Be stubborn about your goals, and flexible about your methods.” -Author Unknown
Before my MS diagnosis 18 years ago, I was a dance teacher and dancer. Dance was my life and I couldn’t imagine not doing it. However, after I received the diagnosis, I was rattled. I decided to travel and stopped dancing. Although I do not regret traveling for 3 years, my one main regret in my journey is stopping participating in my passion. To this day I watch every dance show on TV and go to see every ballet I can. However, at this point in my life, participating in dance for fitness is not in the cards.
One thing that has helped me tremendously is my stubborn attitude in my dealing with illness. There are so many barriers that are put in our way and the easy way out sometimes is to stop doing what you love. My desire with this article is to let you all know that we don’t have to give up on things we want to do. There are many ways to do things we enjoy. They just might look a bit different. I will discuss a bit what I have found that works for me, but more than everything I want people to know there are ways to do things.
My pride was what I had to get over first. That is not an easy feat and one that for me has happened in stages. At one point, when I was still not using any assisted devices, I walked into my doctor’s office with a bloody knee. She asked what had happened and I told her I fell. She said that she bet my flip flops I had on didn’t help and that it might be time for me to look at using a cane. My pride spoke up and said, “I’m fine.” I didn’t want to look “disabled.” She asked me if she thought people didn’t know there was something up with me when I fell often over nothing. That made me think. I realized it was less embarrassing to use a cane than to regularly have to try to pick myself up off the floor. So I bought a cane.
The next phase for me came when I was attending a music festival and by the third day, I was so tired from using my cane and carrying my chair and belongings that I told my husband I could only go to 2 stages other than the 7 that were available. He talked to me a few days later and said that I might need to increase my mobility aids to a scooter for times like festivals or I would have to stop doing things I love. It took me less time to admit he was right. I now have a scooter that I use to attend festivals and I use to walk my dog everyday.
Getting over my pride has allowed me to keep active. I bought a 3-wheel bike a few years ago that I ride now. I participate in MS walks with it. Times when that is too much for me, I take the scooter so that I can still participate. I did some research and found out there was an MS specific yoga class that I attended for 4 years and met wonderful people who knew what I was going through. Exercise also allows me to connect socially with people and feel like more than just my disease. I would always rather try and get out than not.
Once I started getting out more, I have found other opportunities. I was able to do a yoga class on a paddle board. Looked different for me than some others but I still did it and felt proud of myself when I finished. My next struggle is that my legs are getting weaker and I am having a harder time moving around and doing things like stairs. I am starting to work with a physiotherapist who recommended I look at getting a walker, so I can walk farther without worrying about falling as much. Pride perked his head up at this comment. I have been fighting the walker for a long time. However, I want to keep my ability to walk and want to keep working to keep the strength in my legs. It is a long way from my days on my ballet shoes but I think this week I am going to look at walkers. Keep trying and fighting. Getting out of your comfort zone and kicking pride out of the way keeps us participating in this great journey called life.