‘So.. what do you think?’ Mum asked. ‘Not very comfortable and I find myself thinking about every step that I’m taking!’ I reply. Nope we weren’t discussing a new pair of beautiful high heel shoes, but the new addition to my handbag. My walking stick.
You may have read in my previous blog post, that my walking was affected as a result of my last relapse. Physio has improved my strength for the most part, but there are occasions where I feel very weak and recently I have experienced tremors in my legs. Sometimes it feels like I am walking on ice and my legs will just give way, which frightens me and causes me to have quite bad anxiety.
I was recently in the Laines with my friends in Brighton and I could feel my legs becoming weak. I found it difficult to keep up in the crowds of people doing their Sunday shopping and I had to continuously stop to steady myself or link arms with my friends for balance. By the time we had made it to our favourite breakfast stop, my fatigue was at one of the worst levels I can ever recall. It’s difficult to explain how awful it makes you feel. It was as if I had been wide awake on a flight to Australia, then taken part in a marathon through mud and to top it off having to write a dissertation. My brain fog and energy levels were very low, my legs felt like jelly. This in turn caused me to have a panic attack in an environment that I had visited previously with no issues. Needless to say, we had to pay for a taxi home and I went straight back to bed feeling awful and defeated.
Since I have moved back home, I am under a new MS nurse and we started unravelling my MS story from start to present at my recent home visit. Nadine had to cover all issues from head to toe and I brought up my concerns about my walking. She suggested that I get a walking stick. A walking stick at 25 years old?! You’ve got to be kidding me! Nadine said that just having a collapsible stick in my handbag, may improve my confidence on days where I feel like a wobbly worrier. I sometimes use a large umbrella as a leaning post. If I’m using an umbrella, no-one will judge or look at me differently for walking around with it. I was reluctant about owning a walking stick but decided that if it can help me, I was in no position to frown upon this idea.
Onto the Internet I went, to see what was available. The first links that were listed were sticks that reminded me of old age pensioners, definitely not my cup of tea! Lots of people on the MS group that I’m part of, frequently post pictures of their walking sticks. All of them colourful and decorated, so I persisted with my search. Eventually I stumbled across a funky polka dot one, collapsible and adjustable. Yep, I’m spending my hard earned cash on a walking stick – what is life!
I usually love getting post with my name on it, but this parcel was not one that I was happy to open. I got it out of it’s plastic packaging and connected all of the parts to make it into a walking stick. I stood it up next to my side and looked down at it in disgust. ‘I look like an old person and I look ridiculous’ I thought to myself. I was so angry and I felt as though Bella had taken away my youth. How will people look at me when they see me with a stick?
The stick spent a long time leant against the sofa not in use. Why would I want to use it? Why have I spent money on a stick? I don’t really need one do I? I was in a bit of a mood with it to be perfectly honest. I don’t see any of my other friends walking around with walking sticks!
My mum could sense that I wasn’t happy about the stick and she wasn’t thrilled either. In all honesty she was very upset about me having to accept the fact that I may have to use it from time to time. She suggested that a trial run in a supermarket with her may give me more confidence. I was nervous that I would look stupid and that people would judge me. As mum said, whoever decides to make uneducated opinions isn’t worth paying attention to. Much to my surprise, I got no negative comments. If anything, people didn’t bash into me when they were rushing around!
In a way, it’s good to have something visible to show that I have difficulty with my walking because from looking at me, I do look like a healthy young person. It’s not an accessory that I’m thrilled to pack in my handbag on trips out, but it’s nice to have it if I’m ever struggling. I don’t use it daily but if you see me using it, I’m probably just having a wobbly day. If you are having a giggle at my expense, I may just give you a prod with the stick – so watch out! If you give up your seat on a train or bus when I am using my stick, I am forever grateful to you. I am still not brave enough to ask to have a seat when public transport is busy, even with a walking stick and my priority seat card. To the man on the train up to London who gave up his make shift seat in the baggage area for me when no seats were free in rush hour, it meant the absolute world to me.
In contrast to this, last month I raised £377.50 for the MS Society when I took part in the Brighton 5K Colour Run. I was so nervous that Bella would give me the third degree and that I wouldn’t be able to survive it. I’m so happy to say that I completed it! I did struggle and I did have to stop on various points of the course, but I ran as best as I could and I was so happy to be doing it for such a worthwhile cause. Thank you to anyone who donated to me!
Walking sticks vs 5K runs only goes to show how each day can vary with MS. Each day is different and I never know how I will be when I wake up in the morning.