Thursday, March 9, 2017

Reclaim Advantage! Reclaim Life! Run Forrest Run!

In February of 2007, after I'd been diagnosed with Post-Polio Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease I sat contemplating a rather grim future.

From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility:"

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 had no muscle memory whatsoever to draw from in my mind or body. I had danced ballet before I contracted paralytic polio but I never ran. I was galloping around the gym in kindergarten but that's not running. I was "Easy Out Alper" (my maiden name) once I came out of the leg brace and participated in gym class again. I always felt heavy and encumbered in my body.

I had to find something to ignite the spark for my motor neurons that was lit when I wrote that poem.

I went on to run the 2009 Boston Marathon:

Something was missing though!

Unlike Forrest Gump, from that day on I couldn't keep on running.

The residual effects of paralytic polio and the build up of gunk in my system kept me stuck in the physical and emotional memories of my past.

I tried to break free through meditation, poetry, visualization but I needed someone with powerful medicine; powerful hands and a method of muscular therapy that would help me to heal and transform the trauma and the effects of paralytic polio.

On April 19, 2015, I found my way Jeffrey Spratt,MT's massage therapy table.

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? After all the only thing I knew about him really was what I read on his website that contained very little information about him. When I did a google search I learned that he taught at the Cortiva Institute, had a degree in aviation and had been a practice manager at Massage Works in Quincy. I did some Facebook stalking and discovered we had mutual friends in common from L Street Running Club. I sent him a photo from One Boston Day with a Facebook message letting him know we had Facebook friends in common. He said he was looking forward to seeing me on Sunday.

With his sweeping arm gesture, he led me into his treatment room and said to Tom who had accompanied me to the appointment since I was worried about getting lost, “We’ll see you in 90 minutes.” He reviewed my intake form and put his black rimmed glasses on top of his head to make eye contact with me. I briefly told him about my trauma history and a history of polio. “Most importantly of all, you need to know that I had a very serious knee injury back in December of 2014. They told me I wouldn’t and couldn’t and shouldn’t run again. It showed I had no gastroc muscle but I’m working with a chiropractor to grow a new one. I’m registered to run the Finish at the 50 race on July 3rd.”

“Okay! Thanks for letting me know all that. Get undressed to your comfort level. I can even work through your clothes if you’d like.”

“I need to feel this guy’s touch,” I thought to myself. After all I’d been through with Joseph, {the previous massage therapist I worked with} my nerves conditioned to abandonment and neglect were on fire. If this was going to be the guy I was going to partner with to go the distance, then I had to let myself be vulnerable and open to experience his touch.

During that treatment he asked me what leg are we rehabbing. At the end of the session he looked straight into my eyes and from his heart he said, "I want you to run unencumbered."

Yesterday Tom and I went on a run. I am pushing my pace now that I am no longer training for a half marathon. It still takes incredible effort to run BUT the leg brace is gone and I am free now to train, cross train, strength train and swim leaving the emotional and physical memories of polio and trauma in the rear view mirror.

Just as my physical therapist, Miss Holly did back in the late 50's and early 60's, Jeffrey is coaxing my body back to health. Unfortunately my recovery was interrupted with Miss Holly and Dr. Moskowitz (my rehab medicine doctor) by the severe abuse, neglect and torture I suffered at the hands of family members.

As Jeffrey said to me during yesterday's treatment, after I said "They wanted me dead but I'm still here - ha!" - "Yes you are and you are thriving. Just think about all those kids who hit their peak in high school. They are taking the retirement pill now. Here you are working out 5 days a week, getting stronger and living this full, vibrant life."

He's right and I know in every fiber of my being that I would not be where I am today without the work we are doing together.

Every week, every day in every way I continue to reclaim my advantage and reclaim my life running free and unencumbered breaking free from the leg brace and the shackles of my past.

Run Forrest....Run ... and from that day on whenever I was goin' somewhere I.was.runnin'!

To your health and wellness,

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