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March 23, 1986 – a day I’ll never forget! I am guessing most mothers remember the births of their children with an amazing amount of clarity. It IS a life changing event, especially the birth of the first child, so that should not be surprising. But every year, I think about the events of that day (and the night before as well) and it seems so hard to believe it happened 26 years ago! Wow!

I often stray from my self-prescribed topics of blog posts for Push to Walk, but today I am going to tie in triumphs and successes to one of my favorite people in the whole entire world – my son, Darren. Today he is 26 years old, and I am going to do what every mother loves to do – brag about their children.

Darren was always the strong, silent type. He was not rambuctious, running around crazy or loud. He was thoughtful, sensitive and caring. He is still all of those things and more. After sustaining his spinal cord injury at age 18, we shared many hugs and tears, more than one would ever imagine. We have also shared smiles and laughter, along with more hugs and tears of the happy kind. I think this has all brought us closer. But the fact remains that he is 26, wants to be independent, on his own and making his own decisions. As with most moms of young adult children, we let them find their way, make mistakes, offer guidance and then hold our breath as we watch them conquer the world.  Sometimes they trip and fall, but we are not always there to catch them. They (hopefully!) figure it all out.

Darren lived on campus three of his four years of undergraduate school. He then moved back home while getting his Master’s Degree. Almost simultaneously, he graduated, got a full time job and moved into his own apartment. I thought it was too many new things to do all at once. Can’t you get settled in your job before you move out, I asked. Don’t you want to enjoy a little time off before you start working for the rest of your life? Don’t you want to live at home and save some money? All of the answers, of course, were no. He had a plan and he followed it.

All of those things happened about 9 months ago. And all of those things seem to be going well. I say “seem,” because I am not privy to all the details of his life anymore. He is private and keeps some things to himself. I respect that. I’m curious, yes! But he tells me what he wants, and I guess what he thinks I need to know. I have to accept that. And that is OK.

So for today, I am trumpeting about Darren’s successes and triumphs. He is doing what so many other 26 year olds want and should be doing. Don’t get the wrong idea – every day is not a happy one, for either of us. We have our down days, our sad days, our frustrating days. The days I still want to scream and yell – Why Darren? Why me? Why us? Why ALL of us in the world of spinal cord injuries? There are no answers, no solutions, except to look deep inside ourselves and listen to our hearts. Acknowledge the hurt, but also the joy. Accept what is today, and hope for a better tomorrow. Recognize the weakness, but concentrate on strength. And, as much as possible, stay positive.

As I reflect on Darren’s 26 years of life, I celebrate all that he is, who he is and how he lives his life. I am so proud to be his Mom, and I wish him the BEST birthday ever.

Thank you for reading these words from my heart.  I am grateful to have the opporuntiy to write and share my feelings. I hope you enjoy sharing them with me.

Cynthia

P.S. Celebrate Darren’s birthday by registering TODAY for Push to Walk’s Poker Tournament on March 31. The price goes up $25 at midnight tonight!!

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After a busy weekend, and one that included a HUGE Super Bowl win for the Giants and two great wins for the Devils, I have to admit I’m not feeling very inspired or creative for my blog this morning. So this title refers to me as much as others! I had to sit and write this entry, so the “just do it” motto applies to all of us at one time or another! And while it might seem cliche or overused, the simple slogan really has some merit and applies to SO many people and situations.

I checked some of my regular sites for inspiration, and it didn’t take me long to find something on the Reeve Foundation website. I read about a woman (Saralee Perel) who wrote how she was inspired to do one small thing which had big consequences and positive results.  The old movie “City Slicker” encouraged her to do just one thing, keep it simple, and take charge. You can read her story at http://www.christopherreeve.org/site/c.mtKZKgMWKwG/b.7958339/k.6979/The_First_Step_is_Not_About_Walking.htm.

Saralee’s writing reminded me of a relatively new client we have at Push to Walk. A young man of thirty-something, he came to us two years after sustaining a spinal cord injury from a motorcycle accident. Depressed, frustrated, angry and upset are some of the words he has used to describe himself. Now coming for regular exercise workouts, he is starting to feel better both physically and emotionally. His fragile sense of self is still challenged every day, but little by little, he is starting to have more good days than bad. With a strong family to support him, he is starting to engage more in life. He has joined Team Walk to Push for the upcoming NJ Marathon, and has undertaken a fund raising campaign to help himself, Push to Walk, and Dr. Wise Young’s Clinical Trials for an SCI cure. Having a goal that is outside the borders of always being focused on yourself is a huge step after sustaining a spinal cord injury. I commend this person for making the decision to come to Push to Walk, see what we have to offer and throwing himself into an effort to make himself feel better, in several different ways.

Sometimes, the idea of “just do it,” sounds too big, too scary, too overwhelming. What have you been putting off? Start small, think positive and you will be amazed by the results!

Enjoy your day! Cynthia

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By all accounts of the accident and the pictures I’ve seen, Jill should not even be alive. As a pedestrian struck by a drunk driver, Jill suffered what is called “internal decapitation.” It is as horrific as it sounds, and I won’t go into the gory details. Jill’s injuries were too many to count, surgeries too numerous to remember (for me, anyway, not for her or her Mom, who keeps track of everything, thank goodness!). Despite the original prognosis of only near survival, which seemed slim at best, Jill is a beautiful, vibrant and personable young woman. Working hard toward her goals of walking with better balance and posture, getting stronger and more independent, Jill has made considerable progress. Yesterday, I watched a video of Jill walking filmed many months ago. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much better her balance had gotten. She is now walking straighter, more evenly and smoothly. Nothing like video to show the true progress.

Jill is taking online college courses, hoping to figure out a way to navigate a college campus with minimal assistance. She’s on Facebook, goes out with her friends and enjoys her shore house with her family. In between visits at Push to Walk, she goes to a local gym and works there, too. She is dedicated and committed to her recovery. She always has a smile for me – I’m not the one telling her to do more 10 more reps or push harder! – and I enjoy talking with her Mom and sharing stories and information.

Jill’s Mom brought in the scrapbook she made about Jill’s accident, hospital stay and news stories. It is quite a testament to where she was and where she is now. It is an amzing story, and one that I know will be filled with more accomplishments and progress in the months and years to come. Keep working, Jill! And keep smiling, too!

So for Jill I ran 6 miles on Saturday. Of course, it was raining and miserable out, and as much as I told myself that I needed to run in the rain just in case it rains on race day, inside I was on the treadmill, pounding out the miles. And I felt good, just 6 miles, I thought! My last “long” run before the final week. Jill’s determination of her own helped keep me going, and the hour of running passed pretty quickly.

As I prepared for the final week of training before the “big day,” I thought of all the work I had to do and appointments scheduled, thinking it was better that I’d be busy and not fretting over the last minute details that are sure to surface.

Please show your support by writing back and letting me know you’re “out there” cheering for me, in spirit if nothing else! I’ll try to write one more time before Sunday’s NJ Marathon, especially because I want to recognize all those participating, supporting and helping us. It has been an incredible journey so far!

Cynthia

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If I was this anxious about running 20 miles, I imagine I am going to be down-right nervous about running 26.2! I know I’ve done it once before, but that was 3 years ago! And after feeling like I had been beaten up after running 18, I was worried about that, too. Maybe it was the very pleasant weather and sunshine that helped me this week. I felt pretty good, even though I got a little sunburned, and felt fine afterward, too. Committed to stretching and icing definitely helped. Thanks to all those who helped me realize how important they both are!

So Saturday’s run was about 4 hours. A long time to be with just myself. But I wasn’t alone; I had Push to Walk family members I was thinking about. First up was Charlie. Here’s a guy who tells it like it is. He doesn’t sugar coat anything and will be quick to tell you how much spinal cord injuries suck. Really suck. For a C7 injury, he has regained a lot of function in his arms and hands. In fact, the way he gets around in his chair makes you think he’s a para. And that’s at Push to Walk. I can only imagine what he’s like at the body shop he owns. He says he goes up and over things, through things, and only sometimes around things. I envision an obstacle course that includes steps to either navigate or get carried up/down. The wear and tear on his chair tells you this is not a sendentary person! Charlie keeps active and works long hours. Somehow he manages the almost 2 hour trip each way from the Princeton area for his weekly workout at Push to Walk. The long drive is tough, no doubt about it. But Charlie feels it is well worth it.

He enjoys spending time with his 2 kids and his girlfriend, Michelle. He is dedicated to not only getting stronger and more independent, but to figuring out how to do the same things he used to do before his motorcycle accident. Not much stops this guy, and I give him lots of credit for that.

As I’m running and at times struggling with the idea of “going the distance,” I think of Charlie and his downright stubbornness to not give in to things. Darn it, he’s gonna figure out a way! Well, darn it, so am I!  And I keep on running!

Somewhere around the halfway point, I realize that I’m not thinking of anyone in particular, so I try to focus on someone, something. My mind is all over the place, thinking of things for a brief moment, then the thought is gone. I play games with myself: how much more time; how many more miles; do I have enough water; if I eat an extra gel pack now will I have one at the end when I really, really need it? Then I tell myself to focus again.

I start thinking about what takes 2 hours – the rest of my run. Of course – a workout at Push to Walk! I think about the clients and a “typical” workout. Knowing how much energy it takes them to complete a workout and how tired they usually are afterward, I have a renewed motivation. I break the remainder of my run into 15 minute blocks. First, that’s how often I drink water. Then I think about the different equipment that is used during a workout and the parts of the body that are being worked on. If our clients can do a particular exercise or set of exercises for a 15 minute time period, then I can run for that long. Then it’s onto the next piece of equipment, the next 15 minutes, and a sip of water. One foot in front of the other. I can’t say the next 2 hours “breezed” on by, but I did get thru them, and I felt pretty darn good afterward! Whew!

Am I ready for the full 26.2? I think I am! I hope so!!! I look forward to the next three weeks of “easier” running and preparing my mind to go the distance. If you have any thoughts to share on getting me thru this, I’d love to hear them!

Cynthia

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As I continue my training for the NJ Marathon on May 1st, I mapped out a route of two segments of 9 miles each. There would be about a 10 minute break in-between, to transport me from one location to another. In the past, I have run this stretch of road, and it is just too dangerous. So my husband met me and drove me from the end of the first 9 miles to the beginning of the next. It was kind of brisk weather – mid 30’s – and sunny. I was psyched for the distance and liked the route I had planned. I overdressed (as usual!) and had to ditch a layer and my hat halfway through. Otherwise, the run went well! I was even able to push myself at the end, with the saying “run, Cynthia, run” (as in Forrest Gump) keeping me going.

During this three and a half hour activity, I was reviewing everything about the Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament the night before. The planning was a little easier this time around, as usually is the case, when you are repeating an event. I learned from last year to have more helpers, and that worked out great. I had the best people helping, offering to do whatever needed to be done, and when they finished one thing, they jumped right to the next task.

As the players came in, it was nice to talk with those I knew, thanking them for supporting Push to Walk once again. I met some new people, too, and enjoyed talking with everyone. With more help this year, I was able to “work the room” and wasn’t tied down to a job for the evening. That was nice!

What I thought about most during this run, though, were the people in chairs who came to support our cause, even though they are not clients of Push to Walk. One guy came all the way from Flemington, another lives in NYC and had been traveling most of the month of March. He came back early just so he could come to our event! Between the long drives and the planning it takes to do extra events like this, I was so appreciative they made time for Push to Walk! And several of our clients, too. It was great to see them there, having a good time.

These thoughts morphed into thinking about so many other people I have met who use wheelchairs for one reason or another. In  most cases, a chair is being used for a spinal cord injury, but not always. I have met some wonderful people and their families, all dealing with their injuries and their challenges in individual ways. Some seem to have it all figured out (I don’t know if they really do, or just seem that way), some have challenges that are on-going, persistent and difficult. As I meet each person, I enjoy talking with them, learning about them and spending time with them. It doesn’t necessarily involve any conversation about why they’re in a chair. Sometimes it comes up; oftentimes it doesn’t.

In any case, I guess my mind was quite occupied with these thoughts, as my 18 miles didn’t really seem that terrible  (until the next day that is, which will be the subject of my next blog!). So as I reviewed the success of the event, the people who helped and those that supported us, I was grateful that Push to Walk has so many “friends.” Thank you, friends – all of you – for helping us accomplish our goals. And thank you for the motivation to reach my own personal goal – running a full marathon in just 5 more weeks!

Cynthia

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My run on Saturday was for 8 miles, which I estimated would take just under an hour and a half. I felt good as I was running, and realized that I had run continuously with no breaks for more than an hour. Perhaps it was because my mind was very focused. I had been thinking of the clients who previously came to Push to Walk but stopped coming for a variety of reasons. I had also been thinking about lots of people who had called or e-mailed but never became clients. Both groups of people made my heart sad for one reason or another.

First, the people we’ve met and gotten to know as a result of being a client – I miss them! In most cases, I met one or more family members and formed relationships with them. I learned about their family, their interests, their personal story. Every new story never fails to break my heart – there is never a “good” story about a spinal cord injury. There is always heartache and grief, which hopefully leads to acceptance on some level or at least adaptation in some sense. Everyone finds their own way of dealing with this cruel twist of fate that left them or their loved ones paralyzed.

I think of Luigi, Robert, Cindy, Walter, Matt, Lucas and Ikiyan. I think of Anthony, Heather and Carmen. I think of people who have visited us from out of town: Patrick, Shane, Brittany and Mike because they live too far away to come on a regular basis. People that I know benefitted from Push to Walk’s program, but financial concerns, or transportation or other challenges just made it too difficult for them to keep coming. I try to keep in touch with each of them as best I can, but admit that is tough to do. I don’t want to make it seem like I am “selling” Push to Walk’s program to them. I just want to know how they’re doing. I hope they are all doing well, and finding their way in this world of spinal cord injury.

There are other people I’ve spoken to on the phone, e-mailed back and forth with, and maybe even met. But they or their loved ones never came to Push to Walk. Why? There are as many reasons as there are stories and injuries. Oftentimes, it is the money, there’s no doubt about that. How I wish we could charge less for our services, then so many more people could come. If we could make our hourly fees more affordable, that would make such a difference for so many people. But until we find an angel, or substantial grant money, or win the lottery, we must charge our current fees. Even that amount of money isn’t enough to cover our operating expenses; our fund raising events are critical in making up the difference.

But I feel like I know these people I’ve never met. I know their stories, what they’re dealing with, the challenges they face. I know how many other children are in the family, how they renovated their houses, how their jobs have been adjusted, or even lost, how their spouses are coping (or not) – they have allowed me access into their personal life hoping I can help them. And as much as I do help them, I feel it is never enough. Their stories tug at my heart strings while I try to give them factual information to make their daily lives easier – home modifications, standing frames, other equipment they will need, medical supplies, insurance coverage, government benefits and more. While they may never actually come for services, I try to help whenever and wherever I can. Oftentimes, the phone conversations are lengthy, sometimes at night or on the weekends. When I give my cell phone number out, it might ring at anytime, and I try to make myself available as much as possible.

When a person calls again after some period of time has passed, I can usually recall names, where they live, date and level of injury – all without referring to my notes. Why? Why can I remember these details so vividly for people I’ve never met? I guess because we have the connection of a spinal cord injury; the common understanding of the challenges we need to face; and the need to talk to someone who understands. These people I’ve never met are part of our family now, even though they have yet to come through our doors. Some never do; some do eventually, when the time is right.

These thoughts kept me running for 8 miles, and a good run it was. As I get closer to the date of May 1st when I run a full 26.2 miles in the NJ Marathon in Long Branch, I will think of all these people, near and dear to my heart, some of whom I’ve never met, but think of nonetheless. I will be thinking of them and running for them. With all of these people behind me, I am confident I will make the distance!

Cynthia

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I’ve been running, but not blogging; will try to catch up over the next several days. This past Saturday, I decided to drive to Push to Walk from home, run my 8 miles, and drive back home. It’s nice and flat around Push to Walk, not hilly like at home. When I arrived at Push to Walk, I went in to say hello to our client, Richard, who was working out with Mike. Richard told me the fantastic news that he and wife are expecting their first child. How exciting!! That news was enough to get me started on my run in a very upbeat mood, and I must say it kept me going the whole way!

Richard travels quite a distance from Connecticut to come to Push to Walk every Saturday. While living in NJ, it was a little easier, but he didn’t live close then either. Once he moved, he took a break from coming, but is now back. We’re glad to have him working out with us again, and it’s always a pleasure to see him. Thinking about him, his wife, and their little one on the way kept my mind occupied for the hour and a half run.

You can read more about Richard’s story on our website: www.pushtowalknj.org/clients/testimonials.htm

I have to say the eight miles went very well, and I felt good throughout the run. I was running on safe streets, either with sidewalks or not much traffic, so that was less a worry than recent routes I’ve taken which were a bit more dangerous. Still figuring out what my route will be this weekend when I have to run 16 miles. Yikes! I am nervous for this one!

I’ve done my strengthening workouts now several times, and I am still working hard to keep good form. I know that is so important in strengthening. I’ve started to feel muscles that haven’t been used in awhile (thanks, Cheryl!), and am hoping this will be enough to pay off on marathon day – Sunday May 1 in Long Branch at the NJ Marathon. I hope you’ll check out the event on our website! There are things going on for three days: April 29 and 30, and May 1st is the actual race. But there’s a bunch of events on Saturday, geared to families and kids. Check it out! I hope you’ll join us!

I’ll catch up with my blogs and my runs for the last few days. I’m feeling good, but a little nervous to run 16 miles in just a few days. Help me to hang in there! I’d love to hear from you!

Cynthia

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