My Story

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Dallas is my hometown and I’m a Texan through and through! After nine years, my parents, David and Mary Ann Marshall ecstatically welcomed a perfectly healthy, baby girl on November 1, 1966. My sister, Karin, soon followed in 1968. As a baby, my development was ahead of schedule, and I thrived!

clear_young_karin_laurelAt the age of 2, I started slapping my feet when walking. My parents were concerned so they took me to several different doctors. Although they knew something was wrong, even the best doctors were perplexed. No one doctor could pinpoint the problem, and the overall consensus was a grim diagnosis. “Take her home and enjoy her . . . she will not see the age of 3.”


This shattering announcement was the only offering the doctors presented to my devastated parents. As horrific as this news was, my parents never let on. They took one day at a time. Even though they were crushed, they never showed it! They held high expectations for me and treated me like everyone else.


Luckily, the doctors were wrong! I attended Mary Immaculate Catholic school from kindergarten through 8th grade. In grade school, I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy which was weakening my muscles, making it difficult to walk. In 7th grade, leg braces assisted me when walking. In 8th grade, I fell, breaking my left hip. This put me in a wheelchair for good. No matter, I went on to graduate from Ursuline Academy in 1985, an all-girls Catholic high school.

Laurel_and_LizSome of the best years of my life were spent at Texas A&M University where I received a degree in elementary education. It’s also where I met my best friend, Liz, who is the Lucy to my Ethel. She is still near and dear to my heart for over 30 years!


After leaving Aggieland, I was hired as a 4th grade teacher at Dartmouth Elementary in Richardson, Texas. ​I went into teaching to become rich—rich with knowledge, rich with smiles and hugs, rich with the ability to inspire others, and rich with the hope of making a small difference in the world. I taught 4th grade for 17 years and 3rd grade for three years. After 20 years, a pinched nerve in my  lower back left me no choice but to retire from teaching. My life was altered as well as my independence. It was time to focus on my health.

imageStriving for independence  a continuous, subconscious, and driving force throughout my life. Driving a car, attending college, having a career, and living on my own allowed me freedoms all young people desire. But, independent did not mean alone. Friends and family were, and still are, always willing to lend a hand. For this, I am so blessed!


In 1997, this assistance came in the form of four furry paws. Temecula, a gorgeous, brilliant yellow lab was my first service dog. After Temec’s retirement, Jill, a yellow lab/golden retriever mix took the helm. She was the sweetest dog I’d ever met. Both dogs helped me with tasks, at school or around the house, such as picking up dropped items, getting the mail, or pulling clothes out of the dryer. Their love and loyalty deeply enriched my life!

I hate to admit it, but I’ve always been a rule follower. Since I was a kid, my parents would take me for regular check-ups at Scottish Rite Hospital, in Dallas, with my Muscular Dystrophy neurologists and where I was given the diagnosis of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. I continued this yearly trek as an adult, at UT Southwestern Medical Center, where I was given a new, yet still unconfirmed, diagnosis of Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT2). Every visit ended with shrugged shoulders from the doctor. This ritual became almost comical to me. I played along because it was the only way I could obtain prescribed medical equipment (wheelchair) needed in order to maintain my independence.

Desperately needing medical assistance when I initially injured my back, I booked my first appointment with my MD doctors. Shockingly, despite my incredible pain, they could find nothing wrong. I left the office more discouraged than before I entered. A second opinion rendered the same result. My nerves were rattled. MD had always played a role in my life, but never took center stage. Was it trying to grab the spotlight?

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 3.21.37 PM Taking control of my pain meant being open to different forms of treatment. Acupuncture and a traditional pain medicine doctor both temporarily worked, but in reality, only masked the problem. I rehabbed my back with a therapist in a warm therapy pool, yet soon realized that I needed a trainer to help continue my physical progress. Where would I find a trainer who was willing and capable of taking on a client with physical challenges? I prayed for guidance over the next 2 weeks. Then, my prayers were answered! WFAA, channel 8 news, aired a story on Tom Jensen, owner/president of Elect Wellness – a home fitness company. They featured James, an Elect Wellness client with Cerebral Palsy. With Tom’s help, James advanced from difficulty in even walking properly to running up and down stairs with perfect form. This was the coach and company for me

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 4.23.51 PM  I’ve been with Elect Wellness for 7 years. Together with my trainer, Bob; Elect Wellness owner, Tom; and dietitian, Brooke; I have gained muscle mass while losing fat. Post injury immobility plummeted my weight to 95 pounds. The immediate goal of Elect Wellness was to increase my BMI (body/mass index) through a balanced diet and 1550 calories per day of healthy nutrients, gradually increasing my weight to an uncomfortable 120 pounds. Ideally, my healthiest and most comfortable weight now sits at 110 pounds, including a balanced diet of 1600 calories per day and daily exercise. Over 20 inches of healthy size has been gained throughout my shoulders and limbs. Furthermore, I’ve reduced my diastolic blood pressure by 17 mm Hg, ensuring that my most important muscle, my heart, always has adequate blood flow.

Tom, also, introduced me to an amazing chiropractor, Dr. Cristina Robinson-Hartley. Dr. Cris immediately diagnosed my back pain. My SI joint (where the pelvis and tailbone meet) had rotated out of place, pinching my nerve. She informed me that it’s one of the worst injuries to have if you’re sitting down. “Of course, it is!” I thought. At the first adjustment, the pain was gone, and at that moment, that’s all I truly cared about. After enduring a full year of pain, finally, some relief! What I didn’t realize was that my muscles had gotten so weak that I was lucky if my SI joint held in place for even 24 hours. Mandatory biweekly adjustments reminded that feisty SI joint who’s boss. Thankfully, biweekly progressively transitioned to every 1-2 weeks.


Even more interesting, Dr. Cris has a unique theory regarding my condition. She hypothesizes that, at age 2, the toxins from the Polio vaccination damaged my spinal cord nerve cells during my third round of vaccinations. This is the same time muscle weakness occurred and has always been my mother’s suspicion … an idea which most traditional doctors would vehemently deny. Time has passed and nothing can be proven. No matter the diagnosis, I’ve tried the conventional way for forty years with zero success. It’s time to be unconventional

After 6 years of adjustments and exercise, my SI joint remained precarious and unreliable. I, intuitively, felt my body needed more movement, and that something else needed to be added to my holistic, ritualistic regiment. I googled holistic physical therapy, not even knowing if it existed. Up popped Holistic Health Works owned by Yvonne Brannigan, a physical therapist and massage therapist who specialized in myofascial release. Her simple, yet remarkable technique was the key to loosening my fascia and psoas muscle, allowing my SI to become more stable.

With the help of Tom, Dr. Cris, and Yvonne, I have achieved enough gravity defying strength to initiate standing in a standing frame. Their goal is to, eventually, get me up and walking! Something all other doctors believed impossible. My goal is to  gain enough strength to live independently, once again. With God’s grace and the assistance of loving people, I am moving towards goals never once even thought attainable!

IMG_4311Please, join me on this exhilarating, unpredictable journey. I have no idea what it holds for me, but I ask that God’s grace may guide me in continued Srides of Faith.