Friday, June 17, 2016

als - just use the dang walker

I think I have had an overall healthy lifestyle for most of my life.   I figured while here on earth I get one body, so why not take care of it and then see what it’s capable of. 

Then slowly, bit by bit, the effects of als began to creep through and I began to lose my body.

The foot drop started in my left foot and that is when I began to trip. Sometimes I would catch my toe on the edge of a rug or an uneven sidewalk crack.  If I would put too much weight on the outside of a foot, pivot too quickly or walk backwards… Those careless movements would topple me over.  

I tripped and stumbled and fell with increasing frequency. 

For much of that time there was a walker in my bedroom sitting there gathering dust.

What’s that?  Why wasn’t I using the walker?  I would have to say it was because I was (am) stubborn.  I wanted to use up every independent step I had.    I knew once I started using the walker there was no going back to unassisted walking.

Losing the ability to walk normal was devastating.  Walking is just something you do.  You shouldn’t have to think about putting one foot in front of the other.  I have mentioned this before, but it blew my mind that for the first time in my life I couldn’t just exercise harder to get stronger.   I would still go to the gym and use the elliptical machine to try and maintain the muscle I had, although there was no hope of building any new muscle.

Eventually the process of going to the gym took too much energy.   I bought a stationary recumbent bike off of the classifieds and “worked out” at home.  I used to do a simplified yoga to stretch my always tight muscles.  

The day finally came when I was tired of always being worried about falling.  I sat on my bed looking at the walker and finally took hold.   And that was the end of unassisted walking.   But, more importantly, it was the start of increased safety.  The walker provided needed balance and when I was tired I could turn around and sit on the seat.  Once I finally started using the walker I felt a greater peace of mind.   

Hindsight being 20/20, I should have started using the walker long before.

Some time has passed since then and now I only use the walker minimally during transfers and have moved on to…  The wheelchair.

Mentally this was a VERY difficult transition to go from walking to sitting.   The first time I took the wheelchair out I went on a walk with my sister and I was on the verge of tears the entire time.   I was grieving the loss of my ability to walk.

But, it was time.  The wheelchair has provided so much more freedom to go where I want.   I love being able to go to the park with my kids or to 7-11 and get slurpees.  I can go on trails, or to Red Butte Garden or the zoo and not be completely exhausted afterwards.  We have a lift on the back of our minivan to transport it around.  It works well enough since I can still walk a few steps with Jeff’s assistance to transfer from chair to minivan.   I am so grateful he has big muscles :)

Sometimes when Jeff will ask me, “What do you want to do today?”

I say, “I want to go for a run.”  

Don’t feel sorry for me (Ugh).   Pity and self-pity is something I try hard to avoid.

I just think that it would be so cool to break out of this body and RUN.