The day I started using a wheelchair

It is a guarantee in life that you will make a mistake, and more than one. Anyone who says they have never made a mistake simply isn’t living because that just comes along with life itself. It’s kind of weird to say, but mistakes are good. They teach us and shape the person we become.

Mistakes happen. Ask someone that has made the mistake of washing a load of white clothes with a pair of new red socks or locked themselves out of their car while it was still running (yes, I have done both), if mistakes happen. One thing is for sure, they give us new ways of looking at life.

I’ve made the mistake before of thinking I couldn’t use a cane to help me walk because it would draw too much attention to myself. I didn’t want people staring at me. What a mistake that was. I found myself holding onto walls, furniture and people in order to move around. I looked sillier hanging onto those things than I ever would have if I just used a cane, so I broke down, sucked it up and bought a cane.

It took some getting used to, but my cane simply became a tool to aid me as I walked. And besides, they come in colors and decorated with cool patterns. You can find a cane to match with just about anything you wear or bling it out yourself to make it even more unique and stylish.

I ended up thinking the same way when it came time to use a walker. You would have thought I had learned already with the cane, but I went through every emotion imaginable in the process. In my mind I was too young to use a walker and yet again didn’t want to draw attention to myself.

Between my denial and pride, I had an all out struggle. But just like with the cane, I found that using a walker made life easier, kept me from falling and gave me greater independence. So again, I broke down, sucked it up and got a walker.

Wouldn’t you know it, it happened again when I transitioned to using a wheelchair. It even happened when I began using a shower chair to bathe. I think for me, in my mind, using those things meant I was giving in to MS and allowing it to get the best of me.

Through this journey, I have discovered that using something to help me isn’t giving in. Giving in is when your attitude becomes negative and bitter. That’s when you have allowed MS to get the upper hand. As long as I’m alive and breathing…it’s a good day regardless of what aids I use to help me through the day.

I haven’t given in…I may move slower than I did before and have things to help me along the way that I had never used in the past, but I’m moving forward and not going to stop just because I may look different.

Forget how it looks or what people might think, enjoy the journey. And like someone once told me, “No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow your progress, you’re still way ahead of anyone who isn’t trying.”

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.

100 replies
  1. Mary Ryan
    Mary Ryan says:

    I use a cane myself and I have a walker on wheels as well, I also drive a mobility scooter the last 12yrs I’d never get about without them I have at times thought I was on a good day leave the cane at home and then like many mentioned above end up clinging to walls while out haven’t made that mistake since I find flying on my own the hardest I’m no light weight and feel every one on the plane is judging me when they see the fat lady being wheeled onto the plane but I refuse to let this illness beat me much respect and admiration to everyone here that is fighting the battle

  2. Frances Anderson
    Frances Anderson says:

    I get stared at staggering. Been pulled over several times and breathalysed even had neighbours call police when i got in my car as i appeared drunk. Printed cards. I Have MS am not drunk but if you want me to be please leave wine on my doorstep instead of wasting police time. Lol x

  3. Jenny Ferguson
    Jenny Ferguson says:

    I delayed using a cane too, but as I was a midwife, no longer practising by the way, I was accused of being drunk . Suspect the weaving around and hanging onto to walls had some thing to do with it. Oh well , the chance would be a fine thing x

  4. Jeannine Washington
    Jeannine Washington says:

    I used a cane when I travel. It comes in handy when I’m at the luggage carousel. f I can’t find anyone to help me. Find a good wall and hook to luggage by the luggage straps.

  5. Aileen Brown
    Aileen Brown says:

    I find a cane hard because of my hands got osteoarthritis as well in them but they think a lot of my mobility problem is coming from my back waiting on MRI scan and consultant appointment hopefully they can do something but I wouldn’t be in the least embarrassed in a chair or on a scooter anything to get me put and about

  6. Miri Milne
    Miri Milne says:

    I broke both ankles last week when I decided I felt good enough to go shopping with my cane, rather than my wheelie walker. Now I’m housebound with a wheelchair.

  7. Todd
    Todd says:

    I sometimes use a cane, other times a rollator. The rollator is a pia to get in and out of the car, so I use my cane most of the time. I’m 52, but, whatever. I find people like to help, hold doors or whatever. It’s cool.

  8. Shanna Kinser
    Shanna Kinser says:

    I went reluctantly from cane to walker. Now I have a mobility task trained mobility dog. She mostly draws positive attention and I’m grateful for the additional benefit of her attentiveness. She’ll signal me when she senses I’m getting too fatigued. Our aids help us maintain independence and reduce the risks of getting injured. I wish mobility service dogs were more widely available for people with MS.

  9. Catherine Roberts
    Catherine Roberts says:

    Years ago I used a cane and as my MS got worse I progressed to walking frame. Nowadays, I use a wheelchair. I have no choice, thanks to this unrelenting disease :0(

  10. quipment.
    quipment. says:

    Well I’ve been through that challenge myself. in fact I’m writing this from my wheelchair and the computer is on the table I was given by the hospital. My wheelchair is special because it’s made for me(my measurements sitting and standing and weight). I had the choice of 2 chairs and I picked the benefits from one and had them fitted to the one I chose. It has technology from the Formula One racing teams on my main wheels ( they come off just like the latest cars, just hit the center and they come off). So it seemed like a car buy rather than a “wheelchair”. But it’s still mine and helps me get around as I can’t use my right leg much any more. But I can still do things and I’m finding new ways to use this piece of equipment is exciting and fun.

  11. Jean Preston
    Jean Preston says:

    I have a cane and a walker and a wheelchair and don’t use any of them. My doctor always tell me to use them because of breaking a hip and I always the say ok, but I don’t. At house I hold on to the wall also and when I am out I hold on one of my daughters. I understand everyone pain. This week is bad for me, but tomorrow is another day. God bless us all.

  12. Richard John Stephenson
    Richard John Stephenson says:

    I’ve finally given in and swallowed my pride and bought a scooter, and after being in the TA for 20yrs and being so active, I hate the fact I need a scooter, but without I can’t get around. I’ve also been a biker & trucker for many years. But I know I have a auto T5 van, an auto trike & now my scooter. Sgt Stephenson is mobile once more, sod what everyone thinks, beware anyone who stares when I’m on my scooter or my crutches!

  13. Tammy Frank Ramler
    Tammy Frank Ramler says:

    Never could mastered the cane, but I use a walker. Had a real tough time at first but just had to swallow my pride once again! But, I’m thankful for these walking devices because without them, we would loose more of our independence!!

  14. Kevin Martin
    Kevin Martin says:

    Thank you for sharing, SWMBO is currently laid up with a fractured femur, but she now uses a cane and a mobility scooter due to her MS. A wheel chair is her worst night mare? work that one out if you can because it lost me.

  15. Jenn Chavez-Ward
    Jenn Chavez-Ward says:

    I use a cane and a scooter. No matter how used to it I am, it’s always a touch embarrassing that I’m needing it at the ripe age of 36. Having said that, nearly bending over a street sign when you tried to stop yourself falling was far more embarrassing. Doombuggy (my scooter’s name) has been by my side and travelled the world with me for the past 3 years. The memories she’s helped me make are worth more than the thoughts and opinions of those who’d tut on me for using a walking aid at my age.

  16. Mary o connor
    Mary o connor says:

    After reading Marie flemmings book it helped me to decide on the cane to get me around I am ok in the house it is outside is the problem I can see a walker comming soon as my lung volume is at 40% and the fatuigue is killing

  17. Debbie Godlove
    Debbie Godlove says:

    I have been through all of those stages and emotions myself. You know what, I don’t care what people think any more. I’m still upright and moving, now with a little help from my walker and scooter. MS didn’t win, I’m winning. I still go where I want, and do what I want, I just have to do it a little differently.

    • Debbie Godlove
      Debbie Godlove says:

      I forgot to say that I’ll be 62 in a few months. People ask me if I have had a hip or knee replacement. No, I have MS. Multiple Sclerosis Usually leaves them speechless or then they say their sorry and walk away. Whatever. Debbie Godlove

  18. Sue Allen
    Sue Allen says:

    I thought like you until i had to buy a cane, then eventually elbow crutches were needed. I use a wheelchair for long journeys. The trouble with a wheelchair, people dont seem to see me & bump into me. So if anybody who has’nt got M.S. is reading this, please be aware of where you are walking

  19. Sandra MAXEY
    Sandra MAXEY says:

    I can’t bring myself to do it. Just can’t get pass that I feel I am too young for that although I am 53.

  20. Karina Foster
    Karina Foster says:

    I have a walker that I rarely use and I bought a collapsible cane on-line. I use that when I am having trouble walking. When I remember I put it in my backpack and take it with me. So if my day starts out good, but I start having problems I can use it. I love it and am glad I bought a collapsible one.

  21. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Thank you Penelope. I have a cane and it took me a long while to accept it. My walking is difficult especially when it is hot and the sun is brightly shining. I guess the embarrassment and the looks from others and people beleiving that I am not able to do things anymore. It was more than I was able to swallow. Now, though it is uncomfortable at times. I move ahead without looking back. It is still a struggle, but at least I am not giving up.

    Thank you for your words which definitely hit home today. God Bless you

  22. Marcie Roudebush Dryden
    Marcie Roudebush Dryden says:

    I can totally relate. The sadness creeped inside of me as I was reading. I use a cane for short distance, but a walker is mostly my choice so I can sit if need be. I yearn for the days I used to hike or run. I was an active person. I do try to be active, but sometimes that negative voice whispers….you can’t do that anymore

  23. Kathy Ann
    Kathy Ann says:

    I have a steep driveway that isn’t in the best condition. About a year and a half ago, I was at my sister’s and her husband makes walking sticks; picked one out and walla, problem solved; I can traverse the slope and other perils to get to my mailbox without the fear of falling! It may be time to consider a cane though, as my inside maneuvering is becoming wall to wall, wall to chair, wall to whatever too!

  24. Nuala Niland
    Nuala Niland says:

    Better to use the cane than having a fall and break something. I use my cane when my balance is bad.There are lovely coloured canes on sale , I have three different ones all lovely colours depending on my mood which I use

  25. Sue Smith
    Sue Smith says:

    My hands can’t grip well enough for a cane I’ve tried it. I think a walker might be good but am resisting because I still get so fatigued that’s my main problem. A wheelchair is good for my husband to push me about in so we can at least do something together. Your post was good though it reminded me not to give up because I feel a bit like giving up at the moment. I will try a bit harder to push on. Xx

  26. Debbie Miranda
    Debbie Miranda says:

    I used to walk with a cane but that was not stable enough, so I use Ergobaum crutches, now i get around much easier, they are what makes it easy to get around .

  27. Beatrice Cook
    Beatrice Cook says:

    Got my cane and walker use to help get me up on my feet that’s all for now 42 years old never thought I would use a cane at that age. I use to worry bout what people would say or think but my pain overcome what they think anymore. I will fight to the end got my grand-babies to keep going for

  28. Keith Jenkins
    Keith Jenkins says:

    Walking with a stick again out of necessity rather than choice, at least it gives other people a visual cue that you need a bit more space and time when you’re out. Thank you so much for your blog, it (and the comments) are frequently wonderful, and your observations often make me laugh

  29. Victoria Gamble
    Victoria Gamble says:

    I prefer to use a crutch or crutches as my stick makes me feel like an old woman and draws more attention than a crutch, no one bats an eyelid to that but the stick gets noticed. Fortunately don’t need it at the minute. Thanks Lemtrada!

  30. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    It took me 2 or so years before I accepted I needed the cane out and about but now using it feels good cause I know people are less judgy about my wobbly walking im 37 now diagnosed at 30

  31. Tracy Plows
    Tracy Plows says:

    After having MS for 21 years and having to learn to walk 5 times during that time along with other ways to do things. I am still doing what I want between treatments but have slowed down. I find I am enjoying life more. Never give up or give in. Be creative and have fun with it

  32. Meg Spinella
    Meg Spinella says:

    I’ve had a scooter since 2012. It allows me to walk with my husband, get through airports independently, and lead an active life. I use a walker around my house (never outside)- it allows me to be a lot more like a normal homemaker. My grandson calls it my “training wheels.” I have a folding “hurrycane” for shorter distances.

  33. Joanne Chapman
    Joanne Chapman says:

    People are so cruel. Got a stick ( my husband persuaded me). Now stair and grab rails. Didn’t want any but why did I not do it sooner. Thanks for this. Sod them!

  34. Jana Morgan
    Jana Morgan says:

    I was embarrassed by using a walker but 6 stitches in my head after a nasty fall made me start to accept them. Very hard but I now have a scooter for the supermarket and a walker for shorter distances and I haven’t had any stitches since! As my psyc said you have to accept it but it doesn’t mean you have to like it! Worked for me!

  35. Becky DeRubba Wilson
    Becky DeRubba Wilson says:

    I felt the same way. That’s why the first cane I bought was a clear, acrylic cane! I thought it wouldn’t draw attention…but I actually got SO many compliments on it! Ha, 20 yrs later, I have 3 canes, 2 walkers, a wheelchair and a scooter. Yep, necessity helps you get over the fear of looking “less than.” 😉

  36. Heather Smithers
    Heather Smithers says:

    Pfft…. I have a whole medical supply company. Lol
    Four canes… two walking sticks. Two drop foot braces. One walker. Two manual wheelchairs. They just replaced one. One electric wheelchair ( in storage). Grin.
    Nevermind all the bathroom safety crap. I refused bed rails and instead chose to dismantle my bed frame when I kept falling out of bed. Lol
    They won’t fix or replace my walker as I am apparently too handicapped.
    I use one cane. And bandaids. And live in denial.

    • Cj
      Cj says:

      Hope you have a rollator Heather… just larned how helpful it is out in yard… Works GREAT in grass… Who knew? And yes, I mean the green stuff… LOL… You and I go wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy back friend!!! xo Cj

    • Geraldine Lowrey
      Geraldine Lowrey says:

      Denial is a river in Egypt. Yep, I know my history! If we can’t pool all our devices together and open a used walking aids store maybe we can star in a vaudeville act using our canes – “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over!”. I’d do the old soft shoe because tap dancing would land me on my derriere!

  37. Geraldine Lowrey
    Geraldine Lowrey says:

    My walls and doorways are dirty. Guess what? I don’t care! I’ll get to it later. It may not be when “you” want it (the “you” I speak of is “you” in general, not “you”, the reader, personally.) I used a cane long ago

  38. James M. Dorn
    James M. Dorn says:

    You make my days brighter, attitude is the Rx, how I remember the first chair, my tears and then the little children in chairs at Lion Kingdom and I sat with them, that was one of the great days of pure joy in my life, I saw the world thru the eyes of a child, my pain went away and my damn pride went away. The floor visits me at times, so now we must talk and then I get up. You are an Angel to our MS world. Thank you.

  39. David James Gibson
    David James Gibson says:

    Penelope, you articulate the emotions so well. My wife has MS and is in a wheelchair. She didn’t make the transition via cane and walker, just straight to hospital and out on a chair. It’s something I’ve thought about (a lot) over the last three years. But it seems her inability to cook (safely), garden and drive has been more significant than the stares and sometimes expressed sense of failure.

    • Geraldine Lowrey
      Geraldine Lowrey says:

      My thoughts are with you and your wife. I know remaining positive has a better effect than being negative. Before my first MS exacerbation I worried about everything. I was in a constant state of turmoil. It only helped weaken my immune response. I’m still learning a lot about MS and me, but I know thinking good, even in my darkest moments, beats the bad.

  40. Rose McNulty
    Rose McNulty says:

    I hope you realise your making such a difference in the lives of other people with ms. I use a scooter and think its the best thing ever. Used to walk a lot but not any more. The scooter brings me hours of pleasure every day. Keep up the good work penny x

  41. Lesley Macdonald
    Lesley Macdonald says:

    I was same it was a pride thing , but now I dont care what people think or say , theyre the ones with the problem . I have to use scooters in supermarket but at least I can get out and about when I can

    • Geraldine Lowrey
      Geraldine Lowrey says:

      I remember watching an older lady use her scooter around the supermarket. She went fast, making “beep, beep” noises when she got near people. It was annoying – until we heard her beep, beep and crash into a stand of bananas! She wasn’t hurt, but the bananas took a beating! We, the other customers, laughed. Yes, I’m sure karma will pay us back eventually. I’m waiting until I my scooter crashes those bananas.

  42. Lisa M. Davidson
    Lisa M. Davidson says:

    Thank you for sharing. And for this site. When I started falling with no warning, my doctor prescribed a cane. I was so self conscious, and a little embarrassed at first, so I didn’t use it. He told me that I was risking seriously injuring myself. Took a bit for this wisdom to sink in and to swallow my pride. It’s nice to know that you’re not alone and others go through some of the same things. Again, thank you!!

  43. Jodie Green
    Jodie Green says:

    I went through the same worries and fears but I realised that the alternative to not using aids is staying at home and I did not want that to happen. I now use crutches at work and a wheelchair when out and about. I don’t like using them but it means I can still live my life x

  44. Iris Carson
    Iris Carson says:

    I never used walking aids, but got couple of sticks. Recently I got a scooter as I can’t walk very far,it’s the best, giving me independence while out and about xx

  45. Androulla Kardana
    Androulla Kardana says:

    Thank you for this article, sometimes I felt silly going through these emotions before acceptance sank in, so good to know that it’s quite normal. Yes, it’s hard but if these aids give us comfort and independence, so be it !!! xxx

  46. Naomi Doty
    Naomi Doty says:

    I am now on my way to buying a scooter. I just cannot walk very far without any help. My grandkids are going to decorate it for me. I will be the coolest MS Nana out and about.

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