Sara Nygaard grew up in rural Northwest Iowa and graduated high school with a class of 16, before earning her aviation degree at the University of Nebraska. Despite her dream to work for a commercial airline, she ended up working at a Des Moines insurance company for 16 years, before a big life change in 2016 lead her to pursue massage therapy. The profession had been on her mind for a long time and friends would even offer to pay her for her talent.
As she began to study sports massage with the aim of working with athletes, Sara quickly noticed that this was not her true calling. At the same time, her mom was diagnosed with cancer. One of Sara’s massage school instructors specialized in oncology, elderly, and hospice massage; and on a school field trip she got to visit Blank Children’s Hospital, pointing her interest in another direction.
After graduation from Body Wisdom Massage Therapy School, Sara came across a video about the John Stoddard Cancer Center and learned about the Charlie Cutler Healing & Wellness Program, which confirmed her new path.
The application process took almost 12 months; and the day, she was finally offered a position at John Stoddard Cancer Center, Sara’s mother was given a terminal prognosis for her cancer. For the next three months, Sara put her life on pause to spend as much time with her mother before she passed early 2019.
The long journey impacted Sara very deeply, also professionally; and she realized: “I was meant to be an oncology massage therapist!”
Sara loves her work and finds it truly rewarding to see the benefits that massage brings to a person and their family on a cancer journey. She is also passionate to pass on her knowledge, experience, and expertise to anyone wanting to practice oncology massage.
In her personal life, Sara likes traveling to places with water or by the beach or visit her nephews in Idaho. At home, she fosters cats & kittens for a local no-kill shelter until they find ‘furever’ homes.
She has a huge heart!