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Accepting the Need for Mobility Assistance

Let’s face it, dealing with the changes to life that multiple sclerosis brings is hard enough but when the day comes that you may start having trouble with mobility those changes become even more difficult. It doesn’t matter if you’re a prideful man or a strong and independent woman, it’s hard to admit to yourself that you need a wheelchair or any other form of mobility assistance.

The first time I ever sat in a wheelchair

I (like many others, especially my age) was so prideful and stubborn at the beginning of my diagnosis. I kept pushing and pushing my way through the various deficits that arose until finally, one day, my mother and I were on our way to my neurologist’s office (I believe to receive my MRI results) and after making it from the parking lot to the front of the hospital I just stopped. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take one more agonizing step. I was so tired, fatigued, and my foot gave up on trying not to drag. My mother asked if she should grab a wheelchair but I just stood there… I didn’t want one, not one bit, but I couldn’t move. I had no choice – “Yes.” My mother grabbed a wheelchair from in front of the hospital building and that was the first (but far from last) time I had ever sat in a wheelchair.

Worried how people would perceive me

Fast forward a couple of years to my life in an inpatient physical rehabilitation hospital where I was bedridden upon my intake. It took weeks but I eventually was able to push myself around in a wheelchair for short distances and could even walk in a circle around the room with a walker and a physical therapist holding on to my hips. That 6-week experience really humbled me and by the time I could push myself around in a wheelchair I was so happy! I could get around without having to call someone to help me to the restroom! Get to my desk or porch I had instead of laying in bed for 8 hours waiting for someone to show up and help me around. Even still, once I was released back to public life, I worried about how people would perceive me. I hated that my ex-girlfriend (who was and still is a very close and dear friend to me) had to see me like that and help me get my wheelchair in and out of the car but still, she was a trooper and did everything to help even with her back pain.

Starting to use a cane

Eventually I worked my way out of the wheelchair with much walker practice around the house and started using a cane. When I was first practicing my walking with a cane in the safety of my home I used my late Grandmother’s (who most certainly had MS) adjustable aluminum cane and once I felt ready to venture out of the house without a wheelchair I ordered a wooden “Dr. House” replica cane from (where a lot of my MS friends bought theirs). If I was going to be seen walking around town with a cane I was going to look good!

Learning to accept mobility assistance

It was all very difficult at first but after thinking about it I realized that I would rather use a wheelchair or a cane to get out and see people or go places than worry about what people thought forcing me to remain in my room living life vicariously through other people on Facebook. I remember going to the Orange County Fair in SoCal with another friend of mine who had MS and we both had our wheelchairs and “designated drivers”. It was hard to let a girl see me like that and push me around in a wheelchair but did I have fun that night? Yes!

I could still experience life and feel independent

So it was the fact that I knew I could still experience life (so long as I swallowed my pride and used assistance) and the mentality that it was just a stepping stone. I made my way from being bedridden to being pushed around all limp in a wheelchair to pushing myself in a wheelchair, to taking a few steps with a walker and assistance to using a cane; in my mind, it was only a matter of time before I started walking again (despite my neurologist’s prediction). When I started using a cane I just owned it; I constantly thought of Dr. House and how he twirled his cane between his fingers all cool-like while he was thinking and I learned to do the same. I felt good; independent.

Too stubborn to let MS keep me in bed

So what I learned was that being stubborn can be both good and bad. Being too stubborn to accept that you need mobility assistance is bad. But being too stubborn to let MS keep you in bed? GOOD! Because I was just the right amount of stubborn at the right times, I am walking on my own again. Not great, maybe a little drunk-like sometimes, but still, on my own and one day, I WILL RUN AGAIN.

So ask yourself this; would you rather get out, see some of the world, smell the air, feel the breeze and hear the sounds of life? Or would you rather remain fearful of how people will look at you and remain in your bedroom to see only what your window and your computer allows you to?…

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • wolfmom21fl
    3 months ago

    The hardest thing i have ever done is to accept my own limitations after being diagnosed with MS

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 months ago

    Sometimes it feals like a nonstop battle of constantly developing new limitations, having to adapt to them, and then having to accept them. It’s definitely on my top 3 most difficult parts of life with MS.

  • north-star
    5 years ago

    Using assistive devices is also my “sticking point.” I’m lucky to have family members who make me take a hard look at how well I’m not doing. From using a cane, to a walker, to requesting a wheelchair in airports, I’ve griped and grumbled but I’ve learned to value their observations. I’ve also found alternatives like collapsible canes and several different kinds of walkers, gaining some feeling of control over mobility. Sometimes I’ve found solutions that appeal to others, like a collapsible hiking stick, a shopping cart walker and one with three wheels that’s compact and easy to stash out of the way. I’ve met some interesting people. Still feel dorky but it’s my kind of dorky, at least.

  • Matt Allen G author
    5 years ago

    See that reminds me, I would go to the store with my parrents and try to use a cane to get to a shopping cart (or they would bring one to me at the car) and I would use THAT as my “walker” to avoid bringing an ACTUAL walker around with me haha… Man…

  • ShinyCat
    5 years ago

    While my exhusband was an add and left me because he “was tired of having to take care of me,” (before things even got bad, really. He’d run screaming if he had to deal with me now, the wimp!) the partners I am with now are wonderful! I often say that my Girlfriend is my favorite mobility assistance device, and it’s only half a joke. She holds me up, catches me when I fall, and even lifts me when I collapse to put me in the bed. More importantly, though, she chivies me into using my walker or staff when I need them, and makes sure we take them when we go places. I feel like the fact I’ve had knee problems most of my life and had a break bad enough to necessitate use of a wheelchair when I was 12 have really made me more willing to use assistive devices than some of my peers. I’ve always been drastically poor at running, and learned early that I could actually move faster on crutches than just my own two feet! (Still can, probably even more so!)

  • Matt Allen G author
    5 years ago

    I think that past use definitely makes it easier to use assistive devices. I never needed anything in the past, I could run SO FAST, so when I needed to use a wheelchair, a walker, a cane? There was a huge contrast. “I could run a mile in 6-7 minutes a month ago and now I need a wheelchair to get 10 feet from my bed to the bathroom”.

  • Mspbfh2
    5 years ago

    I HATED the idea of using a cane, let alone a walker. The PT told me I probably should use a walker when going somewhere where lots of walking is involved, more for stability than anything else, but so far I haven’t. The downside of being so stubborn is that for days following any outing, I can barely get off the couch. One of the worst things is my sisters don’t really believe I have issues. I usually load things into my car by myself and one of my sisters said to me what will people think when you are parked in handicapped, but putting bags of mulch in? It hurt…what she didn’t understand is that I can balance against the car, and there isn’t anything wrong with my arms or back. I just can’t walk distances most days without feeling like I’m going to fall over (and I have once or twice). I’m lucky in a lot of ways, but since a lot of my symptoms are “silent”, meaning cognitive, vision, bladder, FATIGUE, it means my sisters think I’m having a pity party and not really “disabled”. They have been hurtful in many of their comments. Fortunately, my husband and kids are the exact opposite! Although I love my sisters, I have recently decided that their toxic attitude isn’t healthy for me and I will be limiting interactions with them. And that makes me sad…

  • Matt Allen G author
    5 years ago

    I have had to eliminate many relationships for the same reasons… On one hand I like the fact that when people look at me I can blend in with a crowd of “normal” people but on the other hand, it causes those issues; you look fine, you must BE fine, so you just want a pity party. I have been feeling this way mostly since I started working again but I don’t care. I kind of have the law on my side as I AM “disabled”, mostly invisible symptoms but I do have PHYSICAL limits as well.

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