Before going to the Evelyn Kirrane Aquatics Center for cross training yesterday, I had my mind set on swimming laps.
The last time I swam laps was when I was at Badger Day Camp when I was 9 and 10 years old. It was an Olympic size pool that trained many Olympian swimmers. We swam width laps.
To be honest, I wasn't sure what would happen. I'd been in Aquatics Therapy at Spaulding since August of 2013. While we did cardio circuits in the pool and Aqua Jogging, there was no continuous full body stroke swimming. I knew I could run a marathon so why not swim laps right?
As I checked in, the young lady behind the desk smiled warmly and said, "Enjoy your swim."
After I took the pre-swim shower, I was looking for my swim cap in my bag. I panicked. It wasn't there and I know they have strict rules about anyone with shoulder length hair having to wear a swim cap. Where was it? I thought perhaps I left it on the bench after my swim on Tuesday. I went to lost and found. It remained lost. The open swim ended at 3pm so I knew I didn't have enough time to get dressed and go to CVS to replace it. As my mind momentarily went to oh well I'll take the day off, I felt this feeling swell inside of me that I have to swim today.
As good fortune would have it, my recent mantra of the Universe and I together meet my needs with ease bore truth. They sold swim caps at the pool. Whew that was a close one.
To ensure that I would not back out of my commitment to do laps, the lesson pool was in use by children with physical challenges. I was so moved as I walked by a woman holding a little boy in the water as the sun streamed into the room, "Doesn't this feel wonderful? Feel the sun on your face." I counted my blessings and walked over to the lap pool.
I knew that it was heated but not to the temperature that I was used to at Spaulding or even the lesson pool. But I was determined to get in there and swim laps.
Now here is where the story really gets good and I am feeling a rant coming on which is very unusual for me.
One of the "symptoms" of "post polio syndrome" is cold intolerance. I shivered and shook and couldn't regulate my body temperature. In "Journey Well" I share how even without the temperature changing in the treatment room and it being set at a comfortable temperature at Sollievo Massage and Bodywork, I would experience the room as freezing cold at times and couldn't maintain my body temperature. This dramatically shifted over time.
In last week's treatment, during the Zero Balancing portion of my treatment, I felt my Spirit Helper/Guardian Angel's presence. She has been with me at least since I was 5 and contracted paralytic polio. I had a very Cinderella like moment as she said, "I have a secret to tell you. You are not living with the late effects of paralytic polio."
She is right! I am reminded of Henry Ford's quote:
Several months ago, Joseph said to me, "I don't want to push or pull you to a place you're not ready to go yet but I see you without your story." And then last week commented, "I can feel your body is healed. Your mind and your heart just need to catch up."
I was trying to find the length of the Spaulding Aquatics Therapy pool to compare it to the laps I swam yesterday, and came across this article, "Exploring benefits of aquatics therapy for poliomyelitis patients."
The exact cause of post-polio syndrome is unknown. However, scientists suspect that years of strain on these motor units cause them to be unable to meet the demands of their new terminal axon sprouts, leading to eventual malfunction and permanent weakness. Approximately 440,000 polio survivors in the U.S. are at risk for developing the syndrome.
The article goes on to be filled with cautionary tales about not overdoing it.
I tend to go the other way on the doing it spectrum and most recently am becoming exquisitely tuned into taking myself to the edge and just a bit farther to avoid injury but studies have shown over and over and over again that what you tell your mind, what you believe, will happen in your body. I was blessed to move to the Spaulding Hospital downtown from the Framingham Clinic where my therapist, Allison Lamarre Poole told me she would not treat me like a polio survivor and held the belief for me that I would and could get stronger. I would be very curious to explore what would happen if all polio survivors received the message that they have the capacity to heal from the original polio virus.
Interestingly enough, the physiatrist who treated me after contracting paralytic polio in 1959, Dr. Eugene Moskowitz created quite a stir in the post polio community with his op ed piece in the New York Times as I wrote about in "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":
The Westchester Post-Polio Group is grateful to Dr. Eugene Moskowitz (Letters to the Editor, March 3) for providing the public with a concrete demonstration of the negative and patronizing attitude many of us have encountered from physicians. If Dr. Moskowitz finds ''no reason to suspect deterioration in the nerve cells in the spinal cords,'' we suggest that he read ''Proceedings From the First Annual Symposium on the Late Effects of Poliomyelitis,'' in which highly respected members of his own profession advance excellent medical arguments and research reports in support of exactly that theory.
Here is what my beloved Dr. Moskowitz wrote:
Caution and Hope On Polio 'Signs'
Published: March 3, 1985
I read with interest the article entitled ''A Group for Polio Survivors Who Have New Symptoms'' (Feb. 10).
Having supervised the rehabilitation of poliomyelitis patients at Grasslands Hospital during the epidemics of the 50's and 60's, probably including the ''then'' infants mentioned in the article, I would like to add a word of caution and even hope as an afterthought.
Firstly, there is no reason to suspect deterioration in the nerve cells in the spinal cord. After 30 years, one must accept some loss of endurance, increased fatigue and even some discomfort induced by other unrelated medical problems. This is true in the athlete with repeated injuries, in the obese person with back problems and even in the jogger with foot ailments.
Any individual with paralytic disability in an extremity will experience the normal process of ''wear and tear'' except that it may be more difficult to adjust to it. Just as one learned to compensate for the initial impairment so must one adjust to the later, more subtle changes rather than develop an emotional hangup of being a ''polio victim.''
EUGENE MOSKOWITZ, M.D. Mount Vernon
HOPE - that's right HOPE!
And remembering that message, I psyched myself up to do laps. I felt amazing gliding through the water feeling my core and remembering to use my hip flexors, feeling the energy all along my legs rather than overuse my knee joints. I paused and stretched and kept an eye on the lesson pool for when I could return to my "safe" exercises but the Universe would have none of that (and in truth neither would I). Using a combination of breast stroke, freestyle and backstroke, I did laps for 30 minutes and completed approximately 10 laps.
Only then did I return to the lesson pool with its warm waters that felt wonderful. I did squats, used the noodle for quad strengthening and push ups and did a lot of stretching after my 5th consecutive workout.
I felt a swimmer's high and really proud of myself for going out there and doing something I had not done since I was 9 and 10 years old in a pool that reminded me of my Badger Swim Camp Days. I got a great cardio and all around full body workout.
As I was leaving, an older woman was at the front desk who I knew from back in the day when our kids went to school together asked, "Did you enjoy your swim?"
I'm sure she could see from the look on my face that the answer was an unequivocal yes!
My latest book, "Journey Well" is now available on Amazon along with all of my inspirational books. 50% of book proceeds are donated to the Massachusetts Resiliency Center, a safe, welcoming space for survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing to heal and stay in touch with one another; a virtual hub for a widely dispersed community whose lives have been impacted by the tragic events of April 15th and the events that followed.
When terror struck the world's oldest and most beloved marathon on April 15, 2013, it was a defining moment in Mary McManus’ life and the lives of all those in Boston and around the world. It was her wake up call to return to the sport and community that have been medicine and a lifeline for her throughout her marathon of healing the late effects of paralytic polio and experiencing 9 years of domestic violence as a child and adolescent. Mary captures the essence of Boston Strong through her experience of the 2014 Boston Marathon and as she profiles the people who are Boston Stronger. Through her blog posts, poems and journal entries woven together with excerpts from her memoir, “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility,” you will experience, through one woman’s journey of transformation and healing, that no matter what happens to us, we can all learn to journey well.