Shortly after the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome in December of 2006, I realized I was at a crossroads in my life. I was told to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair and expect an accelerated decline as I aged as a result of the polio virus I contracted at the age of 5.
I got still and asked for Divine Guidance as I had always done when facing life's challenges. I had an out of body experience during the acute phase of paralytic polio and felt touched by grace. It was a cold dark day in February of 2007 as I sat quietly at my dining room table experiencing the dark night of mind, body and soul. I wore a toe up leg brace and had my cane propped on the back of my chair. I had papers spread out all over the table; print outs from mind/body luminaries and "New Age" teachers. Gratitude was the theme that every writer touched upon. One phrase seemed to leap off of the page: "I am so happy and grateful now that I can create..."
"Create?" I thought to myself. I have two grown children and my award winning career as a VA social worker is coming to an end because of my ill health.
And then this poem flowed out of me:
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, 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, alone and afraid tried 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.
It was as though a spigot turned on in my soul. Everywhere I went I had to have pad and pen nearby as poems flowed out of me in which I helped the past of paralytic polio and severe child abuse through forgiveness and gratitude, and created a future for myself very different than the ones the doctors predicted for me.
On May 25, 2007, I took a leap of faith leaving behind my award winning career just 3 years shy of when I was eligible for retirement to "heal my life," and follow my bliss as a poet and my passion as a writer. My undergraduate degree is in Public Relations. One of my professors was a Boston Globe reporter who ignited the passion for writing in my soul.
A note about those first poems I wrote that were in the cadence of Dr. Seuss. Before every painful physical therapy session, my beloved therapist, Miss Holly, lovingly lifted me up into the red leather chair in the waiting room and had me choose a Dr. Seuss book to read with her. She took my hand in hers as we walked into the treatment room. As she coaxed my muscles and nerves back to health, she had me recite Dr. Seuss back to her in tandem to distract me from the excruciating pain of the treatments. It was no wonder that when faced with the challenge of a diagnosis of a progressive neuromuscular disease, the healing cadence of Dr. Seuss emerged from my heart and soul.
"Running the Race" foreshadowed my 2009 Boston Marathon run.
After crossing the finish line, I realized I had a story to share. I wrote "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility."
And before I knew it, I had a Trilogy of Transformation written that expanded on stories shared in the previous two books and went on to share my Adventures as Runnergirl 1953.
After releasing Adventures in April 2019, I was quite content to rest on my writer laurels with my Trilogy and "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life".
When the pandemic swept across the Globe in March 2020, I knew it was time to harness the power of my pen, what I call my divining rod for healing to help me navigate an unprecedented time in American history. I feel blessed and grateful that I was able to chronicle that year in poems and essays:
It's wonderful to celebrate World Book Day 2021 with you and to share my story of how I came to be a writer after 25 years of working as a social worker.From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
For more information about my journey from childhood polio and trauma to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and beyond, visit my website.
"Hope is a Garden:Poems and Essays From the 2020 Pandemic" along with all of my books to inspire and uplift you is available on Amazon.