Sunday, October 13, 2019

On Signs, Synchronicity and a Morning Run in the Rain

When the 5:45am alarm goes off in the middle of October and it's dark and raining outside, it doesn't inspire one to get up and go out for a run. I know how every step is a gift and every mile is a blessing as a survivor of paralytic polio and having been told 12 years ago I should prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair diagnosed with Post-Polio Syndrome.

After our 20 minute meditation, Team McManus got dressed and headed to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir.

It had been a brutal several days with Ruth Anne's healing and recovery journey with PANS/PANDAS, an autoimmune condition that is a result of the immune system attacking the brain instead of a virus or bacterial infection and manifests with neuropsychiatric symptoms. We were all feeling depleted and drained but as always remaining positive and hopeful.

As we approached the Reservoir, Ruth Anne said, "Look a rainbow"

My heart filled with gratitude.

As we crossed the street, runners were taking videos and photos while we smiled at one another.

The rainbow continued to shine:

We were treated to these sensational scenes as we ran through periods of intermittent rain:

We felt cleansed, refreshed and renewed dedicated to moving forward:

After picking Tom up from work on Tuesday evening, we decided that we would pick up a few sides to go with our dinner, get our lottery ticket and stop at the bank. There were no sides at Star Market, the line for the lottery was extremely long and not moving because someone was cashing a check and we decided to completely abort the mission.

Tom usually takes a left out of the parking lot at Star Market but for "some reason" he took a right turn.

While we were waiting at the stop light Ruth Anne said, "'s #lacostestrong referencing the sticker on the back of the car in front of us in the next lane:

Kevin LaCoste is a beloved member of Team Big Heart and the Westford Community and he suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury this summer. Part of the fundraising and spirit raising efforts has been stickers, tattoos, t-shirts along with a GoFundMe page and various fundraisers around town. You can read about Kevin and Ali's journey in my blog. I posted it on Facebook and immediately got a response that it was a friend of one of Kevin's family members.

After I shared our story of having arrived at that moment quite by accident, she said:
I love it! I also normally go a different route on my way home from MAA but I just felt like taking Hammond st today instead of Hammond pond parkway. Not sure why but now I know.

We had experienced a rough and tumble several days as can often happen with PANS/PANDAS and life in general but were reminded that the Divine is ever present in our lives.

A rainbow - a cleansing run in the rain and an amazing moment of synchronicity to end the day ... all is well when we have faith and stay connected to the Source of all that is!

To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours

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.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Sore - The Most Satisfying Pain

It is counter intuitive to get moving when we experience pain and soreness yet that is the very time when it is vital to get moving. Many years ago I ruptured a disc in my back. The wisdom then was to load me up on pain killers and have bed rest for 10 days. Fortunately, practitioners discovered the importance of the role of movement in allowing the body to heal.

If there's an injury one needs to be mindful about recovery and during the initial phase of recovery, rest may be indicated but I am referencing the kind of pain that comes with regular exercise that challenges the body and also for me, the discomfort that can often accompany Post-Polio Syndrome.

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!”

After my first session with her, I discovered muscles I did not even know existed in my body. I kept asking myself "What have I done? Why did I sign up for this?" But somehow I knew deep down inside of me that this was all very good pain.

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.”

Did you ever have one of those moments when words fell out of your mouth after rising up from the depths of your soul without going through any thought process?

Janine was non-plussed. I don’t know what kept her from turning tail and getting as far away from me as she could. She came back into my house, set down her things and without missing a beat said, “Well the first thing you are going to need is a pair of running shoes.”

She laid out a cursory training plan and said that we would begin indoors to build up my cardio endurance. As soon as the weather got a little warmer, we’d go outdoors and I would learn how to run.

What had I just done?

I did go on to run the 2009 Boston Marathon

and had many adventures as runnergirl 1953. While I am not running in endurance events, I am participating in 5K events. When I do not have any 5K events on the calendar, I get out for two-three 5K's a week and do cross training on the other days.

Some mornings, especially when it's dark outside, or if I'm feeling sore or the discomfort that can accompany Post-Polio Syndrome, it can feel like I'm on the struggle bus to get moving.

"I regret that workout" said no one ever and I love experiencing sore muscles knowing the satisfaction of taking care of myself mind, body and soul.

To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours

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.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Look for the Gift

After receiving the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome, I knew that if I were going to heal, I had to find the gift in the challenge; from when I originally contracted paralytic polio and then after the diagnosis.

One of the first poems I wrote after the diagnosis was:

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.

One of the greatest gifts I experienced during these past 12 years of healing from the effects of paralytic polio and trauma has been to bear witness to the power of the mind/body connection. Through partnering with the Divine, and working with my body in recovery, using visualization as I wrote poetry I was able to transform mind, body and soul from a survivor of polio and trauma to a thriver and a runnergirl!

After having been told to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, possibly needing a feeding tube, a sleep apnea machine and prepare for a rapid decline in neuromuscular functioning as I aged, I was in awe to discover that I was NOT my diagnosis and that resilience and strength and recovery were mine for the asking and the doing.

Despite living with a spinal cord injury from polio and a neuromuscular condition, I've been blessed to have had very few falls. I was told to be extremely cautious of falls because I was at risk for a fracture. The first big spill I took was while training for the 2016 Bermuda Half Marathon as I wrote about in this blog. Despite hitting the asphalt square on my hips, I only chipped a tooth and had some serious scrapes and bruises. I was fine. I went on to finish my 6.5 mile training run that day.

I found the gifts in that fall and moved forward successfully training for and running the Bermuda Half Marathon despite warnings from physical therapists and a physiatrist that I needed to give up running and prepare for a total knee replacement after a serious knee injury in December of 2014.

I was blessed to witness my body heal after the knee injury, and quickly recover from the fall and experience resilience and strength.

Recently, my left foot caught on the asphalt and I lost my balance. In that split second as I tried to reach for a guard rail along the side of the road to steady myself, I missed and with outstretched arms hit the ground. Fortunately it was mostly dirt and gravel. I felt my rib kiss the ground and scraped my right elbow and knee.

I righted myself knowing I was fine; telling my body I was fine and went on my way.

I alternated ice and heat and took ibuprofen to reduce swelling and manage the pain. Right after the fall I instinctively knew to remove my wedding band as I watched and felt my left hand swell and turn black and blue and purple. I instinctively knew nothing was broken and if I had broken my rib, there was nothing that could be done for it anyway.

During this past week, I once again found the gift in the fall. I was once again blessed to witness the miraculous mechanism of healing that is an integral part of our bodies. I used Dr. Joe Dispenza's mantra, "The Power that made the body, heals the body." I was in a lot of pain and discomfort at times and needed to modify my workouts and runs. I experienced all of this as a gift. I trained so hard for several events during the past several months and this was a way for my body to say, "scale it back a little."

I saw my chiropractor, Dr. Lizzie Sobel last Thursday. She confirmed that nothing was broken and released my body's natural capacity to heal through the art and science of chiropractic. I was astonished to experience a release on my right side after the treatment!

All of the bruises have dissipated and the scrapes on my elbow and knee are well on their way to healing. The muscle sprain on my right side continues to heal and it's such a thrill to notice the shifts as my body knows exactly what to do to heal.

Throughout my quest to heal my life, I've discovered the gift of being able to shift my perspective from focusing on the wounds of my past to the profound healing that happens when we allow the Divine into our lives.

When challenges happen, as they must because they are a part of life, tame the challenge and look for the gift. You'll be sure to find a treasure trove of grace.

To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours

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.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Musings on Monday Morning Miles

The weather is beginning to get cooler and when the alarm goes off for an early morning run, it's dark outside. But there's so much magic and majesty in the early morning hours and Monday morning miles are a great way to kick off a new day and a new week.

We finished our morning meditation and when I opened the shade, this is the sight that delighted my senses:

It was chilly but being hearty New Englanders we take our time in adding in layers so we will be warm when the temperatures plummet.

It was a glorious morning and the cool clean air was refreshing.

When we got to the Cleveland Circle Reservoir, we were treated to this spectacular sunrise and sights and sounds of daybreak:

Some runs are about training for an event and pushing the pace but Monday's morning miles were more about health and wellness, unplugged time with my bestie and finding solitude and peace in the early morning hours.

We talked about our daughter and her living with PANS, reflected on the beautiful experiences we had at the 6th Annual Middlemiss Big Heart 5K, and our friends, Kevin and Ali LaCoste and their beautiful family. We counted our blessings while being in awe of how resilient and strong people can be when that is the only choice. We reminisced of where I was in October of 2006. I was suffering with an array of symptoms suspecting that I could be experiencing symptoms of Post Polio Syndrome. In December of that year, my diagnosis was confirmed and I set out on a quest to heal my life. I know how every step is a gift and every mile is a blessing. I appreciate the gift of being able to get up and get out of bed and go on a run!

We took our traditional selfie with the beauty of the Reservoir providing the backdrop for our photo:

During our morning runs around the Reservoir, I am mindful to harness the power of the elements - water, air, earth and fire and send them out to all who need healing include Team McManus.

When we got home, the day {and us} was fully awake.

It may be a challenge to get the motor started early on a Monday morning as the seasons change, but oh those Monday Morning Miles are so worth the effort!

To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours

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.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The 6th Annual Middlemiss Big Heart 5K - Part II- All You Need Is Love

Joseph Scott Middlemiss' 6th angelversary was on 9/23 and all week long, culminating with the 6th Annual Middlemiss Big Heart 5K on Saturday, people shared signs of Joseph's bright and beautiful Spirit and love that lives on after the physical body leaves this earth. {A green orb in photos symbolizes the Spirit of someone who once lived on earth.}

My friend Bea D'Angelo sent me this photo from the Celebrity Mile:

Tom took this picture at the Kids Run:

The perfect weather was a sign of love from Joseph to all who gathered for the event that honors his legacy of kindness and love.

There were many many people at the event who did not know about Joseph and the Middlemiss Foundation before Kevin LaCoste's accident in July nor did people from Kevin and Ali's life and the Middlemiss Foundation know each other. But through Joseph and Kevin's accident people are now connected who otherwise might not have met each other. Ali once said that she's not so sure everything happens for a reason but after something happens, it is important to find reason and a purpose.

Steve Brochu traveled all the way from San Diego and he ran the race with Melissa DelRossi. They are close college friends with Kevin and Ali. Steve designed and coordinated the sale of these tattoos and stickers. Initially he sent out the Kevin/LaCoste Strong tattoos for free for anyone who wanted to show their support and love for Kevin and Ali:

It seemed that Joseph made sure people who were supposed to meet on Saturday had encounters in real time in real life after discovering each other on Facebook.

I was incredibly blessed to meet Julie McClellan Berard on line. It was one of those instant soul connections. We were each determined to meet in person on race day. With a little help from FB Messenger and a whole lot of help from Joseph we met during the Kids Run. I am now also friends with her boyfriend Scott. Here they are together before they were the best cheerleaders out on the course encouraging the runners and walkers on their way:

Kevin was Julie's Principal at the school she continues to teach at and, as Kevin does with so many people, left her with an indelible heart print.

There was pure joy and love as the youngest age group ran with big hearts during the Kids Run:

Unconditional love for children and adults of all abilities was the theme of the day allowing everyone to come together as a community to honor and celebrate two incredible families.

Out of thousands of people, Tina Lavoie Dufresne and I found each other at the starting line. She ran the 2019 Boston Marathon for The Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation with Kevin. We became fast friends in Falmouth as we were part of support crew for Team Big Heart. She is currently recovering from an injury and walked the 5K with her dog Pogo and son Chase.

A hush fell over the crowd before the start of the race.

We heard Kevin's voice over the PA system...ever the Principal ... always full of love and kindness. {Transcribed from Kendra Petrone's video which she posted on Facebook.}

"I'm a little sad I can't join you but next year I will definitely be there to celebrate Joseph and all the beautiful things he has done to inspire us even in his short life. Today... today while you're out there think about something you're grateful for and find a way to do some small kind act this week. Not only do the kind act but really think about how it made someone feel and think about how it made you feel as well. I hope everyone has a great day today and most importantly if you see Jack Middlemiss tell him I'm looking to kick his butt when I get home."

That last comment about Jack was in reference to a Q and A Ali had back on September 20th in which we were able to ask Kevin both light hearted and serious questions. Ali limited the questions to 10 but just had to include a Bonus Question from Jack:
11. Bonus Question!!!!! What are you going to do when I come to Spaulding and kick your butt? (Jack Middlemiss)

Kevin: I’m going to ride circles around you in my wheelchair until you get dizzy, then I’ll push you down, and kick your butt!!!! Do you want to piece of me? Or the whole thing?

Tina and I were sobbing and held each other in a close embrace before Jack sent first the Team Hoyt duos and then the rest of the field on our way.

Kevin's favorite song, "Don't Give Up on Me" by Andy Grammer filled the airwaves. Here are two versions offered by Jack and Grace Middlemiss, and Natalie, Kevin's godson Aidan and Conor:

Usually when I'm at a race where you can run or walk, I will go somewhere between a runner's and a walker's pace. This was the first event I experienced where you either ran or you walked and I was thrilled to go at an easy pace chatting with Tina and those around us. It was fun to high five the lead runners as they made their way to the finish line.

Volunteer musicians lined the course. Caleb Cascio has been performing at the event for the past 3-4 years joining together Joseph's love of music and superheroes.

It was quite impressive to see the sidewalks lined with people in LaCoste Strong t shirts, Haverhill Hillies tees (teachers and staff from Ali's school), Team Zoe t shirts, superhero costumes and All You Need is Love shirts from The Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation.

It was a love fest out on the course as people greeted one another asking how they came to join in the event. Ali decided that rather than participate in the run, she would stand on the side greeting friends from all walks of her and Kevin's life together.

As we were coming into the finish, we heard the announcer giving out the Age Group Awards. Our friend Bea won her age group at the age of 71 years old! They received Dream Big medals and copies of Dave McGillivray and Nancy Wendland Feehrer's books:

Linda took this photo of us as we finished up our 5K. It symbolized a finish line for the journey of the past 3 years with Ruth Anne's multiple hospitalizations, unclear diagnosis and med trials and errors and the beginning of a new starting line for Ruth Anne's journey back to health and wellness:

The finish line would stay open until the last person finished their race!

Team Zoe was the defending champion for the biggest superhero team for the past two years. We gladly relinquished our title to Team LaCoste Strong that had over 200 members. Ali and her children Natalie and Colin accepted the Blue Ukelele on behalf of their team. The music from the blue ukelele brought many wonderful smiles to so many people when Joseph played it:

Ali and Kevin and their two beautiful children are the race beneficiaries for this year's epic event!

After saying so long to friends, we went to ML Shaw's Country Kitchen and Store to refuel.

We knew about Shaw's from when we attended Celebrity ScoopFest, which is the other major fundraising event for The Joseph Middlemiss Big Heart Foundation that happens around the time of Joseph's birthday.

Joseph's picture is in the entrance to the restaurant and there is a donation jar by the cash register. We felt right at home when we walked in. The waitress was warm and friendly. We still had our bibs on and we talked about the 5K. Her daughter was a volunteer. We were able to remember where she and 3 of her friends were on the course. When we thanked them for being out there, she said, "This is my favorite job!"

The eggs and omelettes we ordered were all cooked to perfection and hot off the griddle. Tom and Ruth Anne decided to share a banana nut muffin.

My breath caught when I saw this:

The hearts were reminiscent of the logo of the Middlemiss Foundation:

Thank you Joseph for a beautiful message to end a best day ever reminding us all that all you need is love!

To learn more about the Foundation you can follow this link.

To support Kevin, Ali and their two beautiful children, you can donate to their GoFundMe Page by following this link.

To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours

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.