Kirsten Wiley (R), traveling to China with professor and acupuncturist Ken Lubowich, receives her certificate for advanced studies in Tui na.

Through Adversity Kirsten Wiley Finds Healing

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Thursday May 26, 2011

Waking up after an eight-day coma, South Burlington resident Kirsten Wiley knew her life would never be the same.  Fourteen years later, she’s completed a remarkable recovery, finding a new, fulfilling career path and profuse peace and happiness she never could have anticipated.

This physically active mother of three was determined to survive and thrive despite the misfortune of a life-threatening horseback riding accident in which both rider and equine toppled to the ground.   For years she struggled through the pain of rehabilitation, at times overcome with feelings of depression.  The emotional, physical, and mechanical healing she says came from massage therapy.

“Massage made me more comfortable,” said Wiley, 31 at the time of the accident.  “I was able to escape the pain and depression.  I came back … to love life.”

An artist by trade, Wiley abandoned her career as a jewelry designer to study massage therapy.  Accepting an invitation to train in the 2,000-year-old hands-on Chinese body massage technique called Tui na (pronounce twee nah) at the Olympic Training Center Sports Medicine Hospital in Beijing in 2007, Wiley returned with a mission to share the principles to bring the body to balance.

Three years ago, Wiley began offering free 30-minute massages to military veterans in a program she named Peace for Veterans, intended to reduce chronic pain, anxiety and insomnia, often the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. 

“There is a healing process that occurs,” said South Burlington resident and retired army veteran Hugo DiNunvio who suffers from back pain acquired during his 15 years of service.  “Massage helps with managing pain and managing stress caused by pain.  It helps with everyday stresses brought about every day in life.”

Although Wiley, along with two other massage therapists, are still seeing veterans and accepting new clients, the program is now coordinated by Dr. Janet Kahn through grant funding, allowing Wiley to pursue other altruistic causes. 

In December of 2010, Wiley, who had recently learned of a friend’s blood cancer diagnosis, responded to a challenge from a fellow runner and joined Team in Training (TNT) for which she receives training support for her commitment to raise money to fund cancer research for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Along with TNT teammates Dan Hard and Mary Grunvald, Wiley organized Saunter into Spring, a 5K Run/Walk benefit on April 17, 2011, at Dorset Park.  In June, the team will unite with other athletes to beat cancer at the Mooseman Triathlon in New Hampshire.  

“What I love about TNT is that it is such a win-win-win organization,” Wiley said.  “Exercise for health, connecting people, and fundraising to cure cancer.” 

Wiley says charitable work makes her feel good about life.  Her focus moving forward will be to build on the success of Saunter into Spring for 2012. 

She said, “Through the challenges, I learned gratitude for so many things I had formerly taken for granted.  I learned to have compassion for others in a deeper way than ever before.”
To help Wiley reach her $3,000 TNT fundraising goal for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, visit   For more information about Peace for Veterans, contact Janet Kahn, Ph.D. at

SOURCE: Lisa Osbahr, Correspondent