When I was 31, my neurologist suggested that I should consider using a walking cane. This was no surprise to me, as I had become quite familiar with the ground meeting my face on a regular basis. Years of ballet lessons were not enough to combat the deterioration of myelin associated with my multiple sclerosis (MS) and resulting lack of basic coordination.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in the “I Can Do It Myself!” Club. This club consists of stubborn, self-sufficient, hardheaded folks like me who loathe the thought of asking for help or needing assistance. We enjoy being the superhero type. The “fixers.”
The shift in which the fixer becomes the fixee can lead to a tricky algorithm. For me, it required some humility, patience, and an overall bigger sense of self-acceptance. Knowing that using a mobility aid would mean less face-to-ground contact was pretty appealing. Fewer ripped pants. Less bruised knees. Fewer crowd-roaring gasps of shock and disbelief.
This all seemed intriguing. So, there I was on a Tuesday afternoon scouring the internet for an attractive walking cane that would not only prevent falls, but would also complement my style.
I knew I’d feel better about using a walking cane if I loved what it looked like. I wanted something versatile, fashionable, and unique. Essentially, I wanted my cane to feel like an extension of me — something I was proud to use and wear. Nobody is going to go to their optometrist for their annual exam and saying, “I’d like the ugliest frames in stock.”
I remember my search being a bit off-putting at first. Every website I visited seemed to be targeting older generations and seniors. Being 31 at the time, this left me feeling a bit discouraged, and even embarrassed, seeing mobility aids in general being marketed to seniors only. No disrespect at all to my elders — I just wasn’t there yet. I wanted to see people in my age bracket sporting walking canes and modeling them.
By diving into social media, I was able to find a handful of strong-voiced chronic illness influencers who made my wish a reality. There, I saw younger members of the chronic illness community sporting their canes, rollators, and braces like they were couture. This gave me a sense of pride and empowered me to break the mold of what disability looks like.
I wanted to eliminate the “shock factor” when it came to mobility aids. I guarantee if you do an online search right now for walking canes, 99 percent of the marketing will target seniors. What if we widened our target audience and changed the algorithm? The element of shame to use a mobility aid for younger generations may be reduced when we see them being used in a more relatable way.
So if it’s your turn to take the plunge with a mobility aid, make sure it suits you! If you love animals, find a cane with cats on it. Have a special event coming up? Find a cane that gives off that black-tie vibe. Most importantly, you'll not only severely reduce your fall-risk factor; you’ll look darn good doing it!
MyMSTeam columnists discuss multiple sclerosis from a specific point of view. Columnists’ articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyMSTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyMSTeam content isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.