As everyone made their way into the pool for Wednesday's Find Your Aquatic Strength class at Spaulding Rehab, the music of Michael Jackson filled the air.
When the song Beat It came on
I realized that seven years ago I did not set out to "beat" post polio syndrome. I set out to heal my life. I knew the story of Evy McDonald from Bernie Siegel's Love, Medicine and Miracles book that he wrote in the late 70's. She was given 6 months to live after being diagnosed with ALS. Today she is thriving and is a minister in upstate New York. She is also a survivor of polio. She decided that she did not want to die hating her body. She sat in front of a mirror naked in her wheelchair feeling like her body was a "bowl of jello" and found a way to love herself. Love does indeed heal. Perhaps more than any of the therapies that I experienced when I was first diagnosed with post polio syndrome was the love and compassion I received from the therapists. It was the first time that anyone "bore witness" to my experience of paralytic polio. I was no longer an outcast and a leper. I learned how to love myself unconditionally. I took the first steps on my long journey home.
In Wednesday's class as Karis led us through our paces, one of the women with whom I have become friends and I couldn't help but sing to The Man In The Mirror
Karis said that she was totally on board with karaoke aquatics!
As we returned to the shallow end to work upper body strength, I needed the wall to support me for the first set of biceps curls but the music got me really pumped and by the second circuit, I was able to harness my core strength and work those bicep curls without support.
In Wednesday's class, I allowed my body to luxuriate in the sensations of the warm water that swirled around me as I made waves with my movements. I thought about the contrast between the warmth and softness of the water that embraced me with the woolen blankets that were once used during the painful physical therapy sessions to help me recover from paralytic polio.
As we cooled down and stretched to the sounds of You Are Not Alone
we realized that Karis, our wonderful therapist, who had been a dancer, choreographed a playlist to accompany our workout as we found our aquatic strength. I loved watching her dance moves and the freedom with which she moves in her body. She inspires me to continue to find strength and freedom in my body.
Karis is going to run the 2014 Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab. She has never run before. She ran her first 5K this week and stretched with us. She told me that I inspire her on her road to the Boston Marathon.
I find this entire journey absolutely thrilling!
Coming Home from A Celebration of Life available on Amazon
A stranger to myself
broken and defeated
cement thick walls
no way out
no way in
my light flickered and dimmed
never went out
as he breathed me
he fanned flames of hope
I’d stumble and fall
he held out a hand to me
knowing that love lights the way
I’m coming home.