When we find out we have multiple sclerosis, there are a few questions that immediately come to mind. One big one is will a cane, forearm crutches, a walker, wheelchair or scooter be in our future?
Of course, I was under the belief that would never happen to me, after all, the first eight years of my MS was mild. I was raising young kids, working full time, a Girl Scout leader, volunteering, on a master’s swim team and a triathlete.
Then one day I woke up dragging my foot with a very unsteady gait. My doctor put me on steroids, which helped a bit but I was still shaky and unsteady. My MRI showed no new lesions but I was holding on to walls, furniture and my family and friends when walking. If I didn’t, I would trip and fall and I tired very quickly.
My doctor didn’t suggest a walking aid but I sought out a cane on my own. I used it but still used my other hand to hold onto the wall or furniture. I am ashamed to admit this but truthfully having to use a walking aid is harder for me emotionally and mentally than physically. It comes with a stigma, brings unwanted attention and I just don’t like it. You definitely learn a lot about your own character and other’s character and integrity when using a walking device.
You will meet an abundance of kindness and a huge amount of rudeness. Personally, it has brought me suffering, independence, endurance, courage and hope. I have decided to live my life regardless of what people think. It is difficult to swallow your pride and use a walking device. After all, people don’t know our struggle; we could have MS, a knee replacement or a skydiving accident. All they know is what they see, unless they ask. It’s much easier to stay home than go out but I want to live life and get out without my life passing by.
It turned out walking was getting harder and harder for me. I went to a physical therapist for cane training and soon started using a walker, which I should have used from the beginning. It helps keep me steady with both hands and avoid falls. My doctor did not suggest a wheelchair either but I did ask her to approve one for me. I don’t use it in the house only in public, it helps with my independence, helps with fatigue, avoids any situation to fall and along with any walking device comes good parking. Talk to your doctor and local DMV to get a handicap sticker.
Before using any device you should talk to your doctor, physical therapist or occupational therapist. They can suggest the right device and help size and fit you. They can also help to get you on your own two feet again. My PT is working on getting me back on the cane and forearm crutches. Also, some insurance companies do not cover these but you can call your local National MS Society for assistance. Most public places today have to be ADA accessible but it’s always good to make a phone call to be sure.
If you acknowledge and accept a walking device it will eventually make you stronger, more independent and safer. It’s not giving into MS. Expect that your first outings will be hard and scary but it gets easier. It’s relearning the basic stuff that should come naturally, eventually it will. The rewards will outweigh the risks. It’s been a tough transition but I’m not going to let MS kick my butt, I just going to keep going forward.
Do you use a walking device?