".....comes from deep within us - from the unconscious, the instinctive, the intuitive." ~George Sheehan, MD
Following numerous orthopedic leg surgeries, I would be in an immobilizer and crutches. As I hobbled around watching runners train for the Boston Marathon, I would joke, "Oh I'm not gonna run it this year."
Even though I had never run a day in my life; never even owned a pair of running shoes and was taunted and teased whenever I did try to run in gym class, as a survivor of paralytic polio, there was a runner inside of me just waiting to be born.
And as I sat in a leg brace, using a wheelchair at times for mobility feeling just about the worst I ever felt in my life having been diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease, I wrote the poem
Running the Race February 2007
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-t
rying 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.
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.
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.
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.
And a year later, as my personal trainer asked me what my next goals were I rattled off, "I want to go outside. I want to dance. I want to feel free in my body." And as she had all of her things packed up with her hand on the door knob (she was an in home personal trainer), I said those words that came from deep within me bypassing any thought process whatsoever, "Wait...I have one more goal. I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding. I know they have a charity team."
After my nephew's suicide in 2011, I forgot the truth about running and set off on this detour to try to fix my polio body from the outside in through the work of KMI Structural Integration.
I was running just fine but they convinced me otherwise. And sure I did need healing and I needed to build strength but the kind of yoga they offered and KMI Structural Integration were not healing for me.
Every situation has a purpose and led me to where I am today.
I found my way to Aquatics Therapy at Spaulding Rehab which was just what I needed to find my strength and provides a perfect complement to my running. I am nourishing my neuromuscular system and making new connections and building strength in a safe, fun and joyful space.
I found my way to a mind/body therapist at Sollievo Massage and Bodywork where, in my most recent session, I discovered what I knew to be Truth all along. I am perfect just as I am.
Every time I am out on a run, I am reminded of the expansiveness of life. I connect with nature and know that this Universe is large enough to hold all the pain I have lived through. I no longer have to carry it inside of me but rather, am meant to live a life of peace and joy. I realize my inner strength that flows from the wellspring of perfection in me. Through running and through running a marathon, I discovered that I am strong enough to handle whatever life may bring. There was never anything wrong with me. There was never anything that needed to be fixed. I just went through a period of confusion induced by grief and reconnecting with the energy of my family of origin.
But now I'm back running, strength training feeling blessed and grateful. For as George Sheehan also said, 'The true runner is a very fortunate person. He has found something in him that is just perfect.'
"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.