Some people with Multiple Sclerosis need to use assistive devices due to difficulty walking or balance problems. I am one of those people. And I wish I could say that when I started having trouble walking, I promptly went out and purchased the appropriate assistive devices and off I went. This of course was not the case. Today I use multiple mobility aids to keep moving, but it has been an emotional journey to get to where I am now.
I started using a cane regularly when I moved to another state. That’s what it took to gather the courage to use a cane at 29 years old. I had first purchased a travel cane when I was 28. It wasn’t too hard to use it around friends although I was entirely still self-conscious. When I went on a vacation, I happily used it to get about by myself. I tried it out at work one day after I injured my ankle when I had a fall. Everyone asked me what happened. Many people at my job at the time didn’t know I had MS, so I happily blamed it on the ankle. I decided I wasn’t ready to make the cane a part of daily life. My ankle would heal, the MS would remain, and I couldn’t bring myself to explain the cane any further.
With my move to another state, it was like I started a new life. I wasn’t subjected to questions about why I one day showed up to work using a cane. In this new place, I had always used it. Sure, people wondered but they didn’t ask. They didn’t know me well enough. Wait, that wasn’t it. I’ve encountered plenty of strangers who have had no reservations about blurting out whatever popped into their heads. “You’re too young to use a cane!” a flight attendant once proclaimed as I boarded a plane. She was right. I am. As most of the world has shown me, it can be very difficult for people to comprehend a young, healthy looking person as having a physical disability.
Perhaps why no one asked had something to do with my confidence with my new appendage. I felt steady and safer than I had for too long without it. I felt independent and unafraid. Eventually the people in my new home asked me why I used the cane. Depending on their approach, I gave them the full explanation of my disability. Some others, I admit to offering less commendable responses.
I now have three canes; two for daily use, although I favor one over the other, and a folding one for travel. Sometimes I think I want a fourth cane. I now eye them in stores or in the hands of others. I evaluate their qualities and consider them as I do a pair of shoes. It took a new start in a different place for me to finally be able to own up to the fact that I needed to use a cane on a daily basis. Now I think I was silly to wait so long, but I’m a different woman now. I’m more comfortable with myself and my MS. Still, I wish that I would have accepted it sooner. It might have prevented a few falls along the way.