Tuesday, July 8, 2014

#transformationtuesday Building Strength - I am a Champion!

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

The buzzing hum from the fluorescent lights echoed the buzzing in my nervous system. I sat waiting for my first appointment at the post polio clinic at the IRCP. My complexion was as white as the paper that covered the exam table. I felt as fragile and vulnerable as that piece of paper that gets ripped off and tossed away after the exam. Every inch of my body hurt. I was exhausted. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I hadn’t really cared whether or not I woke up in the morning but I had a husband and twins that needed me. Ironically enough I was at the peak of my career as a VA social worker. I couldn’t sleep. I felt depressed. My award-winning career as a social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs no longer fueled my soul. Somewhere deep inside of me there was a feeling that there had to be a way out of the hell I was living in.

The symptoms began in 1996. I had episodes of feeling fatigue and muscle burning. I was anxious. At times, I noticed that the limp from paralytic polio returned. In 1992, I had reconstructive leg surgery to correct the deformity of my left leg and to avoid a total knee replacement at the young age of 39 years old. Here I was 7 years later feeling as though my body was beginning to deteriorate and my life falling apart.

How many miles I've traveled on the roads and in my life since my first visit to Spaulding in October of 2006.

For the first time in my healing odyssey I feel that I am in control of my journey. I can choose to be aware and mindful rather than reactive and fearful. I am learning to not attach to any particular outcome or what is happening in my body on any particular day. I abide with the uncertainty and impermanence of it all. For me, that is the meaning of feeling empowered; I have the strength and courage to manage whatever is while doing everything within my power to be as healthy and fit as I possibly can.

Do I experience fear? You bet I do but I am learning how to manage feeling fear rather than being fearful. I no longer fight against or try to overcome or feel a need to fight back against the ghosts of my past. I am learning how to be present and how to enjoy the present.

This morning during Aquatics Therapy at Spaulding Rehab Hospital, I focused on building strength. I thought about how far I'd come since I first walked into Spaulding over 7 years ago. I allowed the magic of the healing therapeutic water combined with the exercises to fuel my belief that I can continue to build strength. The Aquatics Therapy is a perfect complement to my running twice/week. We work to build upper and lower body strength while improving flexibility.

I learned throughout my journey that nothing can be forced. Everything must flow from the inside out. When I tried to strength train on land using traditional methods of strength training without the guidance of a trained therapist, I ended up either injured or more deconditioned than when I began. I know how fortunate I am to have access to Spaulding's Aquatics Therapy program which has made a huge difference in how I feel in my body, mind and Spirit. It's uplifting to be able to do squats and build strength in the warm water. When working on balance, if I fall, I tumble into the pool. It's a judgment free zone where all who attend the classes are there to heal and build strength. We laugh together and honor our challenges.

While there are medals and photos that mark my physical transformation, there is no way to physically capture the essence of my spiritual transformation. I have gone from someone whose life spiraled out of control and not having a clue about what was happening in my body to someone who can now connect the dots and understand, with at times painstaking clarity, what has happened to me. With that awareness comes a sense of strength. I can feel at home in Aquatics Therapy classes and among runners - elite runners and champions. Because I know I am one of them. The result of the one two punch of paralytic polio and violence may have knocked me down for awhile. I was pretty close to a knock out after my nephew's suicide but I never quit. I got back up, took off the gloves and continued on my journey. I am building strength on the roads, in the pool and in my life and I raise my arms in celebration of being the champion of my life.

Foot Strike
Each strike struck a chord of fear

How would I ever reclaim my life?

Holding onto hope
waiting for the day
when memories would no longer weigh heavy
free to run my own race.

Stomping in anger
striking back
shadow boxing with the thief
who stole away childhood innocence
a no win.

Each foot strike ignites my soul
fired up to run my best race
taking the lead
breaking finisher’s tape

today I won my race.

My memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility" is now available on Amazon.

"Wait, I have one more goal," Mary McManus told her personal trainer in February of 2008 shortly after coming out of her toe up leg brace. "I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital." Mary traded in her polio shoes for running shoes and embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Mary McManus was at the height of her career as a VA social worker when she was told by her team at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s International Rehab Center for Polio in December of 2006 that she needed to quit her job if she had any hope of preventing the progression of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. In “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary takes you on her seven year healing odyssey as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma from her diagnosis, to taking a leap of faith to leave her award winning career at the VA to heal her life and follow her passion as a poet and writer. You’ll experience her trials, tribulations and triumphs as she trains for and crosses the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and discovers the opportunity for healing in the wake of new trauma: the suicide of her nephew in 2011, and the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. This is Mary's journey of coming home to her human form free from the influences of the ghastly ghostly invaders who had invaded her sacred earthly home. Her memoir includes journals and blog posts from her seven year healing odyssey. This is her journey of transformation and her message of healing, hope and possibility.

I donate 50% of royalty payments through on line sales to The One Fund to help Boston Marathon survivors and their families. Copies are also available at Brookline Marathon Sports. $5 of each book sold at Marathon Sports is donated to The One Fund.

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