Friday, September 20, 2019

On Healing, Hope and Possibility!

On May 25, 2007, just 3 years shy of when I was eligible to retire from my award winning career as a VA social worker, I took a leap of faith. I walked out of the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Boston and as I sat in my yard in a toe up short leg brace using a cane for mobility, clutching a manuscript of my first book of inspirational poetry, "New World Greetings: Inspirational Poetry and Musings for a New World" I couldn't help but ask myself the question, "what have I done?" I had been diagnosed with Post-Polio Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease and told I'd spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. When I got still and asked for Divine Guidance, the poem, "Running the Race" flowed out of me. It was as though a spigot was turned on in my soul and poetry poured out of me igniting my imagination of possibilities; imagining a life very different from my current circumstances and a life in which I was free from the shackles of my past that was rife with illness and severe childhood trauma.

I had been discharged from outpatient physical therapy at Spaulding Rehab and vowed I would continue to work at my home exercise program. While my body was still deconditioned from the ravages of paralytic polio and trauma, I wrote poetry and watched Forrest Gump not understanding how or why I was doing all of this. I vaguely knew about the mind/body connection and certainly knew about the power of self-love to heal from reading Dr. Bernie Siegel's books. As serendipity would have it, in October of 2007, I was blessed to meet a personal trainer, Janine Hightower - from "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953":

Shortly after being discharged from outpatient physical therapy I met Janine Hightower through Herb Simmons. He knew Janine through his participation in the Cardiac Rehab program at Boston Medical Center. I was launching my business New World Greeting Cards, original poetry for every occasion. She was a member of BNI, a professional networking group. As we sat in my living room, she talked about BNI and the benefits of being a member of this networking group. As she talked, I wasn’t focused on growing my business. My mind zeroed in on her sharing with us how she used BNI to promote her in home personal training business.

“You know I’m curious,” I said to Janine. “Do you think you could help me? I was just discharged from Spaulding Rehab.”

I went on to tell her about my journey.

“I don’t know,” she said “but I’d certainly be happy to set up an assessment with you.”

I couldn’t even pass the initial fitness assessment.

“You’re way too young to not be able to get off of the toilet seat without holding on to the sink or to not be able to get off of the couch,” she said to me.

It was a statement of fact without judgment. She spoke the truth about my deconditioned physical state. I signed on to work with her once a week in personal training. I had no idea what or why I was doing this. I did know that if I was going to be in pain, I’d prefer to feel the pain of recovery instead of the pain of decline. Janine held enough faith for both of us that I could come out of my leg brace and have a good quality of life despite the diagnosis and prognosis I received.

Janine’s mantra for our work together was a quote from Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!”

At my six-month evaluation in February, I made dramatic improvements in every area of the assessment. I had come out of my leg brace. I knew I was on a healing path.

“Let’s write down your goals for the next six months,” Janine said feeling proud and satisfied with my progress.

“Well I want to feel free in my body. I want to dance. I want to be able to walk outside and feel unencumbered when I take a walk.”

Janine feverishly wrote down my goals, and we worked out a plan. She gathered up her belongings and had her hand on the door knob.

“Wait. I have one more goal.”

Janine stopped and turned around.

“I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital. I know they have a Race for Rehab team and I want to do it next year.”

On April 20, 2009, I crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon:

In December of 2014, I suffered a very serious left knee injury and was told to stop running and prepare for a total knee replacement in a few years.

Once again, the Universe led me to just the person I'd need to partner with me and help me continue on my healing path. Dr. Ryan J. Means, a chiropractor, supported me mind, body and spirit to get back on the roads and continue with my quest to heal from the effects of paralytic polio and trauma. We grew a new gastroc muscle harnessing the power of the mind/body connection, KT Tape, mirror neurons and a new strength training regimen.

I went on to run 3 consecutive Bermuda Half Marathons in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

I felt compelled to do a threepeat in Bermuda as a test, a testament and a testimony to the message of healing, hope and possibility that I send out to inspire others who are facing challenges and obstacles in their lives.

As I sat in a leg brace using a cane and at times a wheelchair for mobility, I did not know that one day I would run the Boston Marathon and discover the healing power of running and the love of the running community.

I imagined a life of healing harnessing faith and hope to fuel my journey and opened the portal to possibility.

One of our dear friends and Team Big Heart teammate, Kevin LaCoste and his wife Ali have been inspired by my recovery from the effects of paralytic polio and trauma. We need to fuel their journey as Kevin recovers from a traumatic spinal cord injury as I wrote about in my recent blog post.

Here's How You Can Help:
For the remodel immediate funds can be donated to:
Venmo money to Nancy Cook at Nancy-Cook-25
Send Nancy a check: P.O. Box 869 Westford 01886
Send a check to: Kevin LaCoste Building Fund
Jean D’Arc Credit Union
196 Littleton Rd.
Westford MA, 01886

Supplies and trades needed:

Donate to the GoFundMe Page by following this link

Be a part of the Lotsa Helping Hands community by following this link.

Register for the 6th Annual Middlemiss Big Heart 5K happening on 9/28 by following this link. The LaCoste family is the beneficiary for the race.

Donate to Kevin Staffin's NYC Marathon Run. Once he reaches his goal of $3000 by race day, he will be required to don a Red Sox uniform. Kevin is a die hard Yankees fan but for his friend Kevin, he will go the distance and do whatever it takes to raise money. You can donate to Kevin's run by following this link

Attend Trivia Night:

From my heart to yours,
In Health and Wellness,

Be sure to visit my website at

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.

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