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Why I Feel Confident Using a Cane at 18 Years Old

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Pain is one thing everyone has felt at least once in their life. Whether if it was physical, emotional or psychological. But when it comes to physical pain, we have acute pain and then we have chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than six months, for some it lasts a lifetime. It can be due to injury or illness. In my case it was brought on by illness(s). You’d think that as long as you stay away from danger you will never have to suffer from pain. I have never broken, sprained or injured a part of my body nor have I never been in an accident. My pain was brought on from a tiny little insect smaller than most ants. A tick, carrying many infections within it and transmitting them into me.

I have been in pain since 2012. It started off mild but now the pain has become part of my daily routine. I have pain in my knees, ankles, shoulders,  neck, back, bones and jaw. Muscle, joint, tendon, allodynia and nerve pain. I have had Lyme disease for years but only found out during the summer of 2015 that I had Lyme disease along with two co-infections, babesia and bartonella. Because it was left untreated for so long the effects went on to attack my muscles, joints and central nervous system. Leaving me in pain, constant fatigue and and with a few cognitive dysfunctions. I have over 20 symptoms which I will not take take the time to name, but chronic pain would have to be my worst.

Every second, every minute, I am in pain. When I walk, when I sit, when I stand, when I talk and even when I open a door. Since I have been in pain for so long, it has become almost normal to me to feel this way and although it is painful and drags me down, I have had to learn to accept it.

Treatment for chronic Lyme disease, babesia and bartonella is expensive and a life long journey. Mostly because it was left untreated and undiagnosed for so long, giving the spirochetes plenty of time to roam around, hide and attack. I have had to stop running (my favorite sport), going to the gym  and volunteering because I physically cannot. The pain and fatigue make the tasks unbearable. I often feel five times my age.

When it comes to pain, I often wearing knee braces, sometimes I use a cane and sometimes I need neither.

girl standing and holding cane in black and white

I never know which symptom is going be the worst each day. Every night I go to bed not knowing how I will be feeling the next day. I go to bed not knowing what kind of pain to expect the next day. Will I have four muscle knots or will I have one? Will both my knees hurt or just one? Will the pain be only on the right side of my body or will it be evenly spread out? Will I need my knee braces? Will I need my wrist brace? Will I need to stay in bed? I never know.

I never thought that at the age of 18 I would be using a cane to help me get to a place in less pain. It isn’t something many people think of. We see canes as walking aids used only by the elderly. As a society we have such an ableist view towards walking aids and as teenagers we are ashamed to take our first step using a cane because we fear that strangers will laugh and/or judge us. But we are all so wrong.

You do not need to be a certain age to use a cane. There is no required “cane license” you can only get once you turn 80. The cane was made to aid those with pain, weakness, balance and so many more, regardless of age. We should be not ashamed or afraid to use a cane in a public setting. If you are feeling uncomfortable it is not our fault, but society’s.

If you are in pain and you need it, use it. If your vertigo is so bad and you need it, use it. It was made to help you. Who cares what others think?

If it helps, decorating it is also such a fun way to rock it.

I say, screw ableism.

What matters most is you and your health. No one, absolutely no one, has the audacity and the right to make you feel ashamed our outcasted just because you use a cane. Do not let the stares drag you down. Stare back, smile, keep your head up and keep on caning. You are amazing and life is too short to worry about what others think.

Hashtag, you got this.

Originally published: September 20, 2016
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