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 then Jeffrey Spratt, LMT a massage therapist.
From Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance:
He greeted me at the Front Desk of Wave Health and Fitness all 6’2 and a half inches of him (6’3” on the program he once told me) dressed in his collared black Spratt Muscular Therapies shirt and beige khakis. My hands shook as I tried to complete the intake form. Do I dare trust another massage therapist? What if he turns out to be just like all the other body workers I met during these past 8 years? Was he trustworthy?
Immediately Jeffrey began to palpate my back through the sheet with strong compressions. He moved his hands over my entire body and asked, “Does the face cradle feel okay? Can you breathe okay?”
“Yes,” I said as I felt a smile come across my face.
“I’m sorry – could you remind me again where you were in the bombings?”
My tension began to melt away.
“What leg are we rehabbing?” he asked me.
“The left,” I replied
He took my left leg, bent it to a 90 degree angle and gently but confidently tapped it on the table and stretched it while using his other hand to apply pressure to different pressure points.
I was intrigued and enthralled.
I had never experienced anyone work with me the way Jeffrey worked with me in that first session. He used very little product, worked a lot through the sheets and rather than attending to an area and having it be once and done, he moved around my body and methodically went back to work on areas again. I experienced a sense of stillness and peace on the table feeling so comfortable and at ease while Jeffrey worked with me. As he finished with a clearing of the energy, he placed his left hand on my right shoulder while he turned his body toward the door. He turned his head and gently looked down at me, “Okay Mary…take your time getting up. I left a hot towel for you if you’d like to use it….Please don’t rush. Take your time. Open the door a crack when you’re dressed.”
“How are you feeling?” Jeffrey asked me as he handed me a cold bottle of water as a wine steward presents a fine bottle of wine at the finest restaurant.
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 to Jeffrey whose healing hands and compassionate presence help me to finally experience the fullness of life liberated from the shackles of my past; reclaiming my life.
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,