The Wheelchair and Me

Will I be in a wheelchair? That might be the ultimate question that someone who is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis wants answered. Gait problems are common in people with MS and as the disease progresses physical disability is possible.

When I was first diagnosed, I went through a phase of fear. I was certain that I’d end up in a wheelchair and couldn’t see any real future for myself. This bleak outlook contributed to the two years I spent battling depression after my diagnosis. After I started to move forward with my life, I refused the idea that I’d ever need to use a wheelchair. Then I started to have problems walking long distances.

A couple of people had suggested using a wheelchair when I declined social activities that involved walking longer distances. The thought was horrifying to me. I wasn’t using any type of assistive device at the time so the idea of hopping into a chair was inconceivable.

After I got married my mother-in-law gave me a transport wheelchair that she had used in her house after breaking her foot. At this point I was a bit more open to the idea, but not completely ready. Then one day my husband had planned a surprise. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going but said we would need to use the wheelchair. I was reluctant but curious, so we loaded up the fashionable red and black chair and headed out. We lived near Detroit, Michigan at the time and when we arrived downtown I saw the signs directing people to the dog show. Long a lover of dogs, I was thrilled with the surprise activity.

At the show my husband pushed me around in what we came to affectionately refer to as “hot wheels”. I didn’t have to worry about getting tired, or my legs just giving out. I took notice of other people in wheelchairs both young and old. I realized I didn’t care how I might appear to other people as I rolled by. It meant more to me that I could enjoy the event without worry. In fact, I was ecstatic when breeders plopped puppies into my lap who were therapy dogs in training.

After that day I welcomed using “hot wheels” when needed. We’ve done some cool things together including going to a baseball game, a vacation to Mexico, and to National Parks. I’ve also used it to participate in three National Multiple Sclerosis Society Walk MS events in two different cities.

“Hot Wheels” and me. Look close!

There have been times when I’ve dealt with insensitive comments from others while using a wheelchair. I’ve also encountered social situations where I’ve felt embarrassed and left out. I’ve also had my fair share of cries in that wheelchair, faced with the limitations imposed by the chair itself. Despite these things, I know that I’ve been able to experience more of life with it than I could without it.

Falling Down: When MS doesn’t keep you on your toes

So I fell the other day. Took a face plant right into a metal post on my way down. Somehow I managed to bang up my arms in the process. Thankfully I’m OK. Bruises will heal, but the emotional pain will linger.

I’ve fallen quite a few times since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and I assume this recent spill won’t be my last either. I’ve fallen when no one was around to see. I’ve fallen in front of large crowds. I’ve taken face dives to the ground and received fat lips in return. There have also been times when I fell and nothing bad happened at all.

Every time I fall I feel inadequate. More than physical pain, I feel emotional anguish. I feel dumb, weak, and foolish. I’m ashamed of my inability to navigate through spaces with ease. Every step I take requires significant thought and calculation. And I hate it.

After all the falls it just never gets easier. Should it? Probably not. I wish I had words to comfort myself. I wish I could comfort other people like me. But sometimes MS just plain sucks. And that’s all there is to it.