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.