Sunday, April 20, 2014

Five Years Ago Today!

Today's blog is dedicated to all the survivors of 4/15/13 and to all who are running tomorrow. Where we are in one moment in time cannot possibly predict what the future holds for us --

Runners take your mark. Get set. Go! With those words Dave McGillivray sent the mobility impaired runners of the 113th Boston Marathon on April 20, 2009 to begin the 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston. We banked $10,535 for Spaulding Rehab Hospital where, in December 2006, I had been diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular condition. I faced a grim future knowing all too well stories of other polio survivors who were experiencing a decline in functioning.

In February of 2007, I got still and asked for Divine Guidance. The answer came in the form of a poem: (from my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility")

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 was curious about why, as I sat in a leg brace, using a cane and at times a wheelchair for mobility (and having been told that I faced a future in a wheelchair) I was writing about running a race. I began to harness the power of visualization. My pen became my divining rod for healing.

After 6 months of outpatient rehab at Spaulding, I quit my job at the height of my career as a VA social worker. I dedicated my life to healing having no idea what the outcome of that healing would be. I knew that I had to stop loathing myself which was a result of contracting paralytic polio at age 5 and 9 years of unrelenting physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of family members. I knew that I had to stop punishing myself for my father's suicide when I was 17 years old. Even if I were to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, I had to figure a way to create a meaningful, quality of life before I died.

I hired a personal trainer. I began to get stronger. After 6 months of working with my personal trainer, she asked me about my next goals...(from my memoir)

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 non-plussed. 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.

What had I just done?

Off to Marathon Sports where I would be fitted for my first ever pair of running shoes. The first time I ran, my heart rate went over 170. 30 seconds of a run/4.5 minutes of walking became 30 minutes of continuous running. Two miles of running became 5 miles, my first 10K, my first half, 17 miles, 21 miles and then on 4/20/2009, I crossed the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon!

And whether you as a runner face tough moments along the course tomorrow or as we face tough moments and in life, where we are in one moment in time cannot possibly predict what the future holds for us. But together we can always go the distance!

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