Friday, August 30, 2013

Seven Years Later - Finding My Strength at Spaulding's Aquatics Center

So just about this time seven years ago I hit my bottom. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I did not know what was wrong with me but Spirit prompted me to google post polio syndrome. I had to start somewhere and I was so blessed that Spaulding Rehab Hospital had a post polio clinic in Framingham. I remember the day I found the courage to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment. I was greeted by an angel who talked with me for 45 minutes about what can happen years after contracting paralytic polio. She sent me a book, a packet of information to fill out and we scheduled my first appointment in October.

I began outpatient therapy at Spaulding Boston since it was right down the street from my office at the VA Outpatient Clinic. I was sent another angel Alison Lamarre Poole, my physical therapist who did not subscribe to the traditional post polio philosophy back then of if you use it you will lose it. She was determined to help me find my strength. The full version of this part of my journey will be shared in my memoir, "Coming Home:A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility." I give thanks to her in my heart every day for the work we did together that gave me the strength to walk away from my 20 year award winning career as a VA social worker to heal my life. In our last session together she said, "You're going to continue to do the work right because you don't want to go back to where you were do you?" I cried as I hugged her and said absolutely not.

It's been quite the journey these past 7 years .... from a wheelchair to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon, a "relapse" and a return to outpatient care, running with a vengeance and competing in road races and winding my way through a maze of different not so helpful healing modalities.

I took the tour of the new Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Charlestown shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings. It was an opportunity to not only tour the new facility but to reunite with those I had been with at the Mandarin Oriental when the bombings happened. Part of the tour brought us to the new Aquatics Center pictured above. At the time I was practicing yoga 5-6 times/week. Yet something whispered to me to take the information sheets about the community aquatics classes.

Last night I attended my first class led by the vibrant and knowledgeable Diana Fischer, PT, a clinical supervisor for the pool and the spine. She had another PT assist her to demonstrate the exercises and provide verbal support to the group members from the side of the pool. The pool is heated to 90 degrees and after putting on my buoyancy belt, my body embraced being in the heated pool.

We began with a gentle jog and then incorporated sweeping alternating arm movements into the motion for cardiovascular benefits. Coordinating arm movements with walking is a neuromuscular challenge for me but I had a few moments of making the connection. When faced with a challenge, I no longer focus on what I am unable to do but open to knowing that my body has enormous capacity for learning and change as long as I continue to nourish new neuromuscular pathways.

Diana and her assistant provided words of support and encouragement, created an atmosphere of trust and a sense of play and community among the group members while providing education about the functional aspects of the different exercises. They provided cues to ensure safety in the movements.

You can choose from Find Your Aquatic Strength that meets 2 days/week
Core strength in the pool that meets weekly for 45 minutes
They also have Aquatic Therapy for Brain Injury that meets weekly for 6 weeks and Aquatic Therapy for Limb Amputations that meets twice/week for 60 minutes. The classes are only $10/class.

If you need individual sessions, you can get a doctor's order for aquatic therapy which is not needed for community classes.

For more information call Spaulding's Aquatic Center at 617-952-5153 or email

I have come full circle in these past seven years and now look forward to an exciting time of finding and building my strength as I prepare to enter the decade of my sixties on Christmas Day!

Moving Forward from the soon to be released A Celebration of Life. My books of inspirational poetry are available on Amazon

Tethered and tied up to what once was
decades ago
staples, sutures – scar tissue
tenderly released
my form reappears

now training for a 5K
training mind
moving mindfully
retraining body

a surprising bounce in my step
a lightness in my heart
awesome creation
how is this possible?

A beacon of light for others
of what IS possible
once defeated
now defying the odds

trusting in this miracle
moving forward.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Two Four Letter Words

I was sitting out on my lawn on this glorious August day and my eyes began to fill with tears. My thankful heart was overflowing with gratitude. Six years ago I was sitting on my front lawn wearing a short leg brace barely able to get up out of a lawn chair. I couldn't get off of a low toilet seat independently. I used a shower chair because I was too unsteady on my feet and fatigued to be able to take a shower on my own. I sat with pen in hand writing poetry, breathing as best I could at the time. I was beginning to feel better than when I had first presented to the Spaulding Rehab's International Center for Post Polio Syndrome. But the words of the team echoed in my ears. "If you follow all of our recommendations, the best you can hope for is to prevent a progression of the symptoms."

They meant well - really they did believing that there wasn't much to hope for as a polio survivor with post polio syndrome. But hope is a beautiful four letter word and while my body was ravaged with the residuals of trauma and paralytic polio, my heart as expressed through the divining rod of my pen expressed hope. Those early poems were all about visualizing health, wholeness, peace and joy. Gratitude was a constant theme throughout my poetry (and still is). I did not know what the future held for me. And the outcome did not matter. I was accepting everything as it was in the moment managing the physical discomfort with frequent naps, a lot of prayer and a heaping helping of hope for healing of my heart and Spirit which felt so beaten down by life's events.

I had read Bernie Siegel's book Love, Medicine and Miracles in the 80's. He told a story of Evy McDonald diagnosed with ALS. She was also a polio survivor. She decided that she wasn't going to die hating her body and so she sat naked in front of the mirror in her wheelchair, "feeling as though her body were a bowl of jello" and she began a daily practice of giving herself unconditional love. Today Evy is a minister in a church in upstate New York. The healing of her heart and Spirit brought about a physical change in her body.

Yet those two four letter words, hope and love, became a powerful force of healing in the work and in my life.

Freedom from the soon to be released A Celebration of Life. My books of inspirational poetry are available on Amazon.

Freedom from fear
from want
from greed
from need

beautiful butterfly
fragile white wings
allows the gentle summer breeze
to carry her without a care

freedom from worry
am I good enough
did I do enough
freedom from guilt

bird song need never ask
how was that
freedom from applause and approval
trust in the beauty of your own heart song


Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Wedding and Two Unlikely Runners - "Falmouth is Boston Strong" - Four Months Later

***Tissue warning when you click on the links to read the articles I share with you in today's post. ***

Two years ago I stopped running and focused on my yoga practice. Truth be told, I didn't know whether or not I would ever return to the roads. I would have bet money that I would not find myself in a field of runners again for a road race. Nope not me. Those days were behind me. I didn't feel well enough or strong enough in my body to return to running.

On April 15, 2013 at 2:50 pm, my body would be put to the test as Tom and I had to walk away from the scene of the Boston Marathon bombings to safety. We were blessed to have been protected from seeing the carnage. We were blessed that the hotel staff at the Mandarin Oriental were skillful and adept to lead everyone out to safety. I was blessed to be able to walk almost 3 miles to our car at a brisk pace being able to breathe deeply and move in my body rather than have to force my body to move.

We were with our friend Greg Gordon who was our teammate from the 2009 Boston Marathon Race for Rehab team. He is the race organizer for the Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K- the last event I participated in two years ago. After Marathon Monday, I knew it was time for me to return to running and the Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K Fun Run is the perfect event for me to train for. In addition to training, I have reconnected with my friends in the running community. Ahh one of the blessings of Facebook.

One of the friends I reconnected with is Marcie Butler who I met through the Merrimack Valley Striders Club. I was fortunate to be their guest speaker on two occasions sharing my inspirational Boston Marathon run with the members of their club. I met members of MVS when I ran my first half marathon in Hyannis in 2009. Tom and I saw Marcie at different races and I always enjoyed her Facebook posts. Recently I saw that she was talking about her wedding this weekend and I thought how cool, she is getting married the weekend of the Falmouth Road Race. Um not exactly - she is getting married at the starting line of the Falmouth Road Race before the start of the race which I discovered through the Facebook stream.

You can read the full story at Couples Passion for Running Sparks Romance.

Tom ran Falmouth twice. I was fortunate to be a spectator both times to cheer him on. It's a magical time to be in Falmouth as runners take over the town. I decided to enjoy the excitement in cyber space and 'liked' the Falmouth Road Race on facebook.

I saw these two articles posted:
Higgins:Is Desire to run strong enough to run Falmouth?
I relate to his response to the bombings and the desire and the need to be out there running and being a part of the running community. He visited the memorial in Boston and took one of his T shirts from the Falmouth Road Race and wrote Falmouth is Boston Strong on it.

And this article Peter Riddle Survives Boston Bombing - Runs First Falmouth Road Race Peter was across the street from where we were at The Forum when the 2nd bomb exploded celebrating with members of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation which helps raise funds for cancer patients. He was physically uninjured in the blast but is experiencing internal wounds as so many of us are. But rather than allow those wounds to cause him to contract in fear or anger, he is finding a way to heal those wounds through participating in the Pan Mass Challenge and the Falmouth Road Race with an eye on Boston 2014.

I am sure there are many more stories of how Falmouth is Boston Strong among the 10,000 runners that will take their place at the starting line. I will be with Marcie, Paul, Bill and Peter in spirit as they demonstrate that, four months later, we are Boston Strong!

Addendum 8/11/13 They made the front page of the Cape Cod Times (along with President Obama's visit to the Vineyard) and here is a grand photo of the wedding party with Dave McGilvrey at the start of the Falmouth Road Race:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy Moments in the Rain

In the cold winter of February 2007, during the dark night of my body and soul when I had no idea what the future held for me, I wrote a poem, "Come Out and Play" that is in my first book of poetry, "New World Greetings:Inspirational Poetry and Musings for a New World"

Come Out and Play
Arms flung open wide, dancing in the rain
Pure abiding joy to feel alive again.
Healing tears fall and blend in God's puddle
No time to sit in a corner and huddle.
All the old ways driven by fears
Washed away now by God's loving tears.
The imprint Dad left no longer remains
Rain washes away all of the stains.
Baptised with Love, Truth lights my way
The sun shines through on this rainy day
Splashing and laughing my heart opens wide
Embracing and flowing I'm one with the tide.
God takes my hand - release the old way

Please bear in mind that I was in a short leg brace,

wore a wrist splint at night to treat carpel tunnel syndrome, had difficulty swallowing and breathing although I was beginning to experience some relief with the therapies I was receiving through Spaulding Rehab Outpatient Clinic in Boston and my prognosis was "guarded" at best meaning that the best we could hope for was that the symptoms would not progress if I followed all of the recommendations of my treatment team and left my full time award winning career as a VA social worker just 3 years shy of retirement. I was scared. But somewhere my Spirit was beginning to speak through my pen which had become my divining rod for healing. I wrote that poem after having a dream in which I shed my leg brace and was dancing barefoot in the rain a la Gene Kelly going up and down on the sidewalk in all of these fancy moves.

This morning it was raining. I started to venture outside for my training power walk for the Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K Fun Run and I thought, um no. After all, we have a treadmill. I "fired" up the treadmill and as I began my power walk, I realized that the treadmill was not going to work for me. So I got a hat, my 2009 Boston Marathon jacket, my iPod and water belt and off I went to do my 3.5 miles in the rain.

As the rain poured down on me, I felt a sense of happiness. I smiled. I remembered many training runs in the rain for the '09 Marathon with a distance a lot longer than 3.5 miles but I certainly did not feel as well as I did today. I was completely in the moment of each footstep. At one point, I was so lost in the moment that I didn't even realize I was halfway around my 2nd loop of the reservoir. I experienced a delightful sense of disorientation with the rain and being lost in the moment.

I reflected on how lucky I am and how I blessed I am to be able to experience Happy Moments in the Rain.