Inner Strength

Massage therapist Laurie Oliver made her way in the world by meeting challenges head-on. Breast cancer was no different.

by Nat Harwell

There is courage, and there is the John Wayne kind of courage. In either case, it is a beautiful thing to see. When it is packaged in a remarkable person like massage therapist Laurie Oliver, courage seemingly possesses even more of the ineffable quality that calls us all to ponder in wonderment. 

Laurie partners with Dr. David Pellington at the Life Dance Wellness Center, located just north of Mamie’s Kitchen in Covington. A licensed massage therapist, she also brings a holistic approach to healthy living through acupuncture, yoga and chiropractic treatment. Local citizens familiar with the Newton County Community Band, which was formed decades ago by the late T.K. Adams, are likely aware of longtime commentator Latrelle Oliver. Laurie, an Oxford native, and her brother Erik are the children of Latrelle and the late Hoyt Oliver. After high school, Laurie matriculated to Oxford College of Emory University and later the Academy of Somatic Healing Arts.

After Oliver graduated and while working for three years in the hospitality industry, her interest was piqued by an advertisement of an unusual nature.

“I ran across an ad calling for Americans to teach English in South Korea,” she said, “but I was a little worried, as one stipulation was that the candidate must not have a heavy accent, so I spent some time trying to lose my Southern accent.” 

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”

John Wayne

Oliver was located not far south of the Demilitarized Zone in a village near Seoul, where she taught English for a time before returning home. She was intrigued by the idea of a holistic approach to wellness and headed back to the United States in 1996, just before the Summer Olympics came to Atlanta. She met Pellington, who was practicing in Roswell at the time and seeking to move to a less congested area than Metro Atlanta could offer.

They began a co-ownership practice in Covington in 1997, first in an upstairs office at Emory and Clark streets. Finding that stairs were difficult for patients to navigate, they moved to “The Patrick House” across from the current central offices for Newton County Schools. However, Oliver and Pellington eventually needed more space and relocated to Industrial Boulevard, where they remain to this day. 

At that point in her life, Oliver had already exhibited plenty of courage by answering a call to a foreign land where “The Forgotten War” has never been ended by any peace treaty. If that was not enough, she then ventured out into a world of entrepreneurship and service to her fellow man through holistic medicine. However, little did Oliver know that the biggest challenge she would face was yet to come and would require some of that John Wayne courage “The Duke” personified in so many of his films. It came in the form of a word nobody ever wants to hear: cancer.

The picture of a beautiful, healthy young lady, Oliver and the disease came face-to-face in 2018, with a triple positive breast cancer diagnosis—which means cancer cells grow in response to estrogen, progesterone and a growth-promoting protein on the outside of all breast cells known as HER2. Treatment would involve all the tools traditional medicine had at the time: chemotherapy first, then a double mastectomy, followed by a drug regimen with Herceptin to attack the components of the cancer. Oliver speaks of her life-altering journey in a disarmingly honest manner.

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“I underwent the double mastectomy,” she said, “and I lost quite a number of lymph glands. It was difficult, because despite whatever necessity comes along, in so many ways the breasts define ‘womanhood.’ It takes making quite an adjustment in the way you think about things.” 

Oliver is currently free of the cancer that once threatened her life. Exhaustive research has taught her what nutrients and vitamins are helpful, and she continues to take supplements. Perhaps best of all, she has continued her work as a massage therapist—a field for which she has an undeniable passion—and contributing to the efforts of the Life Dance Wellness Center. Countless Newton County residents have found a way to healthier living through the services provided there. Inside the building are rooms for massage therapy and chiropractic treatment, a conference office and an atmosphere that soothes the souls of those who walk through the door. 

Yes, there is courage, and there is John Wayne courage. Oliver has exhibited both and continues to exemplify the latter. For the unfamiliar who might ask about the origins of John Wayne courage, the actor once said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”

Oliver strives to make life better for her patients and does all she can to brighten the world with her presence. She has indeed saddled up and continues to do so every day. 

Click here to read more stories by Nat Harwell.

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