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Traveling with MS: I learned more in 15 minutes while waiting for a train at Union Station.

After spending a weekend in Chicago with my daughter, we find ourselves in crowded Union Station to catch the Amtrak back home…

I’ve never been on a real train before. My legs are VERY wobbly, buzzy and weak after walking most of the day, no where to sit at the gate. There were a lot people waiting to board. Emily and I found a little corner and rested. It was a day to find out how mean people can be… I guess, in a situation that results in corraling people, some people show their true selves, their sensitive or insensitive sides. I want to share this next part with you, only to give perspective as a person that looks “normal” but doesn’t “feel” that way. So if you either share my vantage point as a fellow MS’r or as a person who is willing to see through my eyes, even if it’s for only a moment… I learned a lot within a 15 minute time period, as we waited to board the train. I was, for the first time, brave enough to come forward, and admit I needed help.

This is hard for me, to admit I need help, so this truly is not easy. The fear of rejection is, I would say, the is my biggest fear. It’s been a long process, but I’m getting more confident to be able to not care what strangers think. They announced Senior Citizens and people with physical challenges would be allowed to board first. My legs were wobbly, vibrating, and aching so much. I was having a really hard time with my balance. I thought, darn it. I AM physically challenged, whether I’ve ever admitted that or not… So I took my cards out of my purse to “prove” that I have MS (and I’ve been on clinicl trial for a new treatment that compromises me even more) and started toward the line…. Many cruel things spoken, loud enough for me to hear, as people were talking amongst themselves… I heard comments of “who does she thing she is? She sure isn’t no senior citzen (I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you)” ” She doesn’t look physically challanged to me” ” that lady is cutting, maybe anyone can pass as physically challenge if you have the guts.’ The most disturbing thing, however, is the Senior Citzens, rude and pushing me back and claiming, with all Authority, “Excuse me, Miss, I AM A SENIOR CITZEN.”….pushhhhhhhhh….. I couldn’t believe it. I was trying to be strong, for my daughter sake. She was oblivious to it all, thank goodness. She knew my legs were tired, but thankfully she didn’t notice the cruelness of some people. A sweet couple standing next me, were very comforting. I explained, embarressingly, after hearing all these comments, that I have MS and my legs feet as if they were about to collapse. They agreed that some people could be so unkind and selfish.

Wow, I guess I didnt’ realize how hard it was to admit to other people that I needed help. To be strong and move forward is the easiest part, it’s the admitting to those sweet folks. I had to take down my shell of determination for a second to defend myself. I had to fight the welt of tears. The fear of rejection flooded over me like a rush. I wanted to go home!!! It was such a wonderful weekend, I wasn’t going to let this spoil it for me.

So, as I approached the lady letting the SENIOR CITIZENS in the gate, I was just a little nervous. I was half expecting her to say, as the others in the crowd, it didn’t look like anything was wrong with me, and sorry go back in line. BUT, she looked at my paper work, and said, “Honey, you just go right on ahead…” Just like that, I was validated in front of all those people, that even Amtrak considered my stake in claim, that yes, there is a physical need.

To those people: I don’t care what you all thought. I will never see you again. As painful it was, emotionally, for those 15 minutes, it was totally worth it. For the first time, if I muster enough courage to push through my pride and ask for help, the people who matter will understand.

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.


  • jomarie
    6 years ago

    I just went through this on vacation. I have learned that since this is invisible to take a cane, even if I don’t need it that moment (although I usually do if I’m walking any distance). US Airways promised me a seat up front, confirming the day before. When I got to the airport, no dice. They stuck us in the last row of a very long plane, and with attitude. No, not altitude, I mean attitude. Getting down the aisle with a cane, carry on, people shoving in the aisle, etc. was sooo hard, but I made it. The attendant in the back said something about a cramp in the leg and offered me orange juice. When I explained I had MS he apologized and that was that.
    When we landed in Cancun – they had a wheelchair waiting for me. Apparently he spoke to the other people and told them just how much difficulty I had getting to the back of the plane – and why.
    I really didn’t know how to handle it. A wheelchair is something I am afraid of, a symbol. But as my husband said; I needed it. I could barely walk and getting to the hotel, especially dealing with heat, would have been very difficult. So I rode in a wheelchair for the first time. Crying a little.
    So hard to ask for help. I’m usually the one who gives help, not the one who gets it. But, like you said, you have to learn to be brave enough to ask.

  • Maribeth
    6 years ago

    I have to say sorry as a Chicago person and also having M.S. that people could be that cruel in Union Station, or for that matter anywhere. I have to say, until about 17 years ago I might have been that rude person too as I truly didn’t understand what all disabilities meant and looked or for that fact, not look. It took me being a puppy raiser of dogs for people with disabilities. Only then did I truly understand that not all disabilities are visual. Now, if I am having a bad day and just walking is a challenge I will have the person driving me either drop me off at the door or park in the handicap space. I don’t like using the handicap space and the few times I have over the months I still feel guilty even as I am struggling to walk. I am like you that asking for help is very hard and still is.
    I love your story and the bravery you shown by walking past those people making bad comments and taking care of yourself.

  • Eden
    6 years ago

    I can totally relate to situations like this.
    I am a fairly new ‘member to this exclusive club’, and have experienced many forms of discrimination and ignorance.
    I was once arrested & taken to the police station after falling down on a sidewalk infront of a nightclub. I was accused of public intoxication & put in a cell until I was able to prove that I was not ‘stoned’. (I had prescription medications in my bag at the time!)
    I was able to see the doctor in the jail after 2 full hours of waiting, in pain. He confirmed that I was having a flare-up associated with my MS.
    I was sent to the hospital where I was admitted for 3 days (in a mental health ward!) before a psychiatrist was able to confirm that I was not crazy and that I actually had a ‘hidden’ illness!

  • Laura Kolaczkowski
    6 years ago

    Pamisue, we can be our strongest when we are willing to let people know our needs. Good for you to take your place in line ahead of the able bodied folks who obviously had weak minds. Unfortunately, there are always going to be the people who will stare in an accusatory way when they see those of us who ‘look so good’ ask for accommodations.

    Good for you to take your daughter to the big city and create wonderful memories for her and you.I love Chicago but it sure can be an exhausting place to get around.
    best, Laura

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