The Life of My Cane

The Life of My Cane

I was sitting in the waiting room at a radiology clinic waiting to be called in to have my annual MRI done of my brain. They were running behind schedule so I was just sitting there with nothing to do despite coming in 30 minutes late as requested to help them catch up. I was bored of my phone and as I had my cane with me I didn’t really care to literally twiddle my thumbs but instead I was messing around with my cane; standing it upright and spinning it around, tapping the rubber foot on the floor, and even twirling it between my fingers like you would a coin or Dr. House would on the TV show “House”. Yep, I still have enough dexterity in my right hand to do that, not my left hand though, not at all. Time dragged on and so my brain began to pick apart the details of everything around me as I so often do and since I was holding my cane in an almost completely empty room, I turned all of my focus to it.

I was reluctant to have to depend on a cane

I am not exactly sure when I bought it, probably about 3 years into my life with Multiple Sclerosis? That would make me about 23 years old or so, so of course I was reluctant to have to depend on one (being so young). But I just could not walk on my own at the time, in fact, I had just had one of my worst relapses ever and I was still trying to get myself out of a wheelchair and away from my walker. If a cane would help me do that then a cane would work for me but if I was going to buy one I definitely wanted to rock it, because like I said, I was only like 23 years old… Right before I decided that it was time to buy one I was using my late Grandmother’s adjustable, grey, aluminum cane (we are almost 100% certain she had MS) and frankly I did not feel very “cool” having to use it, especially because it looked so much like all the aluminum medical equipment I had just spent 6 weeks using in an inpatient physical rehabilitation center for my latest relapse. And again, I was only 23. Now, I am not saying that those adjustable aluminum canes are lame or anything, just that this one in particular was that boring, gray, crutch looking design; it didn’t even have a nice handle, just a gray rubber grip. It wasn’t for me is what I’m saying.

Both elegant and ergonomic

So, my thought was that if I was going to have to start using a cane at such a young age I was going to look good using one. I wanted something a little more “classy” and because I was watching the show “House” at the time, I knew about a variety of different cane styles that were out there. So I hopped on the internet and found a website that sold every kind of cane you could imagine and how convenient, they had all the canes that Dr. House used on the show! So first I bought a dark brown, wooden, “tourist style” cane (the kind that is shaped like a candy cane) and it was custom cut for my exact height but after a while it started hurting my wrist and I assumed it had to do with the shape of the handle as it wasn’t very ergonomic. So then I bought another one (my current cane). This one was a walnut stained, beech wood derby, “walking style” cane. The handle was much more ergonomic and it just looked more “elegant”. It felt right.

I have used this cane on and off for years and over time it has collected its fair share of scratches, dinks, scrapes, nicks, and whatever else you could consider to be “character”. As I sat there in the waiting room I closely observed how the finish has worn off in certain spots and how the stain has faded a bit. Like looking at all the little scars on my hands and remembering how I got them I reminisced on how my cane received all of its various “scars”. All the times I dropped it or used it as an extension of my arm to reach something like the small lever that opens and shuts the air-conditioning vents around the house. Using it as a tool to hook something out of reach and pull it towards me or simply letting it knock around against walls and furniture. Or how I would lean it on something like a large rock while I was on a walk. It is no longer smooth and shiny but instead somewhat rough and worn. Character.

It has become part of me

So after spending some time just observing it I thought that maybe it was time to buy a new one but as I continued to sit there in that waiting room just looking at my cane, I realized that it had a life. It had developed a history and was part of my MS journey. My life. Getting rid of it would be like getting rid of a journal that I’ve kept for years! So at that moment I decided, “no, this is part of me, I can’t just replace it” because when I hold and look at it I am reminded of everything I have been through since my diagnosis and in another 10 years it will be that much more rich with life and history whether I am still using it or not. Maybe I will buy another cane in time and keep this one as a sentimental display of all the chapters of my life that I have so far lived with this cane and all the struggles I have endured with it. But maybe I will also pick up another one for special occasions like the wedding of my best friend that I am about to participate in. Something clean, shiny, and black to match my suit, you know? Like having that one pair of “nice shoes” that you only wear when the occasion calls for it; I would only use that cane for special occasions like a nice outing because in the end? The cane I have used for the majority of my life with MS? That is my cane and it has become part of me just as I am sure many people with MS feel that their mobility device (whatever it may be) is a personal part of them. It may not be a “pretty” part of me but neither are all the scars on my skin; whether I like it or not those scars are and always will be, part of me.

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

Comments

View Comments (18)
  • snowbunny
    6 months ago

    I was diagnosed with MS in 2010. I went from a wheelchair, to a walker, and now a cane or forearm crutch. Some days are little more challenging than others but I’m not where I use to be.

  • Matt Allen G author
    6 months ago

    Pretty much the same here. I went from wheelchair to walker to arm crutches to a cane and now I am lucky enough that on most days I can walk unassisted. Granted my gait is pretty wide and my strides are not smooth but I can still walk on my own two legs which is something most people take for granted.

  • potter
    1 year ago

    I haven’t had to use a cane yet but I know it’s coming, I walk slow and slower all of the time. I am not dreading it at all, I just hope I won’t keep leaving it everywhere like my mother in-law does. Nice piece of writing. Potter

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    I always have to set it in the same exact spot or else I will forget where it is. So create a designated cane spot and that should keep you from leaving it lying around the house haha…

  • Julie
    1 year ago

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that has a cane that is a part of their life!

    I refused to use one at first. I was only 40 and didn’t want to look like a cripple! My husband at the time found one on a cane website that he didn’t think I could resist. It was a plain black cane but the part that you hold had an elephant head. I should explain that I collect elephants. The last count, I have around 200.

    I was still reluctant at first but thought, would I look sillier using a cane or falling on my face because I couldn’t keep my balance. Besides, it was an ELEPHANT!!

    17 years later I still carry that elephant. It has been sanded down because of the nicks in it, repainted for the same reason. The poor elephant’s ears have been chipped off as is one of his tusks. I’ve gotten other canes (there is an ergonomic one that feels great to use when your hand is tired) but I still use my very first one.

    Everywhere I go people comment on my cane. This was worrisome for me at first, I really didn’t want people noticing but it’s no big deal to me anymore. I like that people like my cane! And it really is cute 🙂

  • DebbeKinsey
    1 year ago

    I have many canes in many styles. When I was in my 30’s my doctor said I should get a multi colored cane to go with all my dressy work clothes, so I did one better! I have many in all styles, materials and colors to go with everything from formal with a pearl handle and rhinestones to a hand carved Irish cane with a penny flute hidden inside when you remove the handle, folding, non-folding, bright colors….you get the point! If it’s going to be a part of my life, it has to reflect my life. It is a necessary evil for me, so I say have fun with it & people in your life will too.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    I really like that, I mean we don’t wear the same CLOTHES every day!

  • Lisa22
    1 year ago

    That was a wonderful story…well written and so so appropriate…go you!

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    glad you enjoyed!

  • Mare
    1 year ago

    Matt: If you ordered this online, what site did you use? I would love to get a stylish one.

    I only need it every once in awhile (I just turned 55 and have had this for 19 years). My balance is CRAP and am getting tired of walking into walls. Any info. you can give would be great.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    Well, I am not really trying to promote another website for a sale BUT if you were to Google something like “fashionable canes” I am sure you would find something better than if you Googled “boring canes” because everyone likes to be fashionable right?

  • Artanis12
    1 year ago

    My diagnosis of MS was far later in my life than yours – age 52. Within about 4 months of diagnosis, I was using a cane outdoors most of the time. Just easier and safer. However, my age means that using a cane is quite likely to send me straight into the conceptual “old person” bin, rather than making people wonder what’s wrong, or if I’m faking, or injured. Anyway, we had a cane around the house, given to my husband as a gag gift when he turned 50. Little did we know. I used it for a short time, but then, like you, I knew I wanted something that looked good – it’s not like I was getting away from the aid anytime soon – like ever, and the cane I was using looked like something from a medical supply house and just screamed “OLD!!”. So I now have a collapsible cane with bright multi-colored spots of variously sized concentric circles on a black background. It’s getting beat up a bit, but that’s OK.

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    I accidentally posted my reply to you on the comment below, so my comment to Theresa would be “it’s all about how you rock it, a cane does not make you look ‘old’, you are as young as you act! 😀 “

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    I realized over time that it is such a personal decision (the choosing of a cane) and it makes sense, we have to use it so often! It’s like a piece of clothing, we want something that “feels like US” not some random shirt off the shelf from a store you don’t even shop at!

  • Theresa
    1 year ago

    I feel like an assistive device would help me with longer distances…I basically use the shopping cart as one in every store (no matter how much I’m shopping for.). I feel like I would be more comfortable with a rollater but I am a very young (read vain ) 50 & feel it’s too early for that! A cane wouldn’t look so “elderly” or handicapped but I’m not sure it will give me the stability for my foot drop?

  • Johan
    1 year ago

    Hey Matt, nice article, I’ve been using my cane since I was about 45. I have 2 of em. Both candy cane shape. I began noticing the sore wrist thing about a year ago. But I really like the hook. I hang it on lots of things. Like my arm, doors, coat stands. I love my cane and can hardly believe I’m posting about it. Thanks for blogging and be well.

    JE

  • Matt Allen G author
    1 year ago

    Yeah, the large hook was nice, now I just use that cane for grabbing stuff from under my bed haha. But the Derby style cane has enough of a hook to do all that as well, Derby canes are like the one in the picture for this article all the way on the right of the image.

  • Deb
    11 months ago

    Hi Matt, I’m new on here, I just read your story, great writing !
    Your story got me, it’s been 13 years, my balance is way off I really
    need to use a cane, I’m 59 & my vanity hasn’t allowed me to do it.
    You know the “I don’t want to look old” thing. But now it’s necessary and your story is helping me. So I wanted to say Thank You & keep writing !!

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