I Used My Cane In Public For The First Time

I’ve been experiencing pain to some degree since I was in eighth grade. It started when I pulled a neck muscle during a session of intramurals in school. And then as years went by, I started to develop back and shoulder pain. Fast forward to now at the age of twenty-seven and my entire body is one giant thing of pain.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with TMD after experiencing chronic jaw pain on top of a throbbing brain (which is also a brain cancer symptom, but thankfully, I don’t have that) and other things. In 2013, someone crashed into my truck which caused a huge flare up in my chronic back and shoulder pain for weeks. Those were two main events that really amplified my pain, but overall, it’s a life of all over pain for me and how bad it is and how long it lasts varies everyday.

Since I’ve worked from home for the last eight years with the exception of occasional work travel, being able to sort of “deal” with the pain hasn’t been too complicated since I’m not required by any boss to stand on my feet all day, and if I need to take a nap, I can allow myself to do so. But when I’m working at a speaking engagement or some event, or just out and about in a city with my boyfriend and a lot of walking is involved, I sometimes get pain that eventually becomes unbearable. But instead of trying to figure out how to ease the pain beyond the occasional ibuprofen, I wasn’t doing much.

Since talking about deafness and disability on the Internet, I’ve made many disabled friends, many of who use mobility aids like wheelchairs and canes to get around when they’re too pained to go without them. This was something that intrigued me for years, but I always felt like I was never “disabled enough” to deserve them. So I’d cry while exploring New York City with my boyfriend because my feet hurt which then made my back hurt, and I’d suffer through standing still at a long line in the airport, almost passing out from pain and exhaustion.

But now things have changed. After a day of exploring Philadelphia with my boyfriend, I decided enough was enough and it was time to love myself. The walking shoes I bought months before could only do so much. I needed something to go with them: a cane. So I asked my friend, Annie Elainey, for affordable cane options to try out. She sent me a link, I ordered it, and it felt like Christmas came early when I arrived.

I didn’t use it too much when I got it since I wasn’t really going anywhere that required a lot of activity. I’m normally alright with running errands for a few errands since I’m not usually holding heavy luggage or walking for a long period of time without real breaks. I used it once when I was having a dizzy day and that was it.

But now I am at the airport to visit my boyfriend for the holidays. We have plans to go back to Philadelphia again, and I knew that meant a bit of walking. Not only that, but it’s the holidays which means more luggage, heavier luggage, for me. So I decided that it was time to take the cane with me especially since it was a high pain day involving my foot and my shoulders and back.

So far, it’s been good. I made a pit stop at the gas station for a bathroom break on the way to the airport and had no issues. The airport was what had me worried the most since TSA isn’t exactly disability friendly. I’ve talked about my experiences with airports as a deaf person in the past, and adding something else to the mix gave me more reason to worry.

Other than few glances from people, everything has been okay. Nobody said anything or asked me to verify my disabilities, and TSA hadn’t given me a difficult time. I don’t board for another few hours so we’ll have to see how the employees at the gate treat me once they see my cane. Will they let me on first like they do when I mention I’m deaf and can’t hear the announcements? Will they offer me a wheelchair? Who knows.

Dec. 24: I’d like to add an update to this and say that I was not offered pre-board or a wheelchair at any time, but that’s okay! I was able to put the cane away for a few minutes to get to my seat, though putting my carry on up in the overhead bin was a bit of a challenge.

Things I have learned since using a cane for a full day: carry on luggage, a cane, and a cup of coffee do not work well together, and folded canes will unfold and snap back together in your hoodie pocket while you’re trying to get out of the plane. These were not the best things to go through, heh.

Overall, I have to say that the experience was a good one. Though I was nervous about having a cane out in public, I don’t think that will be much of the case anymore (as long as it behaves once folded). I’m very happy with my purchase and am glad I finally am listening to my body and what it needs to get through the day.

I Used A Wheelchair For The First Time

On Thursday, January 3rd, I used a wheelchair for the very first time. This was a little over a week after I started using my cane in a public setting.

For many years now, I have been very vocal about my disabilities on YouTube and in writing. I’m deaf, and also deal with chronic pain and fatigue.

I’ve been dealing with pain for around fourteen years, but I never did much about it besides chiropractor appointments, Ibuprofen, and IcyHot patches. For years, it was somewhat manageable with a few flare ups here and there, but lately, it’s started to become more of a regular thing. There are now more days when I’m not able to get out of bed because of back and shoulder pain or because of a migraine. Walking long distances in cities and the like have become unbearable. Standing in line at airport security now often leaves me lightheaded and hot.

Getting the confidence to buy a cane and use it in public took a long time due to the fear of not being “disabled enough” in abled eyes. I don’t regret my choice at all and it’s helped me out in times that I needed it, but some days, I know that it’s not enough. Mostly in airports which can make you stand for a long time without moving.

And on January 3rd, after an hour of travel to get to the airport, I knew that my cane wasn’t going to be enough for me when I saw the line at security. And after denying a wheelchair the first time I was asked (since they saw my cane), I bit the bullet and went back upstairs to ask for the wheelchair.

The Good Things

Not having to walk more and stand still in line for so long and deal with more pain in the end was so nice. I was able to bypass everyone in line. I had help lifting my heavy carry-on and didn’t have to rush taking all of my stuff out which usually makes me even more lightheaded and heated. Lastly, being taken to my gate without having to worry about my cane, backpack, and carry-on was nice too.

The Not So Good Things

When I started using my cane, I had some worries about looks because a young person with a cane isn’t the norm. But since a cane wasn’t as noticeable, I didn’t get very many, and those I did get felt more like quick glances than anything else.

But someone, especially a young person, is much more noticeable. And I felt a lot more looks this time around, and a few lasted a bit longer than the ones when I was using a cane did.

Another thing is the massive confusion and communication barriers during security. After I went through the xray once, I noticed that my stuff had gone through xray but then had to go through again and I wasn’t sure why. But nobody was really talking to me. I was left to stand which wasn’t something I was very fond off as I was tired, but nobody would bring my wheelchair back to me. Eventually, I was given a chair but was still confused as to what was going on. Eventually, someone came to talk to me, but I couldn’t understand her, and signed to her that I didn’t. I eventually understood that she was going to give me a pat down, though I wasn’t sure why as I already had the okay from the xray. But a few minutes later, I got my wheelchair back and I was off to my gate.

Overall, I’m very glad I got the courage to ask for a wheelchair when I needed it. It resulted in me being in less pain and less tired. It’s definitely something that I would do again. I have traveled again since, though I haven’t had a flare up that required assistance. But I hope to continue to have the courage to ask when I need it.