancer. Two years later, it was determined she also had breast cancer. As the health battles continued, she said there was only one thing that helped her feel like a person.

“Once a week, I would get a lymphatic massage,” she said.

Eventually, Fenn started to heal. Seven cancer surgeries later, she felt called to be with people who are either dying or who had gone through some sort of serious health-related trauma. The calling was a far cry from her original training as a teacher.

“I really felt like I needed to be working with people one-on-one,” she said, “instead of large-group teaching.”

That’s when she decided to pursue a new career as a massage therapist. Having already earned a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and ideology and a master’s degree in early childhood education, Fenn started to research local massage therapy programs. Drawn to Broadview University by its curriculum, she started classes at the Boise campus in January 2013.

“At 45 years old, I was very apprehensive in the beginning,” she said. “But everyone has embraced me. Students in my program have really helped me get comfortable again. It’s like I have a fresh start all around because they don’t know who I was before.”

Fenn, who is scheduled to graduate in September, intends to specialize in oncology massage and work with patients in a hospice setting.

Fenn has found true comfort at school and she has thrived on the ability to help others. She actively participates in conducting massage therapy events for visiting high school students and does what she can to promote cancer awareness on campus. For those of you who are unaware, Fenn is also the campus’s “Bread Fairy.” Every Tuesday, she is the one who brings in the loaves and loaves of bread from the Franz Bakery in Boise. Her weekly contribution is just part of what makes her education unique.

“I love it here,” she says. “This campus is like a family atmosphere. Everyone is willing to help everyone else out. You see students cancelling plans to help others succeed, and everyone just seems to do their part in making things special.”

Fenn is scheduled to graduate in September. She intends to specialize in oncology massage and work with patients in a hospice setting.

“My biggest challenge has been having to redefine who I am,” she said. “I am returning to a new profession in an entry-level position. It’s tough, but I know it’s what I want and need to do.”

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