What? You’ve Never Seen a Young Person With a Cane!

How many of you are in your 20-30 somethings, rockin a cane or walking stick? You found yourself in the middle of a health crisis, and now a cane or walking stick has been introduced as your new best friend.

Do you recall your reaction when handed down the order? Were you shocked? Accepting? Pissed? Did you refuse to use the “walking aid?” Can I share with you something personal?

My last Vestibular Rehab appointment ended in a mini meltdown. Things were moving along just fine until the closing of the session.

The PT(physical therapist) casually throws out the statement, “Marissa, would you consider using the walking stick all the time?” She followed up with some additional words, but I tuned her out. I offered a quick, (and what I felt was compelling) persuasive, rebuttal, “I am in my early thirties! What is everyone going to think?” Next came the ugly cry.

The ugly cry must have been disgustingly ugly because the seemingly stern, AWESOME, physical therapist let out a few tears. In the middle of crying, trying to justify why I could not use awalking aid,” I was gripping onto a nordic walking stick!

She calmed me down by agreeing to pump the breaks on the idea if it became a source of anxiety or stress. She didn’t hesitate to follow up with a statement reminding me how often I used the walking stick during our appointment.

Babe to the rescue! He offered the suggestion of starting off slow. “We will start by putting it in the trunk when we go out!” We all agreed.

When things settled down, I was offered a piece off advice I could not tune out…”Marissa, give people an opportunity to extend you grace!” The only message swirling around my head was that people were going to judge me. A condition considered invisible was about to become visible. That small glimpse of hope for a cure vanished.

It’s not like I’m unfamiliar with walking sticks! I take them on walks around the neighborhood and the park. When I head to a public place, I leave them at home and replace the sticks with babe. Using them all the time feels like a different ballgame.

Why a “walking aid?” According to trusty Wikipedia, “walking aids,” provide …

  1.  Improved Stability
  2. Reduces lower-limb loading (If you are like me, you questioned this one. Basically, it means lower impact placed on affected limbs)
  3.  Generating movement (Larger joints and muscles are used during walking and the aid helps take the pressure off. )

From what I gather my vestibular (balance) and somatosensory systems are jacked…the ultimate miss communication going on! Have you lost your balance and found yourself immediately drawn to the wall? Same idea. I am not using the walking sticks solely for balance support. I am using them because I need immediate feedback!

ANYTHING that provides immediate feedback helps me function. So you will often find me touching walls, gripping the shopping basket, holding onto babe’s shoulder, leaning against walls. Since I can’t build a fort around myself, there is clinching my teeth, hands in my pocket, pacing, etc. I had no clue I was adapting for deficits until the PT mentioned I looked like a moving chicken…head bobbing and all!

I am wrapping my head around the idea of using a single nordic walking stick,( basically a modified cane) all the time. I am going to start slow. Hoping SOMEONE can help convince me to go-all-in, so I can bypass this introductory phase and ACCEPT THE FACT!

Much love,
Marissa

P.S. Why does the word “Cane” have to sound so harsh! Say the word out-loud and see what I mean! Now say the words…CANDY cane, SUGAR cane, DEAN Cain( 20-something year old version). That sounds much more soothing.

16 comments

  1. Maybe the word “cane” sounds bad because of Cain and Abel. I much prefer the term “walking stick.” And “Nordic walking stick” sounds exotic and sophisticated.

    “When I make Belgian waffles and Moroccan tea, I always have my Nordic walking stick handy, don’t ya know.”

    Lol. I’m a moron.

    • Blake! Moron? I prefer, “You is Kind, You is Smart, You is Important!”

      “exotic and sophisticated.” Never thought of it that way. :) Going to have to play that on repeat in my head.

      Much love,
      Marissa

      • I am 26 and have been using a cane since I was 24. Before that, I tried using a wheelchair. I have very painful OA, and I could just load myself up on drugs and skip the cane, but then I’d just be damaging my joints more, and my liver!

        I have no problem finding dates. The only people who are a problem are the nosy ones. It’s annoying that people ask me questions constantly, but I find this gets less annoying as you are ready to answer. I used to go into a long diatribe about my EDS, hypermobility, and subsequent OA. Now I just say “I wrecked my body with sports” which is pretty much true, because without all the varsity swimming, dirtbiking, cartwheels, ice skating lessons, weight lifting, and childhood ballet, I probably would still be fine. Just smile and ask them “why do you want to know?” if you don’t feel like answering. It’s not their right to know. People are fucking nosy.

        • “It’s annoying that people ask me questions constantly, but I find this gets less annoying as you are ready to answer”

          Exactly! I actually prefer people asking me about the tape on my glasses and my walking vs. staring!

          “Now I just say “I wrecked my body with sports”

          Creative… I like that!

          “Just smile and ask them “why do you want to know?”

          Good advice, but my personality is less confrontational! The minute I begin to feel self conscious, I will stand up straighter and immediately smile. You can’t mess with confidence.:)

          Much love,
          Marissa

  2. Im not in my 20’s or 30’s but 40 something is still kind of young for a cane too. When people look at me and scan me from head to toe to try to determine why I am using a cane, I will smile real big and say “hello”. The friendliness catches them off guard and lessens the awkwardness on both sides. :)

    • Michele,

      40 something is a youngin!:) Thank you for reminding me to smile so that I won’t rock a mean frown.

      Much love,
      Marissa

  3. Hey Marissa

    I identified with this post SOOO much – it was exactly what I thought when the counsellor whom I was seeing at the time brought up the idea of using a walking stick, I really didn’t want to use one and be easily noticeable especially as I was so young, but then I thought that if it was going to be beneficial for me then it shouldn’t matter to me what anyone else thinks, and nowadays my crutch is always with me, and am relying on it more and more. Thinking that it helps being able to buy walking sticks or crutches in all different patterns and colours really helps – being so young and needing a walking aid can be difficult to get used to be, but at least we can make a fashion statement at the same time!!

  4. Hi Marissa,

    Using the aid of a cane (a.k.a. “stick”) was a big adjustment for me as well, but it was a one up improvement from the walker that was being suggested to me by friends (nice friends, eh?).
    At first, I completely rejected the idea of using a walking aid. I used walls, shelves, shopping carts, Hubby, anything I could touch or hold on to for stability.
    One day, Hubby complained so much that I was pulling on him (while using him for balance) that I agreed to get a cane. I chose a metallic pink one. I didn’t use it for a long long time after I bought it… until Hubby refused to be my private leaning post. I had no choice. I was so conscious of my new stick that I ended my outing with it before I was finished shopping. I thought I could feel all the people staring at me.
    I decided that to make it easier for me to use the stick, I would make it part of who I am. I now flaunt my stick with jewels that I got from the dollar store. I get tons of complements on it!!! Instead of being embarrassed and hiding my cane, I decided to decorate and show it off. Kind of a reverse psychology, if you will.
    It is now no longer a problem for me to use it in public and as I said, it is quite the conversation starter.
    As Rhiann suggested, there are lots of fancy colours and designs out there now. Find one you like the colour of and add stickers, jewels, tassels and the like to make it part of you. Instead of being embarrassed about it, be proud of it. How many other people do you know that have a personalized cane? Not too many, I’m sure. Yes, people will look at you. They will look at you because you have such a fashionable accessory, not because you are young and using a cane. Trust me. It will be good. People are good. It’s our own minds that turn the looks from others from ones of innocent curiosity to ones of colder questioning glares.

    You ROCK your Nordicks, there’s no reason you couldn’t ROCK a personalized “stick” as well.

    Hearts and hugs, Girl.
    Love ya’

    T ; )

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I have had a cane for years now but I would only use it if I was going to be on my feet for a long amount of time, like visiting an amusement park. In fact, co-workers still don’t know I utilize one. However, as of late I have been depending on it more and I struggle with the comments and questions that come my way. You’re article helped to change my perspectives and I truly appreciate ***broken link removed***.

    Thank

    • Hey Theresa,

      “However, as of late I have been depending on it more and I struggle with the comments and questions that come my way.”

      I have come to accept that some people stare -majority of people glance. I’m becoming comfortable with the idea that people are curious. They can’t help it! It’s not the “norm” to see a young gal walking around with a walking stick.

      I figure, if they stare at me MAYBE they will get it out of their system and it saves the next young person with a walking stick from enduring the awkward gaze!:)

      Much love,
      Marissa

      PS: Rock your walkin’ stick with pride. You have nothing to be ashamed about. You are actually a role model and a fighter. You want to participate in life and that is nobel! :) Also, remember this… everyone is walking around with a walking stick regardless if it’s visible or not!

  6. Hi. I was search some medical terms at google and I accidentally got this post in front of me. It is impressive how it describe in some way my story with my cane use. I started using when I was 28. Immediately after start using it, the perception of people about my self had changed, they feel some sort of compassion or just curiosity, wondering what happened to me to use a cane with that age.
    But believe me, I’m just a normal guy, living my life like any other human being. I don’t want to be treated different just because I use a cane, or I limb, but people insist in it. Now I understand that it is all about emphaty, they just imagine themselves in that situation and start wonder if they could hand or not and voila, the compassion comes out.
    After 4 years with a cane what I miss is cane with a nicer design, they are all designed for elderly people and normally it is not the kind of gear designed for
    young ones.
    Congratulations for your blog, I will try to read the other posts.

    FD

    • FD,

      Thank you for sharing your heartfelt response. I really appreciate your perspective. The more I use my walking stick the more I realize that folks are just curious. Some folks over adjust. One gal almost tripped over herself trying to get out of my way. Oops.

      I agree about canes looking old. Check out the latest walking stick my husband bought me. It’s awesome. My father in law spray painted it black so I can also use it on nicer occasions. Here is the link: http://www.rei.com/product/830442/leki-wanderfreund-antishock-walking-staff

      Thanks again for showing support of the blog! Continued blessings.

      Much love,
      Marissa

  7. I stumbled upon this well googling how to make a came less ugly… Heh. I’m 24 and I remember the the day they first told me I need a cane, I was 15 and in physio. I was so pissed, I screamed and then just turned my back to the therapist and cried. It’s a memory I haven’t forgotten. I was 14 when a drunk driver hit my mums vehicle causing a 3 car collision. My brother was killed and my legs were basically destroyed, months in a wheel chair, multiple surgeries and now I’m told I need this cane. I was bullied for it and I hated using it so unless the pain was unbearable I didn’t use it. Now I’m 24 and adjusting a bit more to using it, I’m getting a plain metal one and making it more appealing myself with some paint and artistic flare. Thank you for sharing your experience, helps people like me feel a little less alone…

    • Your story is powerful! I can’t stop thinking about you and your family. Puts things in perspective. PLEASE let me know what you’re doing to make your cane “less ugly”. Would LOVE to know. :) Are you on Twitter? Would be awesome to connect. My twitter handle is: @MarissaAbledis

      Talk soon and MUCH LOVE,
      Marissa

  8. I have episodic spasms, so I get the fun “I’ve never seen you do that before” or “are you cold or something?” type questions. It’s nothing dangerous, but it does a number on my balance and mobility. Even things like chewing and writing are affected on a bad day. Recently (age 16) I got tired of falling over, so I’ve started using a cane to get around school. It’s proved to be god send whenever I have to get up from a chair or up the stairs, but hellish as far as attention goes. Somehow people are noticing me for the first time in two weeks. The questions are flying, the looks are coming…

    One of the advantages I’ve found aside from my mobility being quicker and more efficient is that in a busy hallway, I’m less likely to get pushed around which is nice considering my awful balance. My best friends have named the cane and I’ve tied bracelets and ribbons on it to make it a bit less foreign.

    However the looks are killer and I feel like I should be telling kids to get off my lawn. I guess it’s about what you can get from it and how much that outweighs what everybody thinks.

    • Gab! You’re a rockstar. Being 16 and rocking a cane in High School can’t be easy on ya. However, I’m glad you’re pressing forward with using an assistive device that offers you a better quality of life.

      I agree the looks are killer. The comments are just as idiotic.

      “I guess it’s about what you can get from it and how much that outweighs what everybody thinks.” That’s it! You have to press forward despite their ignorance. Hugs to you know that I’m thinking of you.

      Much love,
      Marissa

      PS: Sorry my response took FOREVER!

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