Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Gratitude and the Gift of Polio



While I have always had a deep appreciation for life and for all my body is able to do, that awareness and appreciation has been magnified in the wake of an accident that left Kevin LaCoste, friend and Team Big Heart Teammate, with a spinal cord injury.

The members of Team Big Heart and Kevin and Ali's Army of supporters have been dedicating our runs, walks and workouts to him to lend our strength, our prayers, our Love and to set the intention for the day when he will be joining us all again on the roads.

Yesterday morning's run gave us the gift of witnessing the sun breaking through the clouds and sending angel slides over Boston:


I end my Facebook posts dedicating our runs to #lacostestrong with "Every step is a gift. Every mile is a blessing."



After yesterday's run, I remembered one of the first poems I wrote after the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome called, "The Gift of Polio":

The Gift of Polio from "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life"
Thank you God for the gift of polio that brought me so close to you
while paralyzed I saw your face no matter what I’d do
Many wonderful healers you sent them to me at age 5
perseverance and triumph life’s lessons learned
but my Spirit could not yet thrive.

At age 53 the gift was sent to me a second time
having time to sit and feel to heal I started to rhyme.
The second time felt worse than the first
yet your love and wisdom I found
out of pain and weakness and fatigue a remarkable spirit rebound.

Reliving all the trauma of special shoes and such
I discovered remarkable healers who brought a loving touch.
I had no clue I had such strength and the ability to grow
no matter what the outcome deep gratitude I show.

This gift so precious I live a new life gratitude flows from me
my heart and soul are filled with grace each day’s a gift from thee.


I learned about the importance of gratitude from the works of Bernie Siegel, MD,, and the "new age" thinkers who drew from the wisdom of the ages.

Shortly after the diagnosis of a progressive neuromuscular disease as a result of childhood trauma and paralytic polio, I felt outraged, scared, overwhelmed, depressed and anxious. Once I got still and asked for Divine Guidance, the path opened before me for healing, hope and possibility. My pen became my divining rod for healing and poetry poured out of my soul inspiring mind, body and soul to heal!

I am humbled, blessed and grateful that I am able to share this journey from a wheelchair, leg brace, cane and the prognosis of a grim future to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and beyond!



To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours
Mary

Be sure to visit my website at www.marymcmanus.com

Hear my interview with Kendra Petrone on Magic 106.7's Exceptional Women Show by following this link

My books are available on Amazon and "Feel the Heal" and "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953" are available in Natick Center Cultural District at Paula Romero Dunbar's Celebration Boutique Paper Fiesta coincidentally located on Mile 10 of the Boston Marathon Route.






Sunday, August 11, 2019

Adventures of Runnergirl Race Spotlight: The 2014 Bill Rodgers 5K to Benefit Prostate Cancer



Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of when I PR'ed the Bill Rodgers 5K to benefit Prostate Cancer. Photos popped up in my memory feed on Facebook. I thought it would be fun to provide photos and a video to accompany the narration from "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953":

One Moment in Time: Race Report Bill Rodgers 5K Run/Walk to Benefit Prostate Cancer August 10, 2014


I was open to whatever my body was going to be able to do today. My mantra for today's race was light and joy. I wanted to thoroughly enjoy the day. I slept well and didn’t have the usual pre-race jitters. I had a good breakfast of a bagel, oatmeal, banana and orange juice. What a luxury to be able to get up at 6:45am on a race day and drive 10 minutes to the start of the race.

I had a sense of trust that this was going to be a good day.

When we arrived, race director Alain Ferry whom you may recall was also the organizer of the OneRun greeted us. He had been following my blog posts about my intention to PR for the race. He gave me a big bear hug and asked me to remind him what my goal was for today's race.

“I hope we see 47:00 minutes or less on the clock when you cross that finish line. Remind me again of your name?” Alain asked extending his hand to Tom.

“It’s Tom.”

“We met at the Heartbreak Hill Marathon weekend. I remember you.”

He warmly shook Tom’s hand and said, “Well I’ve got about a million things to do. See you back here.”

I reconnected with Bill Rodgers at his table while he sold copies of his book, “Marathon Man: My 26.2 Mile Journey From Unknown Grad Student to the Top of the Running World.” He remembered me and my story from Hyannis.

“How did you like the book?” Bill asked me.

“I loved it Bill,” I answered with a big smile. I shared with him parts of the book that resonated with me.

“Life is hard,” he said to me. “That’s why we run. If we can tough it out on the roads, we know we can tough it out in life.”

Bill turned and introduced us to his girlfriend Karen.

“I overheard your conversation with Billy. You’ve had an amazing journey. I’m a breast cancer survivor and started running in my 40’s after the diagnosis.”

We instinctively hugged even though we just met each other.

“Let’s get everyone over to the starting line,” Alain commanded through his bullhorn.

Pre-race announcements talked about the importance of supporting research, early detection and treatment for Prostate Cancer. Alain asked for a show of hands of those running affected by cancer. There was an astounding number of hands raised in the crowd. Alain handed Bill Rodgers the mic. He shared how he is a prostate cancer survivor.

“It is the #2 leading cause of cancer deaths among American men. We need to pay as much attention to prostate cancer for men as we do for breast cancer for women.”

Bill Rodgers went on in his pre-race remarks. “Running and walking is a simple little sport but we as Americans can use it to change the world.”

And then it was gun time and time for me to write another chapter of my story.
We started at the front of the pack with Bill Rodgers off to our left. I went out running fast through the campus of Boston College. Thirty years ago I received my Masters in Social Work degree and spent many many hours on that beautiful campus. The field took off and I adhered to my race plan. We'd run the downhill and I'd run for as long as I could and then move into race walking. When we got to the rolling hills of Commonwealth Avenue, I race walked. The sun was bright and the day heated up fast. We were grateful there was no humidity and we could go on the sidewalk for shade. We brought frozen water bottles that I used for hydration and to keep cool.

Mile 1 - 14:33 pace. I was blown away by my time but I knew that anything could happen over the next two point one miles.

Tom kept checking in with me. How was I feeling? Did anything hurt? I didn't talk much which is very unusual for me and I was breathing hard. I had a single-minded goal but I was running from the inside out.

In my training runs I had stopped to take a "water break.” At times I slowed my pace, but kept moving forward. We stopped for about 30 seconds at the water stop before it was time to tackle the hill with a 221' elevation.

Mile 2 - time was almost 30 minutes.

Okay I think I can. I think I can. I've got this. I can do this.

Tom said to me "What do we do with hills?"

"We eat them for breakfast," I managed to get out.

To the top of Beacon Street and a right onto College Road.

A right onto Commonwealth Avenue heading toward the finish.

Alain came out on his bike, "Oh there you are. "Come on you're almost there."

I was hot and my tank was close to empty.

As we headed toward the finish Alain told me I had less than a minute for my PR.

People gathered to cheer me on.

Alain was just on the other side of the finish line.

I sprinted to the finish and the finish clock read 46:57 gun time!

I knew in my heart and soul that I crossed more than a finish line. As I told Alain, I reclaimed my life. The essence of who I am took center stage. It was another moment of redemption achieved through running. I wrung out the grief from my nephew’s death. I ran as Boston Strong rinsing out the trauma of 4/15/13 with sweat and tears.

It's been one hell of a journey back since Charlie Louis Alper tragically and violently died on March 4th of 2011. Thanks to Alain and the OneRun, I knew I had to come back to the sport that had transformed my life. I realized it was more than coming back to running. It was setting a goal and once again challenging myself. It was opening up to see what my body could do leaving nothing on the roads. It was about testing my mettle and letting go of fear.

Alain shared with me that he didn't expect to find us as far up on Commonwealth Avenue as close to the finish line as he did. He was concerned about the heat and was coming to provide support regardless of the time on the clock. When he saw how close we were to the finish, he wanted that PR for me as much as I did. I felt as though I was being pulled into the vortex of the finish line by his loving energy and all those cheering me on.

"I saw you start to cry and then I saw a look come across your face. You dug deep during that sprint,” he said to me. “It was quite a moving moment for me as a Race Director to watch you come across that finish line with such visible fierce determination.”

During that final sprint, Tom let me set the pace. He could tell I was in the zone. Tom wept with me when we crossed the finish line. We both knew that I left pain, fear and doubt out on the course and in its wake, strength, courage, confidence, and healing surged.

Gratitude filled my heart for Facebook friends who I met for the first time who cheered me on and took photos, and to Alain who was there to celebrate and tend to me post race.
“Here is an ice water for you. Go get in the shade and here’s a couple of oranges for you and Tom. I’m so proud of you!”

Today was one moment in time - many moments in time that I will always cherish when I look back on my adventures as runner girl.


Pre-race photo with Alain:


Meeting Kathleen Healy Fencil, Facebook friend, in real life:


Pre-race photos with Bill Rodgers:


Phil Lipof, Boston News Anchor and Bill pre-race:


At start:


Coming down Chestnut Hill Avenue Photo Credit Kathleen and husband Tom:


Coming into the final stretch:


Hustling for a PR:


I did it!


Post race hug:


Post race celebration:




Official time:




To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours
Mary

Be sure to visit my website at www.marymcmanus.com

Hear my interview with Kendra Petrone on Magic 106.7's Exceptional Women Show by following this link

My books are available on Amazon and "Feel the Heal" and "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953" are available in Natick Center Cultural District at Paula Romero Dunbar's Celebration Boutique Paper Fiesta coincidentally located on Mile 10 of the Boston Marathon Route.




Saturday, August 10, 2019

On Running, Fog and Faith



Early on in my healing journey, I wrote a poem about sailing through the fog.
Sailing Through the Fog from "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life":

Fog horn sounding loud and clear
I slowly make my way
sailing through the pea soup fog
across Nantucket Bay.

Ocean dark I used to fear
I feel my fear transform
the arms of God embrace me
trust and faith are now my norm.

Ride the tide of intuition
safe harbor shall I find
by being still and listening
attentive to my mind.

In the middle of the ocean
no land, no sun or sky
feel only love surround me
no need to shake or cry.

My faith is now my anchor
sail tethered to my Source
guided by the angels
I can safely chart my course.

Knowing when to take a turn
to steer to stern or port
instinctive navigation
I'll never come up short!

The freedom in the silence
waves lap the only sound
a comfort in my solitude
no other soul around.

Yet in the fog I sense them
other souls who once did live
the souls who went before me
love and knowledge did they give.

This journey is the answer
allow my soul to grow
the destination's not important
it's being in the flow.

Love and peace they are the beacon
to safe harbor will they lead
when I set my foot again on land
my soul has now been freed!


During Tuesday's early morning run, I was reminded of this poem as fog enveloped the Reservoir:


Tom and I are going through a very stressful time with our daughter who suffers from severe mental illness. Running in the fog was a wonderful metaphor for needing to have faith during this time of uncertainty.

For the 2nd year in a row, Ruth Anne spent her birthday in the hospital on August 7th. Many of you may already know we've had quite the journey with her during these past 5 years as she struggled with depression, an eating disorder, addictions, compulsions and the list goes on and on. Since January of 2017, she has been hospitalized 11 - that's right 11 times an average of every two months. I am deeply grateful for her insurance but so disheartened by what's been going on. The combination of her illness and a broken system that really has no idea how to treat mental illness has been a horrible combination. Recently she has experienced physical illness that gets overlooked by her clinical presentation as a "psychiatric patient." She is exhausted and so are we. Yet somehow we find the strength to carry on and get through with Divine Guidance and faith.

These past few weeks have been horrific for her and for us culminating in her admission on Sunday. I felt Spirit guide me to guide her to consider going to the ER. While someone on the outside looking in may think well just...there is no well just and no easy solutions when we are dealing with a complex medical and psychiatric illness especially when Ruth Anne cancels appointments or tells her providers everything is fine!

Faith and fog go hand in hand.

I'm blessed by how the Divine gives me signs and strength to make it through the miles on the road of life.

To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours
Mary

Be sure to visit my website at www.marymcmanus.com

Hear my interview with Kendra Petrone on Magic 106.7's Exceptional Women Show by following this link

My books are available on Amazon and "Feel the Heal" and "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953" are available in Natick Center Cultural District at Paula Romero Dunbar's Celebration Boutique Paper Fiesta coincidentally located on Mile 10 of the Boston Marathon Route.


Monday, August 5, 2019

It's kind of fun to do the impossible!



As different memories pop up in Facebook, I take pause and am in awe of what I have been able to create and accomplish since the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome over 12 years ago. But I did not do this alone. I had a lot of love and support and trailblazers who showed me just what was possible.

Dr. Joe Dispenza often uses the example of Roger Bannister. He was the first person to break the 4-minute mile. Everyone thought it was impossible yet once he broke the record, others were able to follow. Why? Because their beliefs went from impossible to possibility.

In the 1980's I was blessed to meet a nurse, Beth Jordan, while hospitalized with a bone infection in my shoulder. She introduced me to the work of Bernie Siegel, MD. He's written many wonderful books all with the themes of love, medicine and miracles.

After the diagnosis, which I was told is a progressive neuromuscular disease, I remembered a story Bernie told about Evy McDonald.

If she could heal her body from ALS, I could heal my body from Post-Polio Syndrome. I began to love myself whole and imagine life in a body unencumbered and free from the shackles of a disease-ridden and traumatic past. My pen became my divining rod for healing as I wrote poetry that inspired mind, body and soul to heal.

"Be prepared to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair"
was transformed into "And I want to run the 2009 Boston Marathon next year."



In December of 2014, with pushing myself to run 9 races in 9 months and no cross training, I sustained a very serious knee injury.

"The MRI shows you have shredded cartilage, degenerative changes from osteoarthritis, a fatty lipoma, bone spurs, degenerative changes from surgeries. Your gastroc muscle is atrophied but that comes as no surprise. That's been like that for years ever since you had polio and there's nothing you can do about it."

I felt like saying to the physiatrist, "Hold my beer."

Actually I thought it was impossible to grow a new muscle but I met an amazing chiropractor, Dr. Ryan J. Means, who turned me onto the movie "What the bleep do we know" and "You Are the Placebo" by Dr. Joe Dispenza. He told me we could most certainly grow a new gastroc muscle. With KT taping and exercises that stimulated the gastroc muscle using my right leg to provide the mirror neurons necessary for my left leg to fire up the gastroc muscle. Dr. David Hamilton in "The Tenth Anniversary of How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body" and Dr. Joe Dispenza talk about how mirror neurons aid in the recovery of stroke. When once it was believed that the damage of a stroke was "permanent", modern neuroscience has discovered the tremendous capacity of the brain and central nervous system to regenerate harnessing the power of the mind/body connection.



With a stronger gastroc muscle, a new strength training regimen and my fiery spirit, I set new goals for myself as a runner.

"We'd prefer you didn't run at all but if you are going to run please cap your distance."


And so I capped my distance at a half marathon!

I went on to run 3 Bermuda Half Marathons in as many years.



"We'd really like for you to come back to the Post-Polio Clinic for a reevaluation because, after all, it is only a matter of time before your disease begins to progress."

It's over 12 years and counting and in addition to having no progression of symptoms, I feel healthier and more vibrant at 65 years old than I have ever felt in my life.

In December of 2006 I was told I "had" a progressive neuromuscular disease. In May of 2007, I took a leap of faith and left my award winning career as a VA social worker to heal my life. "They" said so many things were not possible. The Divine and I had other plans.

It's been an incredible journey and you know what? It's kind of fun to do the impossible!

To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours
Mary

Be sure to visit my website at www.marymcmanus.com

Hear my interview with Kendra Petrone on Magic 106.7's Exceptional Women Show by following this link

My books are available on Amazon and "Feel the Heal" and "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953" are available in Natick Center Cultural District at Paula Romero Dunbar's Celebration Boutique Paper Fiesta coincidentally located on Mile 10 of the Boston Marathon Route.