Never Give Up

Mary with her daughter, at the Louvre, 2008

I’d like to introduce you to a Good Human. Her name is Mary Collinson. She is a first generation British Canadian, retired teacher, coach, counselor, mother, and general badass woman who belongs only to herself. She is resilient and relentless and living life to the fullest.

But this wasn't always the case.

In 2006, Mary found herself in dire physical and emotional health. Like many women, she was overworked, overwhelmed, out of shape and generally burnt out, always available for others and putting their needs ahead of her own.

And then one day, she couldn’t move. Literally.

Mary developed physical symptoms that could not be explained. She suffered with severe fatigue and muscle stiffness, where she had trouble walking or getting off the sofa. She was sent to many different specialists looking for an answer. Initially, it was thought she had either Lupus or MS. But it was only a year later, in 2007, that a diagnosis was finally made via muscle biopsy of her right thigh. Mary had Polymyositis, a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the fascia and trunk of the body. She was prescribed five different medications, two of which were heavy doses of Prednisone, as well as Methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug. These drugs took their toll. Seemingly all of a sudden, she could not function as she had before.

At that time, Mary was told she would never be drug free and that she would simply have to manage her symptoms. This wasn’t an acceptable answer to Mary. She enjoyed her career, her coaching and helping others. There had to be another answer. So she went on a quest to see whether drugs were her only avenue to manage her symptoms and possibly take back her life.

As she says, she ‘grabbed the bull by the horns’ and, as with everything she has ever done, Mary went all in to overhaul her habits and lifestyle.

Mary, Kristine and Andrew and her husband Mitch (deceased 2018)

Mary’s first change had to be her mindset. Having been in the role of caretaker and helper most of her life, she found it difficult to ask for help and even to be honest enough with herself to know she needed help. She knew the love and support of her family and friends were critical to her success. Ultimately, Mary came to realize that she was in charge of her health and her life and once she made the decision, she consulted many practitioners who helped along the way, gave her encouragement when she faltered and pats on the back when she hit milestones. It was two steps forward and one step back but she maintained her relentlessness to be healthy and more importantly, drug-free.

The second major change was to her diet. She soon realized that good nutrition was paramount to feeling better. She overhauled what she was consuming by eliminating sugar and ‘anything from a box’. She now ate whole foods most of the time (80/20 rule). She also incorporated small amounts of exercise. This led to a 20-pound weight loss (due mostly to the Prednisone) and her energy and fitness level slowly returning. She truly began to listen to her body.

Next came the realization that she had to learn how to do something that is very difficult for most women: say ‘NO’.

While she described herself as a workaholic, she loved her career and coaching. Mary knew she had to change her priorities. Instead of being fourth or fifth on her list, she had to make herself and her health her #1 priority. She realized if she didn’t, she wouldn’t be good to anyone, especially her family.

While her journey to optimal health has not always been a smooth one, it has been worth it. She has achieved just that. After ten years on the large doses of Prednisone and twelve years on the Methotrexate, a cancer drug, she became completely drug-free in 2019.

So what does life look like for Mary these days?

She is thriving like never before. “I am healthier now than I was at 40!” and it shows.

With that relentless, all-in attitude, Mary now has the strength and vitality to be up for anything. Her motto is ‘why not’.

She has learned that it is important to get outside your comfort zone to learn something new as often as possible. She also makes a point of laughing every day and having fun, enjoying life to the fullest...truly being in the moment. Mary is truly grateful for the love and support of her family and friends on her health journey.

Now, you’ll find Mary doing yoga, meditation, walking, cycling and weight training, as part of her daily rituals. She is also travelling extensively, including a lone trip through Asia, where she climbed 1260 steps up to Tiger Cave Temple in Thailand to see the Golden Buddha, as well as much of Europe. Her latest trip pre-pandemic was to Peru, to climb Machu Picchu. Not bad for a woman who once couldn’t move off the sofa!

Tiger Cave Temple. Krabi, Thailand

She also became a Reverend/Licenced Wedding Officiant in 2016. She’s taken horseback riding lessons, tapping, clogging, gone roller skating and just recently has become a model. She says her latest ‘why not’ is learning to play the harmonica!

While Mary has always been a person of influence in her teaching and coaching career, she feels that these days her influence is more subtle. When Mary was overworked, never saying no, sick and fatigued she had asked herself what she was teaching her two children. Was it to be a slave to life? She has inspired many people on a larger scale through her teaching and coaching. Even though her sphere of influence is smaller now that she is retired, she still seeks connections and to inspire and help others wherever she goes, whether it's a simple compliment to a stranger or helping someone along her travels to believe in themselves.

So what does it mean to Mary to be a Good Human?

Ultimately, she says it’s to figure out what your gift is and share it with others; to be kind and compassionate and less judgmental toward others, especially yourself and to never give up. It’s about the human connection and inspiring the next generation. It’s about listening to the stories of others and learning from their experiences.

We hope this story inspires you and shows you that when you make yourself a priority, you make the world a better place because you are contributing your best self to the world. Taking care of ‘You’ is making space for what’s possible. Life is short. Because when your health is optimal (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual), you are better able to turn outward and make a greater impact on the lives of others.

To learn more about Mary, please visit

We thank you, Mary, for allowing us to write your story and share it with the world. We are inspired and grateful.

Dana Zangari

Good Humans Contributor


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