Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Exercise is a Blessing!

Allison Lamarre-Poole, my beloved physical therapist at Spaulding Rehab Hospital was ready to discharge me from outpatient physical therapy. She was moving on from Spaulding to be a traveling physical therapist. I had reached the maximum number of sessions for outpatient care and had achieved the goals we set after the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome. I was referred to her in February of 2007 after undergoing cervical spine injections for a disc pressing on a nerve. She did not subscribe to the belief of the doctors in the Post-Polio community that if you use it you will lose it. Yes you read that correctly. The belief was that because of the limited number of neurons available to support neuromuscular functioning as a result of the initial polio virus, they would burn out at an accelerated rate if taxed. Allison believed that I was not destined to be in a wheelchair and that I could regain functioning. Although it's over 12 years ago since that day in May when we had a tearful yet incredibly joyful farewell, I still remember her words to me. "You are going to continue using the program I gave you right? You don't ever want to go back to where you were."

I said with the courage of my convictions, "Absolutely not! YES! I am going to continue to take care of myself mind, body and soul and I will continue to exercise and get stronger."

I had a packet of exercises that I did faithfully while experiencing healing through writing poetry and no longer having the stress of my career as a VA social worker.

In October of 2007, the Universe led me to connect with Janine Hightower, a personal trainer. We were talking about my greeting card business and her personal training business and having me join her networking group BNI.

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.”

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.

I began the journey of a lifetime and discovered the joy (and at times agony) of running. Allison and Janine planted the seeds for me to discover the thrill of experiencing a regular health and wellness regimen and testing my mettle and my limits.

I know there are many who experience exercise as drudgery or punishment.

I am blessed that I had the experience of paralytic polio and then the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome so that I can savor and embrace every day that I have the opportunity to run, swim or work out. As part of my gratitude journal, I express thanks to my body for all it allows me to do. I know the perils of paralysis and the shock of the diagnosis of a progressive neuromuscular disease 13 years ago.

Exercise is a blessing and movement is a gift.

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.

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