I am not broken

In today’s world, we are constantly being made to believe that something is wrong with us because we have multiple sclerosis. Those of us using walking aids, wheelchairs and braces for some reason are seen as broken. We move much too slow, drop things way too easily and need help way too often with even the simplest of tasks for most people to bear. And those with MS who don’t need visible help…the stumbling, pain, emotional moments, and memory difficulties are viewed in the same way: an inconvenience for others.

I can remember when I first started using a cane. I tried to hide it from people. I really did. I would wait until the last moment possible to get my cane in hand in order to walk across the parking lot of the grocery store. I would try to keep it as close to my right leg as possible thinking it would make it less noticeable. It didn’t, but I tried anyway.

The walker was much harder to hide. I felt like I was pushing around a truck with caution signs and flashing lights. “Look at me, here I come! Beep, beep, beep.”

The responses it invoked in people was not always comfortable to handle either. As soon as someone saw me with a walker, the questions began…too many questions, and ones that required exhausting explanations. I wasn’t ashamed of MS, I was simply tired of the constant “What’s wrong with you?” questions met with “I know what you need to do to make MS go away” responses.

Sometimes for me, the easiest response was lying and saying “It’s a football injury.” That was always met with a smile and a nod…even though I’m a girl. What? Sports injuries are more readily acceptable than a chronic illness?

Now that I use a wheelchair, it’s a bit harder to hide my walking difficulties but I’ve also gotten better at handling people’s stares, questions and comments. It still gets to me at times, but I’m okay with most people’s responses. I’ve come to understand that the negative and insensitive comments made by people simply show who they are as a person and has nothing to do with me.

One of the most important things I have learned is that multiple sclerosis has not left me broken. Cracked? Maybe…but I think I was cracked way before MS came along. If anything, it has opened my eyes to seeing the real me and to seeing how broken this world really is.

Yes, it takes me longer to do just about everything from checking the mail, to vacuuming the floor, to getting out of bed. But even though I may not be fast at doing things, I can still get to where I’m going. It may take some creativity and some extra help, but I make it every times.

Ultimately, it would be wonderful to live in a world where disabilities took a back seat to who we are as a person. That day will probably never come, but regardless of what the world thinks, I want you to know that you are not broken.

You are a beautifully patched together work of art covered in scars yet filled with amazing resilience and strength. Your scars display an amazing roadmap of courage. You are not MS, a cane, a wheelchair, or an emotional mess. You are incredibly you! You are important, needed, and wonderful just the way you are…and don’t you ever forget it.

MS Gets on My NervesMS WarriorMS Superhero  

About the Author

Penelope Conway

Penelope Conway
Penelope started Positive Living with MS as a way to help others with MS stay positive in the midst of a terrible disease. She believes that staying positive and holding onto hope is the key to waking up each morning with the strength to get through the day. Multiple Sclerosis may never go away, but neither will her determination and her drive to help others through the journey.

55 replies
  1. Rodger Ashton-Smith
    Rodger Ashton-Smith says:

    Thank you Penelope , your words run true for me as well. I am still a little wary of people when I use the wheelchair, but I have got around my head that it is a help for me not them. If they want me out of it then produce a way of doing it or don’t complain or make fun of at my expense. I didn’t ask for this so I have to deal with it as well as I can.

  2. Moneque
    Moneque says:

    It’s funny cause when I saw the title to this I giggled. I tell people that I’m broken. I feel broken on a regular basis. Broken, because I need assistance?? Nah your right, cracked maybe. But it sure is a better way to look at it. I’m cracked. I like that. Thank you for all your posts because they offer a new way to look at things. Cracked….

  3. Rebecca Beasley
    Rebecca Beasley says:

    I’m not there yet – don’t yet need a cane or walker. Am still working. But for the first time last week my symptoms were bad enough I couldn’t hide them in a meeting. It was actually a relief that it was visible. Less tiring somehow. Though I suppose that’s a feeling that goes away over time?

  4. Theresa Rose Lake
    Theresa Rose Lake says:

    I received my first round of ocrevus today (the new MS drug) and hoping that it will help me. I hate using canes and walkers….been fit for my wheelchair and really don’t want to use that.

    • Moneque
      Moneque says:

      I start next month. I have high hopes! Hope you are doing well and that it’s helping you.

  5. Michelle Vander Byl
    Michelle Vander Byl says:

    Feel safe! If you need a cane or a walker, use it for yourself! Please, do not care what people think. As long as you feel comfortable, you are # 1. If you don’t look after yourself, who will???

  6. Michelle Price
    Michelle Price says:

    I avoided using a walker. I’m not old. But after my daughter brought me one to use on a cruise I love it, even if it’s embarrassing. Makes shopping trips better

  7. Shanna Kinser
    Shanna Kinser says:

    My transition from a walker to a mobility service dog draws lots of attention. I’m mostly okay with it because it’s unavoidable. When you have a 70 lb dog in a harness at the supermarket or in the doctor’s office, well. As is true, though, for any “invisible” disease, there are looks and questions. Mobility service dogs aren’t common. Even a few others with MS have seemed confused. My dog, though, is also medical alert trained to remind me when my fatigue is worsening and I’m losing strength. I get so busy that I don’t consciously realize. That’s something the walker couldn’t do. Our mobility devices (and dogs) are meant to expand our ability to carry on with our “new normal”. Not make us self conscious or allow the ignorance of others to make us feel bad.

  8. Jan Hoback Jasper
    Jan Hoback Jasper says:

    I felt that way @ 10 years after my diagnosis. I couldn’t possibly use a cane…people at my corporate management job might find out I had a disease! Now, I feel it’s a great way to tell people about my disease.

  9. Sherry Roste
    Sherry Roste says:

    I used to be that way, refused to use a cane so I walked like I was drunk. My son had a solution – become an alcoholic. I don’t think so! I finally stopped caring. Have to use a walker now. If you have a problem with it, don’t look.

    • Pmdbio
      Pmdbio says:

      I literally laughed out loud as I started reading your post. One of my sisters says “I don’t give two s..ts what anyone thinks” a lot. Yes we do need to use whatever makes it comfortable for us.

  10. Maegan McCune
    Maegan McCune says:

    I do the same. I’d rather walk funny than use my cane, which is ridiculous when I really think about it, it’s okay that I need my cane some days.

  11. Leah
    Leah says:

    I’m on my 17th year with this horrible illness. I have graduated from cane…to crutch…to walker and now find myself using my mother-in-law’s…(who passed away last year), GOGO scooter around my home. Sure, I get those embarrassing stares from people and wish I had a comeback line but I have yet to come up with a clever reply.

  12. Cathy Chester
    Cathy Chester says:

    Beautiful and very poignant. We are never broken. We only have periods of time that we need to readjust our sails. As time moves on our resiliency reminds us how strong we are. Indeed.

  13. Catherine Roberts
    Catherine Roberts says:

    I have gone from a cane to a wheely walker to a wheelchair and it has been so long, I cannot remember the last time I walked unaided. My wheelchair is my saviour and I am grateful for it. It still hurts when I am in public and strangers look at me as if I must be mentally disabled as well as physically disabled, but oh well, I know that even though my legs don’t work well, my brain sure does and I am ok :0)

  14. Kathy Buys
    Kathy Buys says:

    And sometimes you opt not to go b/c the help of a cane prompts too many questions. Gratefully it’s not a daily need but it feels like a 4th of July bottle rocket in my hand with the looks & comments. After 37 yrs with MS, it’s just an aid for me, allowing me to be out & about…

  15. Valarie Ann Hartnell
    Valarie Ann Hartnell says:

    Thank you for sharing! Always love reading your articles, they are so real and heartfelt. I’m not in a wheelchair or cane .. yet but I wonder a lot of those days coming and feel a overwhelming emotion that you describe on he way others make us feel. I agree be yourself and love you just the way you are flaws and all

  16. Blake Smith
    Blake Smith says:

    Good timing with this one. Was having these feelings last week. It’s hard to deal with the change in the weather, needed a cane. Anytime anyone asked I just said I was feeling “big pimping”

    • Pmdbio
      Pmdbio says:

      Very cool… zebra paint & lights. Obviously, you’re a lady with a lot of spunk & a great attitude!

    • Moneque
      Moneque says:

      That is totally awesome!!!! I use a cane, and I decorate it with different ribbon wrapped around it, because otherwise it would be ugly. So right now I have Hello Kitty ribbon on it. And I change it every couple months. Around Christmas I wrap it in red and white, and it’s my candy cane. I hope I won’t need a wheelchair but if I get there, zebra stripes would be awesome!!

  17. Caitlin Anderson
    Caitlin Anderson says:

    Has so much fun at an art exhibit yesterday – new to me wheelchair has seat that goes up and down! I could enjoy art at eye level! Then get out and walk around!

  18. Leslie Beaver
    Leslie Beaver says:

    I have seen this but never personally experienced. My theory is that gender plays a part here. As my being tall and male might discourage silly and thoughtless comment.

  19. Jennifer Sutton
    Jennifer Sutton says:

    Just swallowing the fact a walker is my immediate future. 🙁 Thank you Penny!! I like that I can see myself as cracked but not broken!! xoxo

  20. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    Back when I used cane, people would ask what happened, and I’d say, “Pirates. Don’t ask.”

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