After contracting paralytic polio, even though my parents were incapable of supporting me beyond the bare bones basic needs until I came out of my leg brace, I was blessed with a physical therapist, Miss Holly and a physiatrist, Dr. Eugene Moskowitz who believed in me. They worked with me mind, body and Spirit to help me recover from paralysis and learn how to walk again. I was traumatized and didn't quite know which end was up but they held the belief for me until I could see for myself that I had the strength, courage and resilience to walk again.
When I was 10 years old, Dr. Moskowitz suggested I go to a swimming camp. My father found Badger Day Camp (which is still in existence today) and there I met Joseph Stetz. He is on the far left - tall, dark and handsome with the most soulful brown eyes you would ever want to see.
He was training to be an Olympian but decided to become a physician instead but as my swimming counselor who had the heart of an Olympian, he invited me to swim the butterfly in the Badger Swimming Olympics. I told him that it wasn't possible. I had polio and had just come out of a leg brace. He told me that only 2 other campers had the courage to compete in the butterfly and that I would be guaranteed a place on the medal stand. I shared with him all of my fears and although he was only 21 years old, he was a wise soul. He coached me one on one teaching me how to jump off of the starting block and do my turns. He told me my time didn't matter. All that mattered was that I went out and swam my hardest and did my best. I had the courage to do something that none of the other campers would do. All I had to do was finish. I proudly took my place on the medal stand.
After being diagnosed with post polio syndrome in December of 2006, a part of me was terrified of what the future held yet another part of me believed I could turn my life around and heal. In October of 2007, I hired a personal trainer after being discharged from outpatient care at Spaulding Rehab Hospital. She initially held the belief for me that I could get stronger and continue to heal and emerge from the beliefs I held in my body from paralytic polio and violence. I remember asking her if she believed I could actually get better and she said:
When I told her, in February of 2008, after achieving my initial goal of getting up off of a low toilet seat that I wanted to run the Boston Marathon, she believed in me and my what would seem like a crazy belief that I could run a marathon despite never having run a day in my life.
After my knee injury in December, I started to doubt my ability to heal and recover. I was ready to hang up my running shoes. The therapists I was working with reinforced the belief that running wasn't good for me; that I'd overdone it and didn't have a wholehearted belief that I could heal without surgery and return to running. They sided with the part of me that was tired and believed I had nothing to prove. I saw the 30 day core challenge on Facebook and realized that I needed to strengthen my core, my quads and my hip flexors and developed a strength training program for myself.
And then Dr. Ryan came into my life. As we stood at my book launch party of Journey Well, I saw the passion in his eyes. I went to his website, Elevate Health Cambridge, and he quoted Thomas Edison:
“The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease. " ~ Thomas A. Edison
He believes that he works with his patients to promote the body's natural ability to heal.
He made recommendations for Theraband Stability Trainers, how to up level my core strength training and began taping my knee, my gastroc muscle which on MRI showed atrophy from polio and IT band. I experienced chiropractic care for the first time in my life. The adjustments to my spine and my hips are allowing me to release the tension and postures I held in response to paralytic polio and violence. He is patient with me as I learn how to let go and allow the adjustments to happen.
It's not only what Dr. Ryan does but how he does it and the messages he sends to me that I have unlimited capabilities even at 61 years old. He inspires me to do my personal best every time I approach a workout be it in the pool, on the roads or my strength training workouts. I challenge myself. I have ditched the philosophy of detach from outcomes and allow whatever is meant to be to be and instead I commit to outcomes. I know it's going to be hard and yet I can allow myself to feel free and easy in my body while working hard. It's not about how many times you get knocked down; it's about how many times you get back up and it's always got to be one more than the number of times you've been knocked down. I can feel my gastroc muscle firing up and that is going to provide a shock absorber for my knee joint.
On April 5 I wrote a blog post, "Why Set Limits: Only Take Yes for an Answer."
I do have something to prove - to myself over and over and over again ... to be the best possible version of me I can be. To set goals not limits. To live with even more than hope - a sense of conviction; to live with more than possibility - having the knowledge that I can and am creating my own reality.... and so I see 26.2 on the horizon for me again. I don't know when but I know that the fire in my belly is lit after standing on the Boston Marathon finish line Wednesday. I'm a runner and I am a marathoner.
And while I have to believe in myself, the journey in this marathon of life is made so much sweeter and easier when we have someone who truly deep down inside believes in us with all of their heart.
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.