What would you like people to know about how you are doing or feeling now?
On 4.15.2013, I survived the Boston Marathon Attack, escaping with a TBI (traumatic brain injury, for which no treatments are covered by insurance, except therapy); a permanent low back injury; permanent hearing loss (requiring new hearing aids every 2-3 years, costing $3-$5,000), severe tinnitus; hyperacusis and debilitating PTSD. My so called "invisible injuries" (nicknamed because internal injuries are not visible on the outside of the body) were the hardest to get diagnosed and the hardest to heal. These internal injuries take only a moment to receive...but a lifetime to continue to heal. I am SO GRATEFUL to be alive. Yet, my life has now become dedicated to my continued recovery via 3-6 weekly medical appointments. I simply wish that people understood how TBI effects every part of your brain and body...every day...for the rest of your life. It is NOT curable. So, when you see a TBI survivor on a "good day," be happy for them. Do not judge them, wondering whether they are exaggerating their symptoms the rest of the days. In a life with TBI, every day is a "marathon." I personally celebrate at the "Finish Line" of each one with a small prayer of gratitude!
What would you like to say to the Greater Boston community in regards to the support you received following April 15, 2013?
I am truly GRATEFUL for the unconditional love and support I have received from a handful of my fellow survivors, my so-called "Marathon Family" or "Boylston Street Family." Our bond was strengthened, and solidified, by multiple, annual retreats via a charity organization called Strength To Strength. Living so close to the Boston Marathon Finish Line, results in daily PTSD "triggers," sometimes resulting in "panic attacks," from running simple errands. Having no family in Massachusetts for support, I rely on Strength To Strength retreats to help me stay connected with fellow survivors Internationally. This charity offers these priceless retreats at NO COST, relying solely on donations and fundraisers.
Over the past few years, have you witnessed any acts of kindness on One Boston Day that touched you? If so, what were they and why did you find them meaningful?
In April 2014, a charity, "One Run For Boston" (onerunforboston.org), made running history by becoming the first ever non-stop relay to run across America from Los Angeles to Boston. Over 2000 runners helped complete the 3300 mile journey. They raised $91,000 for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and an inspirational running community was born. I am SO PROUD to have run the last leg of these historical relay. It was the first "race" I had ever run...and I was terrified of the crowd. My fears were immediately put to rest by the instant friendship I received from the members of this running community. To this day, their Facebook group remains an active place where runners turn to each other for support and friendship.
During your recovery, have there been any specific moments that were particularly poignant or meaningful to you?
I trained to run for the 1st time, having never run at all in my life, struggling with daily, severe, chronic pain and panic attacks. I finished 2014 Boston Marathon, and am honored to have been named one of the "Most Inspirational Women to Ever Run The Boston Marathon" by SELF MAGAZINE, and Most Resilient by MORE MAGAZINE.
Are there particular activities or charitable efforts in which you have participated that you’ve found to be especially inspiring or restorative?
My daily struggle with chronic pain inspired me to volunteer as the Massachusetts Ambassador for the US Pain Foundation, the Victims Advisory Council of Strength To Strength, the Director of Medical Marijuana Advocacy for Leaftopia (DispensaryLocation.com), and the Advisory Panel of the Massachusetts Resiliency Center (MAResiliencyCenter.org). My message is one of INSPIRATION and HOPE. I fought my way out of that wheelchair, and I fought my way across that finish line. If I can do it, so can you. Never give up HOPE!