Nine years ago on a cold dark February day as I experienced my mind, body and Spirit crying out for healing in the guise of post polio syndrome, "a progressive neuromuscular disease," I got still and asked for Divine Guidance. I was told to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair; that the "best" we could hope for was to stabilize my functioning where it was.
The answer to my prayer came in the form of a poem in the cadence of Dr. Seuss; a throw back to when my physical therapist Miss Holly read Dr. Seuss to me before every painful physical therapy session after contracting paralytic polio and had me recite the lines in tandem with her as she coaxed my muscles and nerves to function again.
From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility," available on Amazon
And then I felt a stirring in my second chakra (only then I didn’t know it was my second chakra – I thought it might have been something I ate). I went over to my laptop in the corner of the living room and I wrote this poem foreshadowing my 2009 Boston Marathon run:
Running the Race
Early summer 1959 my kindergarten year
Everyone around me filled with nervous fear
Despite the Salk vaccine hope polio would disappear
The polio virus crept right up and knocked me in the rear.
Dancing all around the gym feeling free just like a bird
I dropped to the ground just like a stone and no one said a word.
The pain it was so searing-the diagnosis even worse
"It's polio" the doctor said...he was abrupt and terse.
Called one of the 'lucky ones' I had a 'mild case'
But with the other athletes I could never keep their pace.
Miss Holly physical therapist, curly hair and a warm, broad smile
It tempered the pain of being apart - to walk I'd take awhile.
I always wore those 'special' shoes the kids they poked and teased
With no support and much abuse with childhood I wasn't pleased.
But put nose to the grindstone and learned all that I could
I couldn't kick a ball but my grades were always good.
Years went by and no more thought to polio did I give
I accepted the limp and everything else and decided my life I would live.
But symptoms of weakness and muscle pain did grow
I kept a stoic face hoping no one else would know.
Life no longer was my own I struggled through each day
Suffered in silence, isolated from friends- trying to keep depression at bay.
And with the grace of glorious God my world it opened wide
I discovered there was a Post Polio team and they were on my side.
Using wheelchair to travel, set limits on what I could do,
Resulted in joy to realize I could live life anew.
Celebrated my body- creaks, groans and need for a brace
While in my mind I focused on winning a 10K race.
Sought out paths for healing and my spirit flew free
For the first time in life, I could truly be me.
The chains are gone and possibilities abound
I'm a tree with my roots planted firmly in ground.
I'm now off the sidelines, no need to sit and whine
So much gratitude fills my heart and love and beauty shine.
After all these years I can join the loving human race
I exceed all expectations and now I set the pace.
Nine years ago I was sidelined facing a rather grim and uncertain future according to Western medical science with the diagnosis of post polio syndrome and it's been an incredible healing odyssey. One year ago I was on the sidelines with a knee injury the result of not cross training, not taking enough rest and recovery time between races and working with a massage therapist who not only did not know how work with a runner but went on to set the intention of "Right now your right leg is leading the dance and I'm waiting for your left leg to speak to me." I'm so grateful for the knee injury and all that I learned from working with that massage therapist because it led me to this moment now in my life! I am off the sidelines and right smack in the middle of my glorious life!
One week from today I board a plane for Bermuda; my first trip in 8 years and instead of a wheelchair waiting for me on the tarmac, wearing these shoes that I wore the last time I was in Bermuda:
I'll be bounding down the stairs in my Altra running shoes
enjoying the countdown to when Team McManus toes the starting line of the Bermuda Half Marathon.