On the Other Hand: Leaning Left With MS

Mike Knight avatar

by Mike Knight |

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Some months ago my wife and I went out for dinner at our favorite sushi place. As is frequently the custom at sushi restaurants, the table setting included chopsticks. No forks.

I’ll be painfully honest here: We are both woefully unskilled at using chopsticks. We try, of course, feigning some ability for appearances sake before requesting forks out of both frustration and hunger (and likely to the horror of others in the restaurant).

But MS has turned my right hand into little more than a shiftless observer and has, for all intents and purposes, made using even a “decadent and blasphemous” fork with that hand hard (and more than a little messy, too).

Maybe it was the Kirin beer, but for some reason I tried using the chopsticks with my left hand.

And apparently that was “Lefty’s” moment to shine. I tore through California and tuna rolls, soft-shell crab, even the scraggly little salad that came with the meal. I was suddenly a chop-sticking master, deftly picking up single grains of rice with surgical precision and calm.

I’m not sure what excited me more, the ability to use chopsticks or the ability to use my left hand.

According to Scientific American, roughly 70-95 percent of humans are right-hand “dominant,” somewhere between 5-30 percent are left-hand dominant and an undetermined number of us are ambidextrous. Me? I’ve always been a righty. For writing, hand-holding and shaking, beer-bottle-lifting and everything else.

The chopstick affair was the first time I’d thought about my left-hand as the dominant one. But now I use it for my mouse, fork and occasionally for very limited handwriting, too. If you ever want to be humbled (and who among us hasn’t?), try printing with your non-dominant hand. Then raise the bar and try writing in cursive. So much of MS has the ability to take you back to childhood (whether you want to go or not) and to a time when you had very little control over functions that we grow to take for granted.

I’ve long been told my handwriting was that of a physician (not in a complimentary way) and that was using my “good” hand. “Lefty’s” letters are childlike and labored, hard-pressed loops and crosses and dots that require immense concentration in order to be remotely legible and it seems for all the world as if I should be writing about Dick and Jane seeing Spot run again.

Many years ago I wrote “One Sick Puppy,” an article about a young couple trying to save Rico, their five-year-old Doberman Pinscher, from cancer. The disease began in his chest, then spread into one of Rico’s legs — as is somewhat common in big, long-limbed dogs—and his owners had elected to have the leg amputated in an effort to stem the progression and save his life.

I watched somberly as the surgeon removed Rico’s leg, then gingerly repaired the wound and stitched it closed. He spent the night at the hospital and the next day Rico’s owners took him home.

About a month later they returned for a checkup. I was waiting at the hospital for them, not quite knowing what to expect, but somehow fearing the worst. They folded down the rear gate of their rusty black truck, gently lifted his crate off the truck bed and onto the ground and then, as Rico wiggled and squealed impatiently, set him free.

To my surprise he fairly exploded out of the crate and then scampered inside, oblivious to the leg he’d lost. He was grinning from ear to ear, the way dogs do, happily nipping and teasing the other “patients” in the hospital’s waiting room.

I think of him and that moment from time to time now, hoping that I’ll have the wisdom and strength to not dwell too much on what I’ve lost and instead, celebrate as much as possible what I have left.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Carleen Radanovich avatar

Carleen Radanovich

Loved that story, being a animal lover. I also have used that thinking with my MS for years. Thanks for the smile.

Carleen Radanovich

Mike Knight avatar

Mike Knight

Thanks so much, Carleen, I'm glad you enjoyed the piece and even more that it made you smile (and thanks for returning the favor, too).

Alan avatar



even before the attack which lead to my MS diagnosis, I sensed something amiss with my neurology and started practicing doing everything with my left hand, from lifting grocery bags to eating sushi with my left hand. After my attack when my right hand was too numb to do much, my left hand was ready to take over. Things got better with my right hand, and except for handwriting I found I was now ambidextrous. Recently, I have been losing dexterity in my right hand, so am now doing the reverse and refocusing on my right hand in an attempt to balance things off again.

Some nights eating with chopsticks (we eat with chopsticks in my house), I have to revert back to my now dominant left hand so that I don't drop food.

I think the brain is wonderful and we're fortunate amidst our misfortune to be able to find a different way to do what we need to get done. Thanks for writing about "hand MS" - not all of us experience the most dysfunction in our walking and it's good to see the topic out there.

Mike Knight avatar

Mike Knight

Thanks for reading and for your comment, Alan. I agree, the brain is incredible and that we're very fortunate to have the opportunity to find different ways of doing things for ourselves (and sometimes having our eyes opened to all the possibilities other ways of doing things present to us, MS or not).

Denice Demuth avatar

Denice Demuth

I read an article recently that using your non dominate hand increases your brain's development. I am a artist and had already been told I was ambidextrous. I started out with print but quickly went to writing my name. I had my husband look at it when he got home and said it looked close to my regular signature. I may have not improved my brain but you are acquiring some massive brain power. Potter

Mike Knight avatar

Mike Knight

Thanks Denice...I'll take every bit of brain-power I can get!

Dawn Liddle avatar

Dawn Liddle

At one of my jobs they cut tomatoes with a slicer thing that gives you 6 perfect slices. Someone came up to me and said " you are doing that wrong, you have to use your right hand to push the tomatoes through". I told them "I can't do that and it is cutting fine." I use whichever hand feels right for what I am doing. I'm ambidextrous.



Hey Mike, enjoyed the story. Have seen a couple canines missing a front leg. or should I rephrase that statement to "having one front leg". They sure didn't seem to miss anything. Oh yeah, I'm typing this left handed since my right is MSing.

Mike Knight avatar

Mike Knight

Thanks, Gary, I'm glad you enjoyed the piece and love the phrase "MSing" too. Very apt description!


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