December 10, 2013

My Cane: A Tool for Independence

Alan F. 009Alan F. 009As the new millennium grew closer, I began to notice occasional pain in my left knee. My trusted doctor diagnosed arthritis and encouraged exercise to strengthen the muscles around the knee.

Regular sessions on a stationary bike – as well as a sensible, self-imposed weight loss program – were helpful, but the knee began to complain more frequently. My balance, which was never excellent, became even more dicey as I flinched or moved awkwardly in response to pain. Stubbornly, I soldiered on without support.

A few falls convinced me that further soldiering like this was foolishly risking serious injury. Reluctantly, I went shopping for a cane.

I remember that day as if it happened yesterday. The store offered a large selection, but all of the canes seemed so clumsy and institutional. Even now in midlife, I was struggling again to come to grips with a handicapping condition. It was no fun.

Finally I found a cane that my pride would let me use – because it didn’t look like a cane. It had a ball on the top instead of a hooked handle, and it was black instead of silver or gray. I remarked to myself: It’s more like a gentleman’s walking stick. 

The best part was that the walking stick folded so that I could store it (okay, hide it) in my briefcase most of the time. I exited the store stick in hand, still extraordinarily ill at ease.  

In spite of my painful self-consciousness, I had to admit that walking was no longer painful, nor was it as difficult. I began to relax.

I no longer hide the cane in my briefcase. Today I use it all the time. I still use a ball on the top instead of a hook (because it’s much handier), but I don’t think of it as a debonair walking stick.  I see it simply as a helpful tool – like eyeglasses or a shoehorn. It allows me to move about without fear. My dreaded cane has become a blessing.

Guest blogger Alan Flynn of Sacramento has cerebral palsy and grew up in a small farming community in the Midwest, the middle child in a family of five boys. He has two adult daughters and a new grandson. Through his writing, he hopes to challenge himself and others to reach new goals in every aspect of our lives and gain self-understanding and enthusiasm for the opportunities waiting for us. 

Alan F. 009


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