Cane Game: Getting My Mobility On, Feeling Stuff

It’s been several months since my second surgery and its ensuing complications, which included some left-sided weakness, and despite my many efforts, I haven’t yet managed to convince my medical professionals that I’m ready to completely ditch the cane that I started using while in the hospital.

Believe me, I’ve tried. With impressive persistence, too.

Before being discharged, I did my best to show my in-hospital physiotherapist that I was ready to ambulate sans cane. She disagreed, telling me that while I didn’t require it for short distances within my apartment, I needed to promise to use it outdoors. I then tried with the PT that I was seeing at home thanks to services provided through the CCAC (Community Care Access Centre); when I asked him if I could start walking outdoors without the (admittedly minor) annoyance of my cane, he kept it simple with a shake of the head, a smile, and a “nope,” along with other words that, lost in disappointment, I tuned out. My next attempt was with the occupational therapist who was visiting me via the same care agency. He also said that I wasn’t ready for walking-aid liberation. Frustrated by the fact that I hadn’t gotten my way, I soon tried stealthily “forgetting” my cane when embarking on a short outing, resulting in a level of fatigue that surprised only me. Apparently the cane’s doing its job.

It will shock no one, considering the dogged eagerness outlined in the paragraph above, that talking to the PT and OT about whether it would be appropriate to commence going for cane-free walks was at the top of my list of action items when I began the neuro day-hospital program in which I’m currently a patient. Indeed, I raised the question last Thursday, my very first day on the unit. Both therapists responded gently but firmly, with a variation of “let’s wait until we’ve had a chance to do more assessments.” In other words, I’m stuck with it for now.

I’m trying to figure out why I’m so determined to rid myself of my unwanted walking companion. In part, I guess, it’s that I worry that it draws unwanted attention to my current “issues.” I’m used to my disability being invisible to strangers, at least until it’s abruptly, and sometimes dramatically, visible, and the cane allows people on the street to immediately understand that there’s something “wrong” with me. (“Sorry,” by the way, for the abundance of scare quotes in this post; I often consider them a lazy way to express an idea that it’s possible to more elegantly communicate, but this brain-rehab thing is taking a lot out of me. “Lazy” is my current MO. Embrace the scare quotes.) But why do I think that anyone cares about my cane, my disability, me, for that matter? Perhaps more importantly, why do I judge myself so harshly for needing a little extra help, given that I don’t think twice when I see other people with walking aids?

My hope, in any case, is that over the next few months, I’ll manage to increase how far I’m able to walk without assistance and that I’ll do it safely, building my endurance slowly but surely to prevent backsliding. I also hope that I’ll keep reminding myself that my cane isn’t my mortal enemy—on the contrary, it’s helping me move forward, literally, in my recovery. As evidenced by my relentless hounding of anyone I perceive as having the authority to OK me to ambulate completely independently (and return to work, and run a marathon, etc. etc.), patience continues to be a virtue that I haven’t fully mastered. All I can ask of myself, at this point, is to keep taking one baby, cane-assisted step at a time.

Ready to take me on my next adventure.

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