Edwards man uses massage, music to heal | VailDaily.com

Edwards man uses massage, music to heal

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Theo Stroomer/Vail DailyL.J. Lambert, a massage therapist and musician who is legally blind, plays guitar in his home in Edwards on Friday.

EDWARDS, Colorado ” When Larry “L.J.” Lambert speaks of the area’s natural beauty, he talks about the smell of fresh air and the quiet, peaceful atmosphere, but not the rugged mountains or the pine trees.

Lambert, 44, is legally blind, but then again, as a musician and massage therapist, he has always relied on his sense of touch.

When the soft-spoken, long-haired musician with a ready smile picks up his guitar, the listener does not get the sense that he is blind. When he excitedly talks about practicing physical therapy with a ski community, it does not seem to matter that he has 5 percent of his vision.

“You have to master your disability or it will master you,” said Lambert. “Obviously there are physical challenges, but it hasn’t stopped me from pursuing my dreams.”

As a child, Lambert always thought he would be a professional athlete. He was always a gifted athlete, he said, until at age 14 he began having trouble connecting with the ball at baseball practice.

A spot developed in the middle of his vision and slowly his eyesight deteriorated. Still, he continued to excel in football and baseball into his early high school years, Lambert said.

He began seeing different doctors, but no one could give a diagnosis. Finally, midway through high school, doctors found a lemon-sized cyst on Lambert’s brain weighing on his optic nerve. By this time, he could not see much more than light and shapes.

He had brain surgery to remove the cyst, stopped playing sports, and was barely able to graduate from high school, he said.

Friends and popularity also disappeared along with his health. “It was a very dark, very bad period in my life,” Lambert said. “I was so encompassed with dealing with the enormity of the situation. I was just numb.”

Around the age of 15 he began playing guitar, emulating different artists and developing his own “mish-mash” style, he said.

He later played in clubs and bars, landing more and more gigs, and eventually getting the opportunity to audition in Nashville. But along with the gigs also came the lifestyle, he said.

“I was wild. I partied so much, and definitely was into drugs and alcohol. But I wasn’t happy,” he said.

The turning point came one New Year’s Eve when Lambert was playing in front of a particularly raucous house. The crowd went wild and began turning over tables, he said.

“It made me think, what if I really made it big? Is this what it would be like? I decided I wanted to get out of that lifestyle,” he said.

Never particularly religious, Lambert began praying that something would happen to change his situation. He was surprised when he received a call from a Christian friend he had not seen for several years.

“This sounds crazy, but my friend’s wife, whom I’d only met once, had a dream. She saw me standing in the snow, saying, ‘Someone help me,'” Lambert said.

His friends came to see him and told him that they knew he was in trouble and that they had been praying for him.

“People can say whatever they want to about God, but that was not a coincidence. I became a Christian on the spot,” he said.

From then on, his life changed, he said. He stopped playing in bars and clubs, and instead began speaking at different churches and events about his life.

Later he moved around the country, working for different businesses. He worked up from answering phones and learned how to use computers with speech-assistance programs. He moved up to marketing and sales, enjoying his corporate success and the independence it brought.

“Years ago I made the decision I’d succeed no matter what,” he said proudly. “There’s nobody else around when you’re blind to stand up and fight for you. I had to train myself to weed out fear and negative thoughts.”

Lambert began to think about studying massage therapy after he was treated by a blind massage therapist for back pain.

“I was amazed by the professionalism (of the treatment) and the healing that it brought,” he said.

Lambert decided that the business world was not for him and ended up in Saratosa, Fla. studying massage therapy.

It was a challenge, because he had to make it through school without a reader, a computer or any books on tape, he said.

“It was hard to conceptualize the muscles and movement of the body sometimes,” he said. “I had to learn about a hundred ligaments and muscles completely blind.”

It was frustrating when teachers seemed impressed that he could even do the most routine massage procedures, he said.

“I’m thinking, ‘Of course I can!’ People’s intents were sincere, but you ended up just getting a lot of head nods,” he said.

His teachers also encouraged him to stay in school even when he struggled or got discouraged.

“There were times I thought I would drop out, but there were teachers who encouraged me to keep on and stay,” he said.

He had always dreamed of coming out the the Vail Valley to work with the ski community, he said. He made the move to Edwards and is now applying for several massage therapy positions.

Since he had given up his music career, Lambert had put away his guitar. However, he began to play again for his own enjoyment, strumming and singing on the Florida beaches.

“Music has been a real tool for me to relax and communicate. Now the sounds and the feel of my music is completely different,” he said. “Now it’s about my faith and has a spiritual message.”

Lambert now sings and plays guitar at his church, New Life Assembly of God in Avon, and he hopes to record a CD, he said.

Music and body work are his “calling,” and he hopes to use what he knows to help others in the valley, Lamber said

He plans to teach guitar through his church and at guitar seminars at Loaded Joe’s, he said. He also wants to start a program to provide free massage therapy for people with chronic pain who cannot afford the cost of treatment.

His dream is to open his own massage therapy and music school. It would not only be for the visually impaired, he said, but the focus would be on learning through touch, not sight.

“Maybe you’d have to wear a blindfold,” he said, laughing.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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