Thursday, March 30, 2017

Going the Distance: On Pain, Patience, Practice and Process

I am incredibly blessed and grateful that two years ago I found my way to Dr. Ryan Means. Dr. Ryan is a chiropractor and a healer in every sense of the word. When he practiced in Cambridge, MA, he had Thomas Edison's quote on his website. Rather than focusing on fixing me, he partnered with me to help me unleash my body's natural capacity to heal. During his training, he heard Candace Pert, Ph.D. speak which led him to go "Down the Rabbit Hole" exploring the world of quantum healing. He told me I just HAD to read Dr. Joe Dispenza's book, "You Are the Placebo." While I was waiting for my copy to arrive, he sent me a photo from a page in Dr. Joe's book, "Changing the body by thought alone."

I was so excited to think and to believe that I could grow a new gastroc muscle, dissolve bone spurs, reverse osteoarthritis and heal the devastating effects of paralytic polio and trauma!

There are many people who email me or call me who see the results I am experiencing and much like that scene from "When Harry Met Sally" say, "I want what she's having."

They don't see the pain, the process, the patience or the effort of practicing new beliefs and new behaviors until the new habits become stronger than the old habits and beliefs.

In Candace Pert's book, "Everything you need to know to feel Go(o)d," another book recommendation by Dr. Ryan, she talks about how we interpret pain in our bodies. The way we perceive and interpret pain is the way that our bodies will respond to the pain. She talks about if a person is experiencing knee pain and they focus on the pain and believe that it's a recurrence of an injury, then the body responds as if in fact it is a recurrence of an injury. However, if the person believes that the injury is healing and the pain is a sign of healing then the body responds with doing what it needs to do in order to heal.

I refer to the pains I experience in my body as "phantom pains." I used to experience a lot of phantom pain - pain that wasn't happening in the here and now that needed medical attention but pain that had been hard wired into my body as a result of polio, trauma and numerous surgeries. Running has been a game changer for me in alleviating those pains in my legs.

There are times when we need to seek out assistance from physicians but we also need to be mindful of the miracle of our bodies. Divine Intelligence created us and resides within us; a most powerful Force that helps us to ride the waves of pain, be patient as our bodies do what they do naturally to heal, believe in the power of the Force and practice becoming someone new and different from the memorized self.

To your health and wellness!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Boston Marathon Musings and Eddie the Eagle

As I watched the movie, "Eddie the Eagle," (with a box of tissues at hand), I was reminded of my 2009 Boston Marathon run. I closed my eyes on the bus ride out to Hopkinton. When Eddie the Eagle said, "It's a lot higher than I expected it to be," I remember how I felt going out 26.2 miles knowing there was only one way I was going to get back to Boston...and that was on my two feet.

So many wonderful quotes that I identified with in the movie:
"You can do your best and still finish last."
"I love proving people wrong."
"You've got more Spirit than any of those other jumpers out there."

I really had no business running the 2009 Boston Marathon yet it was a calling from deep inside my soul. Any of the nay sayers along the way were quickly unfriended by me on Facebook. I remember there was a FB post about whether or not Charity Runners should even be allowed to run the Boston Marathon. Team McManus raised over $10,000 - $10,535 to be exact for Spaulding Rehab which is where I began this crazy journey 10 years ago.

From "Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance" available on Amazon:

Running? Mary McManus? aka "Easy Out Alper" (my maiden name) - um a rather unlikely combination to say the least. But not impossible despite all appearances to the contrary. After intensive, extensive outpatient rehab through Spaulding Rehab, writing poems, visualizing myself as healthy, whole and free in my body, quitting my stressful job as a VA social worker, and then hiring a personal trainer, I felt this urge inside of me.

At my six-month evaluation in February, I had dramatically improved in every area of the assessment. I had come out of my leg brace and I knew that I was on a healing path. Janine asked me what my next health and fitness goals were.

“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 wrote feverishly and we worked out a plan. She gathered up her belongings and had her hand on the doorknob.

“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.”

Janine was nonplussed. 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 and put down her things. She said that the first thing I would need is a pair of running shoes. She told me that Marathon Sports on Beacon Street would be able to help me. 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.

There was one "ugly" moment on Marathon Monday. We had an early start but by the time we arrived in Framingham the waves of runners were catching up to us. There was a narrow water stop and one guy pushed me and said that I shouldn't be in the Marathon if I were walking. He dumped Gatorade on my running shoes.

I shook it off and went ahead undeterred believing that I had every right to be out on that course. I had worked hard. I had trained and ultimately I crossed that finish line!

I continue to work and at times struggle in my epic journey to heal the effects of paralytic polio and trauma.

That's what makes the triumph so sweet....

And to all of the Mary McManuses and Eddie the Eagles out there I have one thing to say - never ever give up on your dreams!

To your health and wellness,

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

When a run is so much more!

First let me say what a blessing and a gift it is to be able to do my core work and weighted clams and just head out the door on a run.

When "they" told me in December of 2014 after a very serious knee injury that I would never run again, I was heartbroken. Running is my medicine, my therapy, my joy and my sangha (my tribe). I just knew I had to find a way to come back. I was so blessed to first meet Dr. Ryan Means, a chiropractor healer who reignited my belief in my body's capacity to heal and directed me to the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza. Even though Ryan is halfway around the world in China, he is still a part of my Team!

The imprint he left on my heart, body, mind and soul remain and fuel my health and wellness journey!

It was the first temperate weather day in New England in a very long time. It seemed like the joyous bird songs were the accompaniment to everyone's run. We bumped into so many people we know from the running community.

It was one big party from Cleveland Circle down Beacon Street which just happens to be along the Boston Marathon route after the dreaded Heartbreak Hill. Whether runners were training for Boston or getting out to enjoy a run maintaining training for the next event, there was the spring in the step as Spring was in the air.

Our runner friends who we hadn't seen in awhile asked us about our trip and race to Bermuda. There's such a special feeling being able to recap and regale a race with good friends. We bumped into a friend who we thought might have had an injury. We hadn't seen her running in the neighborhood (she runs in all kinds of weather) and then saw her running at a slower pace. She stopped to chat with us and shared with us that yes in fact she was injured but she's back now. She wanted to hear all about the adventures of Team McManus in Bermuda.

Tom and I had a great 5 mile run. One of our friend's had finished up her run but joined us for part of our run which was on the route to her going home.

What a joy that the warmer weather brought so many of our friends out on a Saturday morning to get their run on.

I'm working on my pace as we get ready for two 5K races coming up in April and May. I want to maintain my 5 mile distance while working on speed because next February Team McManus takes on the 40th Anniversary of the Hyannis Marathon Weekend. Oooh interestingly enough we will be celebrating our 40th Anniversary on 3/4th of next year.

I am so grateful and blessed that I can experience the fullness of life at the age of 63 years old in the wake of having experienced paralytic polio and severe childhood trauma.

I am so grateful for the gift of running and the icing on the cake on last Saturday's run was that our run was so much more!

To your health and wellness!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Going the Distance: They said "No way!" I said "Watch me!"

In yesterday's blog post I talked about reclaiming my Spirit. I made reference to Eddie the Eagle who was told by everyone that he would never make it to the Olympics. I can't wait to watch the movie this weekend!

From the time I was 5 years old, I was receiving negative, rejecting messages from all around me. The people who were supposed to take care of me were hoping that I would die from the polio virus. Starting at the age of 8, unthinkable acts were perpetrated upon me. "You tell anyone and I'll kill you."

I did, however, have a moment of redemption in gym class. My nickname was Easy Out Alper (my maiden name). I was always the last pick. During kickball everyone moved in from the outfield taunting with Easy Out Alper. One day, it was a very movie like moment...after everyone moved in from the outfield, I connected with the ball. went into the outfield only there was no one there to make the play so I scored a home run limping triumphantly around the bases!

Ten years ago I was given the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. No way should you even attempt to run. If you use it you will lose it. Something inside of me was literally and metaphorically burning to move. I couldn't accept what the doctors were telling me although I had no idea how I was going to get out of a toe up leg brace:

to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon.

All I said was "Watch me!"

Rewind to December 2014. An MRI showed degenerative changes in my knee joint from osteoarthritis and reconstructive leg surgery, bone spurs, a fatty lipoma and an atrophied gastroc muscle. No way should you run again - well we told you to not run in the first place. Come into the Post Polio Clinic again for a reevaluation. Let's see what we can do because you know this isn't going to get any better. The gastroc muscle is gone. We know that's what happens after polio. There's nothing you can do about it and that's why you have to be so careful. But I know you're gonna do what you're gonna do but just don't run any farther than 5 miles.

Okay I said for about a New York minute. I was about to affirmatively respond to the "No way" message until the Universe made it abundantly clear to me that this was not the path for me! A physical therapist from hell and a whole "Team" of people telling me no way. You're going to hurt yourself. You need a knee replacement. Cautionary tales and cautionary messages from even the massage therapist I was working with at the time.

Yes I was injured. I was not cross training and I was pushing myself way too hard. I did 9 races in 9 months. I wrote poetry with even greater fervor and as I look back on all the poems I wrote, I was conjuring up healers who would help me to go the distance in my healing journey liberated from the shackles of paralytic polio and trauma AND the beliefs that were embedded in the very fiber of my body and being.

It took great courage and strength to stand up to those who wanted to destroy me; to those who had limiting beliefs about what is possible. But through the power of my imagination, my strong faith, my pen - my Divining rod for healing and having been touched by grace I have been able to say to the world Watch me now!

To your health and wellness,

My latest book, 'Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance' is available on Amazon chronicling my journey to health and wellness as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma and a woman who refused to quit!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Going the Distance: On Patience and Reclaiming Beauty!

It's been two years since my beloved chiropractor healer, Dr. Ryan taught me about the proper form for squats and about using the support of the wall. It was shortly after a serious knee injury in December of 2014 when a physiatrist, physical therapists and even the massage therapist I was working with at the time told me that I shouldn't/wouldn't/couldn't run again. Oh but if I did it should be no more than a 5 miler. "We told you shouldn't have been running in the first place, but it's your life and you're gonna do what you're gonna do....Why don't you schedule appointments again at the Post-Polio Clinic and let's see how we can help you....Yes you're gastroc muscle is atrophied. We know that. It's been that way since you had polio. There's nothing you can do about that."

Oh really?

Dr. Ryan turned me onto the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza. I poured over "You Are the Placebo." Dr. Ryan taped my calf to stimulate the growth of new muscle. He recommended gastroc muscle strengthening exercises. At first I could not go up and down on my toes on my left leg - the leg most affected by the polio virus. We used the concept of mirror neurons; stimulating the connection of my left leg by "watching" the right leg move up and down on my toes while stimulating the connection of going up and down on my toes with both legs. Little by little, with patience, I have grown a new gastroc muscle! I continue to practice gastroc muscle strengthening exercises both on land and in the pool.

This past Sunday while strength training on land - a milestone in and of itself because for years I wasn't able to strength train on land due to the effects of childhood/adolescent trauma and paralytic polio - I was able to do 25 squats away from the wall. It just happened. My body was ready and everything fired up to make that happen.

Perhaps one of my greatest challenges in healing the effects of paralytic polio and trauma has been reclaiming my beauty. The woman who gave birth to me and the woman who gave birth to her had this twisted and convoluted view of beauty. In all fairness, part of that was cultural back in the 60's but where things went terribly awry was their reaction to me after contracting paralytic polio.

I was a beautiful ballerina with long shiny hair. I was graceful and loved being in my body.

Imagine if you will the story from "A Chorus Line" - "At the Ballet"

My ballet teacher, Miss Patricia was my role model for beauty and grace.

After disaster struck with contracting paralytic polio, I felt ugly and despised my body. They carted me off to the hairdresser to get my hair cut off because long hair was too much trouble to take care of. As if that were not enough to leave me feeling ugly, physical, sexual and emotional abuse began when I was 8 years old, just 3 years after contracting paralytic polio and continued until I was 17.

I have to continue to practice patience as my body continues to heal from the ravages of paralytic polio and violence. The pain I experience is the pain of healing; the soreness a sign of strength.

I reclaim my beauty that reflects the incredible resilience of my Spirit and the Love in my heart; beauty in the wrinkles and the silver in my hair that reflect the passage of time.

I celebrate all of my gains in these past 2 years and the incredible journey of transformation and I adopt the pace of Mother Nature as I continue to challenge myself and heal the wounds of a war torn youth.

To your health and wellness,

My latest book, 'Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance' is available on Amazon chronicling my journey to health and wellness as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma and a woman who refused to quit!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Camp Hyannis Part III - A Celebration of Healing

May 25, 2017 marks 10 years since I left my award winning career as a VA social worker to "heal my life." I had no idea what that meant! From "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility:"

I sat at my dining room table on a freezing cold dark February evening. No one else was at home. I had printouts from ‘new age’ teachers spread out all over the table. Dr. Bernie Siegel, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins, teachers from “The Secret” which was very popular back in the day were beckoning me. The theme was gratitude and a call to create.

“I am so happy and grateful that I can create,” was an affirmation from a Lisa Nichols newsletter.

Create? Create? I asked myself over and over again. What am I going to create? I had twins and my childbearing years were over. My career was quickly coming to an end.

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:

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.

I sobbed to write those words. I had never spoken about polio or the abuse I endured. I became curious. Why am I writing about winning a 10K race?

I was foreshadowing my 2009 Boston Marathon run.

My first Half Marathon was at the Hyannis Marathon Weekend. I emailed the race director, Paul Collyer to make sure that it was an all paces friendly race. I will always remember how supportive Paulie was and has been through the years.

In 2010, I wasn't sure whether or not I was going to ever be able to run again. Tom ran that year and I had a table at the Expo representing Spaulding Rehab:

The summer of 2010 I returned to the roads and a Paulie race! My comeback race was The Charles River Run where Team McManus held hands high triumphantly crossing the finish line.

I went on to PR after PR in different races with Paulie's Jingle Bell Run in Somerville capping off an incredible "run".

In 2011, I ran the Hyannis 10K with my friend Deborah Doiron. Huge snowflakes fell and there was slush underneath our feet but we were so happy to best our 2010 Tufts 10K time.

The wheels fell off the wagon in 2011 after my nephew's suicide but in 2013, after being across the street from where the 2nd bomb exploded at The Forum celebrating my 2009 Boston Marathon run with my Race for Rehab teammates, I knew I had to get back into running.

After another stellar running year in 2014, willing myself to PR and running 9 races in 9 months, I had a serious knee injury. I was not cross training. I had what turned out to be a massage therapist from hell. Trauma and the effects of paralytic polio were still stuck in my body. Things were looking grim - for about a minute - and I decided that no way was anyone going to tell me I couldn't/shouldn't/wouldn't run again or cap my distance thanks to finding my way to Dr. Ryan J Means, a chiropractor healer and the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza.

I went on to run the 2016 Bermuda Half Marathon after not being able to run a distance longer than 10K since having run Boston in 2009

What a joy to share my journey at the Race Expo and then run the Hyannis 10K!:

Paulie cheered us on to the finish telling us to stay to the left and head straight to the finish!

Would I be a one hit wonder as I had been before on my healing journey unable to maintain positive momentum?

I went on to run my second CONSECUTIVE Bermuda Half Marathon in January 2017. It wasn't pretty but as I have done throughout my life when facing challenges, I would not quit:

After the toll that the Half took on me, I knew that I needed to take time to recover and to cheer Tom on in his Hyannis Half. I was blessed to meet so many inspiring people.

I presented Frank Shorter with a copy of my book, "Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance." In the introduction, I share how Frank had been a part of my journey since 2009 when I ran my first Half Marathon:
After crossing the finish line of my first half marathon, I came into the ballroom at the Hyannis Resort and Conference Center filled with thousands of runners. Frank Shorter made sure he connected with me amidst the runners celebrating after the race. He could tell that the run had taken a lot of out of me. I was shivering from the sleet that had started falling during the last several miles of the race. He put both of his hands on either side of my arms, looked at me straight in the eye and told me how much courage and strength I had to do what I had just done. He told me he had no doubt that I was going to cross the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon. He told me to hydrate, get some hot soup and take a hot shower. He signed the back of my bib. Frank had seen me as a survivor of paralytic polio who came out of a wheelchair and leg brace to take on the Boston Marathon. I saw him through the starry eyes of a novice runner meeting an Olympic Gold Medalist and an elite runner in every sense of the word.

When I saw Frank again in 2010 at Hyannis, I brought my bib from my Boston Marathon run for him and Bill Rodgers to sign. Frank Shorter signed it: “To Mary, You're unbelievable”

He inspired me to write my book and share my story as a survivor of paralytic polio and severe child abuse after he broke his silence about the severe abuse he suffered at the hands of his father in 2011. Two of Frank's family members contracted polio and ironically enough, his father who was a physician was instrumental in containing the polio epidemic in 1952 in his home town.

The connections, the coming full circle and experiencing a beautiful weaving together of the tapestry of my life came together for me at Camp Hyannis 2017, ten years after writing that first poem and making a choice to not take the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome sitting down!

Out of a hell of a past where I felt I was torn and tattered and shattered into pieces, I have discovered the treasure and the Truth of who I am. My heart overflows with gratitude.

Ten years later - ten years - I celebrate my healing and thank you for being along for the ride!

What's next? You'll have to tune in to tomorrow's blog...

To your health and wellness,