I’ve walked with a cane since January of last year. There was a brief period in March where I walked without one, but then the balance issues returned and the falls worsened. Up until I took bus ride the other day where I didn’t fall or lose my balance, I depended on it, needed it, was naked without it.
I’ve had a love and hate relationship with my cane. At first, I really hated the fact that I had to walk with one. When I was able to hang it up in March, I was thrilled beyond belief. I still experienced times when my balance was a little off, where my body was unsure of itself, but I soldiered on.
When the falls began, it was devastating. They happened with no notice and no warning, just a brief moment, a split second and I would be down, or the ground would rush up to meet me. I fell into any number of things, in a variety of ways. The falls always happened, even though I had my cane.
I kept it with me, however, and still depended on it. It came everywhere. I can’t be too mad at it though; I wrote one of my favourite poems because of it (Children of the Sphinx). It did keep me safe in a lot of situations. It gave me comfort, like I carried a blanket with me.
However, after that bus ride, I was inspired to try and see if I could walk without it. I don’t know why I was afraid to try again. It’s been my third leg for so long now that walking without it was but a fond memory.
When this all started, in what seems like a lifetime ago, busses were the worst for me. I could barely manage to get to the prioritized seating. Balance was horrible for me. I had none and the slightest movement would send me flying. I fell into people, into poles, onto people. I had to be sitting when the bus began moving and even then, I still wobbled.
Riding the bus and being able to stand and hold on to the pole gave me the courage I needed. I was better, stronger, both in spirit and mind. So I decided to see what I could do. I didn’t use my cane at all at work Thursday or Friday. I normally take it with me if I go down for lunch, but I didn’t.
It was freeing just going down to lunch that way and a little surreal. It was almost like being in a dream for a bit. I got even braver. When I went out on Saturday, I brought my cane with me, but I didn’t use it. I went to class and hung it on the coat rack. I almost forgot it when I left and had to go back to retrieve it; and that’s just kind of awesome.
On Sunday, I was even more brave, so much so that surprised myself: I went out without my cane and left it at home.
That was the first time I’ve been without my cane for over a year. I went to the mall to give myself a true test, to see if I could handle the people, handle the walking and getting home in one piece. It was probably one of the most frightening things I’ve ever done. I was surprised at missing Hugo a little bit. I can’t be the only person that names their cane, right?
I went up and down escalators, into shops and even treated myself to lunch at the food court. I can’t describe what it was like to be cane-less, to being strong enough to do that. It was really just a simple outing, but it was like discovering the world again, in a way.
Today, I brought my cane to work with me, but left it at my desk. When I rode the bus, Hugo was tucked over my arm.
Now, I’m under no illusions that this will be permanent. Given how my symptoms fluctuate, it won’t be. However, until then, I’ve come to a compromise with Hugo:I’ll take him out with me, but I’ll carry him. I won’t use him unless I need to. The falls will still happen, I may still have balance issues, but I won’t be afraid.
What I learned about myself was this: I was hanging on to Hugo more than he was helping me. He was holding me back. I was holding myself back. I have to myself, that I was able to read the current strength of my body.
With each step and every one after it, I discovered what I was truly capable of.