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What I Want My College Classmates to Know About My Cane

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As of this past summer, I’ve been using a cane whenever I have to walk longer distances. As my peripheral neuropathy and fibromyalgia have become more symptomatic, my cane has been my lifeline and allowed me to continue to do things I love, including go to college.

While my cane has been incredibly helpful to me and improved my life in many respects, I’ve found that most people on campus are confused about how to interact with me now. I recognize the discomfort, but I’m still the same person I was before I started using my cane. Because of all this, here’s just a few things I want my college classmates to know about my use of a mobility aid.

I didn’t “do” anything, and that’s OK!

The conditions I have were not caused by anything I did. I didn’t injure myself, and the symptoms of my condition are progressive. That means it’s highly likely I’ll be using a mobility aid for the rest of my life. I’m completely OK with this! My use of a mobility aid doesn’t hold me back; it improves my quality of life. It makes it less painful and more possible to get to class, work, outings with friends etc.

There are days/times when I don’t need it.

My generally active nature seems to confuse a lot of people. They see me walking with a cane, and assume I can’t possibly dance, rock climb, swim, or partake in any physical activity. Generally speaking though, I spend a lot of my time being physically active. I’m grateful I’m still capable of doing so, and that physical activity helps to control my chronic pain. I’ve been able to find physical activities that work with my body, and when I’m doing so I don’t need my cane. I use it on campus and in any other large place to mitigate the effects of having to walk long distances. I don’t use my cane all the time, but that doesn’t mean I’m “faking” my symptoms or that I don’t need my cane.

It’s OK to ask me about it!

I’m an open book, very friendly, and I don’t mind fielding questions regarding my use of a cane. In fact, I’d rather field the questions than have people speculate. My cane is well decorated and draws attention, so I assume people will ask about it anyway! As long as you aren’t asking in a pitying way, and you don’t end the conversation by saying “I feel so bad for you,” I’m completely OK with you starting this conversation.

I’m still me!

My use of a cane doesn’t change who I am. I’m still the person I was before I started using the cane, and I still have the same symptoms as before I started using it. The cane is how I can effectively continue to do the things I want to do. It helps me physically, but nothing about my personality has changed. I am still the person I was before I started using my cane, and I will continue to be that person. My use of a cane, or any other mobility aid as my symptoms progress, has no hold on who I am as a person. In fact, it allows me to continue to be the person I am because it helps me to keep moving forward. Don’t let the mobility aid scare you. I’m just another person trying to make my way through the demands of completing a college degree.

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Getty image by  3DRenderings.

Originally published: December 26, 2017
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