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My Reluctant Journey Toward Using Mobility Devices

My Reluctant Journey Toward Using Mobility Devices

Faith of the Mustard Seed

When I was younger, I assumed that I wouldn’t require a mobility device until much later in my life. I wasn’t prepared for needing to use a cane or a walker in my 50s. My 2010 multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis rearranged my life in many ways. And having to use mobility devices is now a part of the deal.

I had experienced issues with balance and walking for years before my diagnosis. I started bumping into things and I gradually progressed to falling. But even when I was falling over frequently, I fought against the notion of needing assistance. My reluctance was likely due to my vanity or the stigma I had attached to mobility devices.

Eventually my sister and my late husband talked me into using a motorized grocery cart at the store. They knew it would support me when walking. I appreciated the ease of gliding around the store until the battery died. But I also remember feeling sadder and older and I wished that I had my sturdy legs back.

Following the move to the motorized cart, I was inspired to use a cane around my house. I thought, misguidedly, that a thinner cane would be better. What I chose was not a cane at all but a one-legged camera stand. It did not help. On the contrary, it upset my balance and increased my risk of falling.

Ironically, in my efforts not to appear different, I had chosen something that looked ridiculous and was unsafe. I left the camera stand behind and moved on to a real cane. It was little and prettily decorated with flowers. I used it for a few months, but I couldn’t get my balance right and was still prone to falling.

Finally, I gave in and purchased a purple rollator walker. The difference in stability was amazing. I fall about once a year now, which is a huge improvement. The reason I fall has changed: I take a tumble when my legs give out. Recently, I have upgraded to a Nitro walker which is lightweight and modern-looking.

I also use a manual wheelchair for longer excursions and shopping. I feel proactive using my arms to navigate myself, though it can be tiring. Thankfully I always have someone with me, so they can push me if needed.

My mind has adapted to my new modes of transportation, and my self-confidence has gradually increased. I had to move past my denial of needing assistance. Thanks to my mobility devices, I can still go out and enjoy life and keep some of my independence. I’ve accepted that I need help and have learned to be grateful for anyone or anything that offers me support.

You are invited to follow me on Instagram.

Are you hesitant to use a mobility device?  Please join the discussion on this topic in the MS forums.


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.

Debi is a retired admissions and marketing director residing in Oregon. She is a mother of three grown children and has three grandchildren. She was diagnosed with PPMS in 2010. With her column, “Faith of the Mustard Seed,” she hopes to help and inspire others who are also dealing with MS.
Debi is a retired admissions and marketing director residing in Oregon. She is a mother of three grown children and has three grandchildren. She was diagnosed with PPMS in 2010. With her column, “Faith of the Mustard Seed,” she hopes to help and inspire others who are also dealing with MS.
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  1. Ellie Cardonne says:

    Wow, I’m not alone. Use Walker and scooter.. We have to be happy we walk.. Stay strong girlfriend. This is not the look I expected..But it works too..

  2. Leanne Broughton says:

    Using my cane X3 years, now a fashion statement. Still walking short distances on my own but at age 59 years I am thinking about getting a walker.

  3. Ora Atkinson says:

    I found it was better with a rollator if I’m walking long distances as a stick throughs my balance out but know how you feel and don’t give up but do what your body tells you best of luck

  4. Wanda Coble says:

    Thank you for sharing! I’m still at the point where I don’t think I need a walker, but I’m falling more these days. Right now My mind is saying ” if she can do it so can you.”

    • Debi Wilson says:

      That’s great Wanda,thank-you for sharing that! It is definitely better having a walker than falling! Good luck to you, Debi

  5. Claire Hartley says:

    I was diagnosed 10 months ago aged 43. Had no mobility issues and figured I probably wouldn’t have for years yet, however MS had other ideas and in September, I had a major relapse affecting my mobility. I fought against any aids and would push myself then suffer the consequences. In Feb, I stopped fighting it and accepted my fate. I DO need my wheelchair when out and about and my walking wheels for therapy. And the thought was always worse than actually using using them.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      So true Claire! Thank-you for sharing your story. I am sure it will help and encourage others! Best, Debi

      • chris says:

        Thanks for sharing, I can relate to this situation and I am still resisting in some situations about using a scooter. despite support from my family I still am hesitant to go some places using something more than a cane. I guess its true what they say, “Pride comes before the fall!” literally! lol.

        • Debi Wilson says:

          Haha! “Pride comes before the fall!” So true! Thank-you for sharing! A scooter sounds fun, I hope to get one sometime. Best, Debi

    • Irina says:

      Finally someone my age! I am sorry, I do get upset when MS patients in their late 70s complain… I got both a rollator and a wheelchair last year

      • Janice Mitchell says:

        Me too Irina. But I also get upset/frustrated when mobility aids are written about in such a negative way by anyone! I am in my 40’s and not able to walk with/without aids but I have accepted this and realise what freedom is gained by my wonderful mobility scooter and indoor powerchair. Let’s change attitudes towards mobility aids and, instead, appreciate the ‘new life’ gained.

  6. Cynthia King says:

    I have a back room that is the land of obsolete DME equipment. I need a walker, no discussion about that. In my search I have back there a upright walker, I tried it to prevent me from stooping over. But the problem of being upright is my center of gravity has changed, and I have to be careful I don’t pitch backward. I have one of those ‘drug store’ type walkers, but stooping over it bothers my back. I have a hoveround my neighbor gave me, her husband died and no longer needed it, but it needs new batteries. I have one where it’s hard to use on carpet. I have one that the back wheels are wider than the front, so you can stand inside the frame and be more centered, but it has chewed up my doors and baseboards because the front goes through fine, but the back wheels being wider nicks my woodwork. have three of those German made walker. These are not cheap but I use one inside, one for outside, and one that needs my husband to fix the brake cable. They are lightweight, roll smooth, and easy to navigate. I initially balked at the price, but for the price of a pair of eyeglasses, which I need, they are worth the money. I also have four foam donuts because I sit so much, I have to worry about pressure sores. The two that work the best I keep one in the car and one in the chair. I have evaluated all kinds of equipment in my search for the most stylish yet functional. I imagine that room is probably where all the socks are that disappear in the wash.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Cynthia!
      You have a lot to choose from, I liked your line about the socks!🙂 Thank-you for sharing your story! Take care, Debi

  7. Caroline Borduin says:

    I use a walker and manual wheelchair in the same way! My beef is getting to shopping carts at stores. You know: 1)use walker to get to cart 2)bring walker back to car in cart 3)discover you’re already exhausted!

    • Debi Wilson says:

      So true Carole! And, when I use those carts the battery always seems to run out halfway through the store! Thanks for for your comments! Take care, Debi

  8. Richard Leakey says:

    I was diagnosed in 2008.Today, In the supermarket I use one of their trollies and that helps to support me as I go round the shop( less frequently and for less time than I used to). Generally, I take my tall walking stick wherever I go and this helps me to stand up straight. There is no such thing as comfortable walking anymore and I manage about 60 metres with difficulty and always looking for trip hazards in the pavements and other less even surfaces( and of course the next seat). I have just bought a kneeler for the garden. I have a boot based buggy and have to use it for trips out if accompanying the wife. I’ve stopped cooking so need a saddle seat to get me round the kitchen. I fell over last about two months ago and hurt my right arm and left hand. Falls always seem to take me by complete surprise. It’s a bumpy down hill track I find myself on! KBO?

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Richard,thank-you for sharing your story! I like your expression “Keep buggering on (KBO).” 🙂 Debi

  9. Jeff says:

    Sigh, your story rings so familiar to so many. I was DX’d in 1977 at the tender age of twenty five. From a pamphlet from the MS Society there was a story about a “fifty-something” woman finally accepting a wheelchair. I brushed off that notion, I was still running.

    Yet, twenty five years later, after too many falls there I was, cane in hand. First, just for balance, then just to ‘rest’ my legs. Leaning heavily on a grocery cart I still got around. Then a rollator, but my dysfunctional right leg kept getting my foot caught under the wheel; with the obligatory face plant to follow (that was kinda embarrassing). Back to the cane.

    Cane in right hand, left grabbing whatever I could find, I took a hard tumble that almost dislocated my left shoulder. OK, I gamely told myself, I’ll use this inherited power chair ‘just’ until my shoulder heals.

    Well, denial only gets you so far. Today I’m breaking in my third compound power chair; where would I be without it! With my van I’m still mobile. You do what you do!

      • Janice Mitchell says:

        ……but let’s embrace the freedom that is gained from mobility aids and change attitudes to appreciate the ‘new life’ gained. I envy those that can still walk! My wonderful mobility scooter and indoor powerchair have made a huge difference to my life.

        • Debi Wilson says:

          Hi Janice,
          Yes, of course we need to “embrance the freedom.” I hope my article didn’t sound negative, I was showing my “reluctant journey” in adapting to my new needs. My hope was to show people there is not a reason to hesitate. Mobility devices improve our lives! Thanks for your comments, take care, Debi

  10. Bob McAusland says:

    My wife has always been keen to keep mobile for as long as possible. The problem we had was judging how far she could walk, so we could make it back home or to the car. We have now bought a Rollz Motion Rollator which acts as a rollator, but easily converts to a wheelchair. It means my wife can walk as far as she is able with the rollator then convert to a wheelchair for me to push.

  11. Pat Poole says:

    I’ve found that at the moment an elbow cane does the trick balance-wise for short journeys. I’ve got a pretty cool black and white cow patterned one which I’m fond of. I have a motorised chair and also a manual one for longer journeys (also I wouldn’t take an expensive chair on board an aircraft, you hear so many horror stories). I have considered a walker but my arms are so s**** that I don’t think I could push one. Oh, I know what you mean tho, it was a real rite of passage the first time I got a cane/my crutch/my chair … another step on the slippery slope. But of course you soon come to see that they’re actually aids to freedom.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Pat,
      Your cane sounds cool,thank-you for sharing your story! I agree about mobility devices equaling freedom. I don’t know what I would do without them. Take care, Debi

  12. Cyn Doyle says:

    can relate to all the comments….I now own 4 canes , 4 rollators [ one makes into a transport chair ], 2 scooters…really cool ones, though–one has a double wide seat for 2 people , and the other is a ”Boomer Buggy Covered ”…it looks like a really small ”Smart car”.I recently purchased an Alinker walking bike….but have not figured it out yet. If I can learn how to use it , I will be able to go for walks again. Here’s hoping !! Google it…it’s really cool.

  13. Grady says:

    I was diagnosed in 1979. I’m now 64. I started using a walking stick about 10 years ago, moved to bi-lateral walking sticks about 8 years ago. I got around fine on those but water on floors and ice outdoors proved to be treacherous and I had a few falls. I had a total hip replacement in Oct. 2018. We were going on a trip in December and my wife insisted that I get a rollator. I wish I would have done it several years earlier. The rollator was part of my recovery from hip surgery but I’m really enjoying the safety and ability to walk longer distances.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      That’s great,Grady! I know what you mean. Having a stable walker makes all the difference! Thanks for sharing your story! Best,Debi

  14. cara ciliberto says:

    I am grateful for all of the humility, honesty, and strength heard in above comments. I was diagnosed in 2001 with relapsing remitting, probably progressing somewhere between ten and twelve years later. Hard to say, but I noticed problems after my twins were born. I *did* get off Avonex in 2005 to get pregnant, then didn’t get back on til I fell badly breaking my arm in 2011. Anyway, yes, me too..totally self-conscious about being seen as different. How funny for someone who has always valued unique expression in all its forms! I finally knew that mobility assistance was essential for my wellbeing..and I got two trekking poles at the suggestion of my physical therapist. It’s the same as wearing a pole attached to each arm, but if I tripped with a trekking pole in hand I could just drop it and regain my footing rather than be attached to something that could throw my balance off worse! I honestly still get stupidly vain about using both, but I am evolving as I use two about 90% of the time when I am out. I have no problem using my wheelchair if I need to venture a significant (for me) distance. I’d rather not miss out on certain events that require lengthy assistance.

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