Thursday, March 7, 2019

I remember when.....

I take nothing for granted! I am grateful for the gifts of the challenges in my life because I have a deep sense of appreciation for my health and well being. When I was 5 years old I collapsed in kindergarten gym class without warning. It took years to learn how to walk again.

I was a stranger to athletics and had the nickname "Easy Out Alper."

I remember when.... from "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953":

The buzzing hum from the fluorescent lights echoed the buzzing in my nervous system. I sat waiting for my first appointment at the Post-Polio Clinic at the International Rehab Center for Polio and Post-Polio. My complexion was as white as the paper that covered the exam table. I felt as fragile and vulnerable as that piece of paper that gets ripped off and tossed away after each exam. Every inch of my body hurt. I was exhausted. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I hadn’t cared whether or not I woke up in the morning. My husband and twins needed me. Ironically, I was at the peak of my career as a social worker. I couldn’t sleep. I felt depressed. My award-winning career as a social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs no longer fueled my soul. Somewhere deep inside of me I felt there had to be a way out of the hell I was living in.

The symptoms began in 1996 with fatigue and burning muscles. I was anxious. At times, I noticed the limp from paralytic polio returned. In 1992 I had reconstructive leg surgery to correct the deformity of my left leg and to avoid a total knee replacement at the young age of 39 years old. I felt as though my body was deteriorating and my life was falling apart. In 2004 I told my primary care physician I was afraid there was something seriously wrong with me. I suggested the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome.

I had to hug the bannister to climb the stairs from the first floor to the second floor of our house. The Post-Polio Team suggested we either move or plan to have our house renovated. I had to do a chin tuck and dry swallow to avoid having food go into my lungs instead of my stomach and had to drink liquids through a straw. We used PeaPod to deliver our groceries because I was too tired to grocery shop. I wore a toe up leg brace:

used a cane and at times a wheelchair for mobility and was told to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

I remember when my beloved physical therapist, Allison Lamarre-Poole helped me to take those first tentative, painful steps on my healing journey.
“Take a deep breath and lift your hips,” Allison cued as I lay on the physical therapy table.

“Now slowly lower down vertebrae by vertebrae. I want you to really concentrate on making that connection to your spinal column. Can you feel it? Move slowly. How does it feel?”

I lost my connection to my body after collapsing from paralytic polio. I had to dissociate from my body to survive years of abuse and torture. It was a strange experience to reconnect with my body, yet one that I hungered for. I wanted to find my way home and Allison was my first tour guide as she provided the map I needed to reconnect with myself.

The first day I walked into the outpatient gym and saw all of the equipment and machines I thought to myself, “I’m going to be able to do this. I can get stronger. I know it’s not going to be easy. I know it’s going to take time and I have to be extremely patient with myself.”

I wanted to feel better and I wanted to feel whole. Three times a week we worked together using Pilates, isometrics, weight training and cardio-vascular exercise to bring my body out of its withered state.

I remember when Allison discharged me outpatient physical therapy. "You don't ever want to go back to where you were do you?" I passionately answered, "No I don't!"

Shortly after being discharged from outpatient PT, I hired a personal trainer. I remember when I couldn't pass the fitness assessment. I remember when I began to make remarkable improvement in strength. I remember when I was able to get off of the couch or low toilet seat without a person helping me to get up. I remember when, after 6 months, I was able pass the fitness assessment and set new goals for myself. I remember when I declared I would run the 2009 Boston Marathon and I remember when my heart rate soared to over 160 when I first went outside to teach my body how to run.

I remember when Janine hugged me at the finish line of the Boston Marathon with my son Autumn by my side:

I remember when the BAA volunteer placed the coveted Boston Marathon medal around my neck:

This week was a challenging week to schedule work outs. A snowstorm on Monday meant I couldn't get to the gym so we switched up strength training day for cardio day. Tuesday is usually a pool day but because I had to get home for the plumber to attend to a leaking spigot on the outside of our house, I did a cardio workout which takes less time than a pool workout. The plumber couldn't make it on Tuesday afternoon and rescheduled for Wednesday morning. I got to the pool mid-afternoon and, despite the change in schedule and needing to make sure I picked up Tom at work, I made sure that I did my full hour of swimming and strength training in the pool.

Every time I have even a whisper of skipping a work out and breaking my 5 day training cycle streak, I make sure to keep that streak alive because I remember when I could not do the things I can do today. I am blessed to inspire others with my persistence, discipline, consistency and motivation to continue to move forward in my health and wellness journey. When people look at me and see my dedication to health and fitness, they realize they have no excuses!

To your health and wellness,
From my heart to yours

Be sure to visit my website by following this link.

My books are available on Amazon.

“The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953” takes you on Mary McManus’ healing odyssey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and beyond. After the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome in December 2006, Mary got still and asked for Divine Guidance tapping into the powerful connection she experienced to the Divine from an early age. She harnessed the power of her mind to heal her body, feverishly writing poetry in which she imagined herself healthy, whole and free from the shackles of her youth. Mary’s quest to heal her life led her to the sport of running. Her story is one that will leave you cheering for the underdog, discovering the meaning of different ability and experiencing the stunning view from the back of the pack of a race. You will have the privilege of bearing witness to how Mary overcame every challenge that life presented to her. The sport of running provides the backdrop for her journey of transformation from a survivor of childhood paralytic polio and severe trauma at the hands of family members to a woman who embodies faith, grace under fire, courage, determination, endurance and resilience. Running became a way of life for Mary that tested her mettle while forging friendships to last a lifetime. As you’ll discover in “The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953” nothing, not even a serious knee injury in December of 2014 could stop her on the roads or in her life.

Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life

Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing Hope and Possibility that chronicles the first 7 years of my healing journey:

Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance (With a Foreword by Jacqueline Hansen):

My healing journey using the power of visualization is featured in David R. Hamilton's book, "How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body-Anniversary Edition." It's available on Amazon.

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