Accepting A Cane

Compiled by Kathi from email support group messages

Using a cane becomes a necessary reality for many of us. For some of us, this decision will be easy. We recognize we need it, buy one, and off we go.

For others, however, adopting a cane can be fraught with nervousness, embarrassment, anxiety and even shame. We may put it off for far too long, risking our safety and reducing our mobility, ease, and personal comfort.

Here are some good reasons to get a cane:

  • Everyone you have come in contact with already knows you have difficulty walking
  • The cane does not lessen you as an individual, it simply states to the public and friends you are using an aide to walk
  • You will find once you begin using it, people don’t stare, they respect the fact you use it
  • It will lessen fatigue
  • You will walk with more ease and not lose your balance

From Liz Nussear:

Below is an article from one individual who has shared her experiences of adopting a cane, and a collection of comments our email groups.

When I was a child of 4, I went on a walk with my Grandmother. We walked down the street to the corner store, which had candy that I loved. I noticed her "funny " walk, which was quickly brushed off when I questioned it. We never discussed further. Little did I know…

My Grandmother moved in to our home when I was 8. She bought a wheelchair after breaking a hip. I rode the wheelchair until my Mother told me to leave it, saying that, "you shouldn’t use it till you have to use one." Little did I know…

It is now 35 years later, and I am the 3rd generation of known HSPers. Recently, my balance was becoming a major problem. I used the walls at home for support; however, expensive new wallpaper was going to put a stop to that practice. The more critical issue, though, was my difficulty at work getting around. I couldn’t support myself with the walls, my desk, the copier, the printer and then the fax machine to walk over to obtain a cup of coffee and then walk it safely back to my desk.

My mother, who by 73 was using 2 canes, suggested I purchase a cane to help with my gait and balance. I had been a member of the HSP group Listserv, where others shared their experiences and thoughts regarding assistive devices, so the cane issue was not foreign to me.

I purchased my first cane from House of Canes. It was beautiful – colorful and full of expression. However, it was quite comfortable on the chair in the living room. It stayed there for several days, because it didn’t think it wanted to go with me to work.

After some nudging from members of the HSP Listserv group, it finally left the house and rode with me to work. However, it stayed in the back seat for a couple of days. After more encouragement, it finally walked in to work with me one early spring morning. Once others saw it, there was complete acceptance. They picked it up and said it was beautiful. Little did I know…

Others see the difficulties we have with HSP, and at times maybe their eyes are "clearer" than ours are. Denial keeps us from having things that make our lives easier, more accepting – not only for ourselves, but also to society. I am sorry I fought my third leg for so long. Little did I know…

This has been an interesting journey, full of surprises, and challenges. I look to my third leg as an assistive helper. I can lean on it, open push-button handicap doors, chase mice at work, kill bugs, straighten ceiling tiles…one never knows. I have now purchased my 2nd cane, a very good expression of who Liz is, as it should be. Little did I know…. Thank God I know now…

Excerpts from discussions regarding canes

  • It was difficult for me to start using a cane. I finally had to, as I was losing my balance a lot, and I am sure I looked pretty silly (drunk). I got a beautiful one; that was important to me. I still have it, but have since gotten many more.
  • Yes, it is hard, but you know what…we have to accept it…what else can we do? We need to make the best of it and carry on. It helps to develop a good support team. I have a super support team of friends/family and who are there for me.
  • By the way, when I finally got the cane and went to work with it for the first time, a co-worker said, "it is about time you got a cane…"
  • Some people have expressed unwillingness or a fear of helping themselves by using a cane. Granted if you’re not to the point that it’s needed, I agree, why use one. But to worry about what other people think and use that as a reason not to go that route w
  • Buy a pretty one! Feel fashionable!
  • It is much better to be seen with the cane and have the physical condition acknowledged, then to have other’s stare and wonder "what"?…"
  • We have to be realistic. People can see that we have a problem walking. No one at work challenged my cane. They saw daily as I walked by them that I had a problem. I was the one with the problem of acceptance, and how I thought they would feel about it. I
  • It was interesting. People opened doors for me, and were smiling. I don’t think they would have reacted that way had I been in my earlier mode. I would have looked a bit "angry" as I was struggling around, all the time wondering if people were noticing. I
  • I have used one off and on for about three years. I use it when I go shopping and at places where there are crowds. It helps me to maintain my balance. I have noticed when I use my cane, people are much more considerate. They will step aside instead of ru
  • I was being too proud to use any help. One day while walking down the cubicle aisle I fell down and about 8 people came over to help me up. I immediately went to the store and got my first cane. All of my co-workers and others had no problems with it, act
  • My experience with canes is that it gave my disability legitimacy. It was a symbol that I indeed had a physical disability. Maybe this should not be necessary and maybe people shouldn’t make judgments without knowing the facts; but the cane helped people
  • I found that I got supportive comments from my co-workers when I started using my cane. I also found that the looks/stares from others I didn’t know stopped/lessened as it became less of an issue to them. I use it all the time and as someone else related,
  • I was living in Honduras when I started using a cane. Maybe that made it easier; we had just moved there and didn’t know too many people. I did field research in agriculture, so I started using the cane just when I was doing fieldwork.
  • As time went on, I found when I didn’t use the cane, people often asked me if something was wrong (which didn’t bother me too much since I look like something is wrong). Adults never inquire, but children often ask me what it is for. I tell them I need "t
  • I not only use the cane for balance – I also use it when I am tired and for support. I don’t use it all the time, but it is handy to have one for difficult situations. Because those situations are sometimes difficult to anticipate, I almost always carry i
  • My kids don’t seem to mind it. In fact, I had been using it for a couple of years before it occurred to them that a cane was associated with the word handicapped. As far as they are concerned, I do whatever other parents do, but I just use a cane.

Cane Tips:

  • Check with your physician and health care plan to see if you can get a prescription for a cane.
  • Your cane should reach from the ground to your wrist bone when your arms are handing by your sides.
  • For icy conditions, you can get clamp-on grips or "spikes" that flip up when you don’t need them. If you don’t want to purchase a spike, another idea is to attach a beer bottle cap to the rubber tip of the cane. The serrated edge of the cap helps the tip

Using a cane for the first time Shared by Nancy:

I started using one out shopping and out to eat, etc. without much problem because I didn’t figure I would run into anyone I knew. I didn’t care what strangers thought. I noticed in the mall that people didn’t really seem to care at all and actually were better about staying out of the way, doors, etc. than when I didn’t use a cane and people practically bowled me over and/or looked at me really weird. So, I saw immediate benefit there and used it for those situations from then on. Now, for work it was a different story. I didn’t interview for my new job with a cane but there was no trouble in seeing that I definitely have a serious limp or balance problem, etc. The idea of tripping and falling at work and knowing that I might be considered a liability was a motivating factor. I could ignore it no longer. How I managed to get myself ready for that big step was this: 1) ordered a pretty cane from House of Canes and 2) Picked out a date in advance that I committed to as “my first day at work with a cane”. Preparing for that day and getting geared up for it helped. My co-workers have been fine about it. It’s probably a relief for them too in that I’m safer. No one wants to see anyone get hurt. I love my new cane and was complimented on it just this evening as I went to into the pharmacy.

Shared by Kathi:

By the time I needed to start using the cane all the time when I went out, I had already stopped working. I left work the end of July last year, so it’s been almost a year now. I didn’t quit work because of HSP problems, but I have to admit that I knew the time was coming where I’d start to need to use it, so there was a little relief that I was leaving work before I’d have to use it at work.

I first used a walking aid three years ago when I decided to start doing some short nature hikes. I love the outdoors and really enjoy nature walks, but never made the time to enjoy that pleasure. There’s a lovely state park just two miles away with many walking trails and I would go there on occasion to just enjoy the scenery, take photos, or park at the lake and enjoy the view. But I never tried any of the trails. The shortest is a half a mile, and with that help, I figured it was was doable and probably the one mile one, too.

So, I worked hard to find some WWW good walking shoes that I could wear and bought a hiking stick. That wasn’t really a cane……… I thought. LOL. I’m so glad I did that. I really enjoy nature walks.

Two years ago, I bought a folding cane for when Ed and I went to Busch Gardens. We went to Florida to visit his folks and did a Tampa Connection and visited Busch Gardens also. It helped a lot to steady balance while waiting to get on rides as well as the extended walking. I figured that wasn’t a "real cane", either, LOL, since it was a fold up cane.

As my legs started getting a bit worse, I finally bought my first real cane shortly after that. I picked a pretty one from House of Canes. I started to use it when I did Conferences and Connections, since I was standing and runnning around a lot at those. It really helped a lot.

I started everyday use of it where I didn’t think I’d see anyone or where I knew I really needed the extra help. Like to the mall or vacations or when I’d be standing a lot. As time went on, I could see how I was needing it more.

About 6 months ago, I realized I really needed to use one all the time outside of the house. My legs had gotten to the point that it wasn’t a choice, it was a need. I bought another cane, online, from one of the stores that is at the SPF Shopping Mall. It’s also foldable and the height is adjustable and the handle is pretty and it’s a flat one that is really easy to use. It was hard to first use it in front of friends, but once I did it, I realized I had made more of a big deal about it and it’s been no big deal ever since. Everyone else knew it was needed and a good idea.

I’ve gotten used to using it and you are right, everyone is great about it. The world is full of nice people. I still feel a little funny when someone I haven’t seen since I started using it sees me. But all of our good friends have now seen it. And it feels part of who I am, now.

Saturday, September 8th, 2012