• M. York

Learning to Walk Again

Hello friends! I've been away from my blog for an extra week, but not because I was trying to be elusive. I've been re-learning how to walk! That's right! Your friendly neighborhood cripple might not be crippled for much longer!


I'm going to be going to physical therapy for the foreseeable future. I've been in remission for my multiple sclerosis for a year now, which means I'm finally to the point of being able to regain some functions in my body. One of these things I might get back is the ability to walk.


So, twice a week I go to the physical therapy at the hospital for an hour. It is the most physically demanding experience of my life. It's something my body thinks it should be able to do already, but it's so difficult. I have little to no balance and my core strength has degraded so much. I wish I could express it properly, but my entire body is so sore after every therapy session.


Sometimes I look at my younger niece (she's going to turn 2 this year) and how well she toddles all over the place and think how easy it is for a child to gain or regain skills. I joke with my family about how she walks better than me. It's just amazing to see how adventurous she is. And she is adventurous, the kind of kid to climb onto wheeled surfaces in order to reach a toy that was stacked 'too high.' Then again, if I can regain my legs, I'll no longer scare my older niece with my wheelchair (she's always hated it).


I won't tell y'all the ins and outs of my diagnosis or the exercises I'm doing, that's not too interesting (trust me), but I will say a few things. I've noticed there's a lot of conversation around autoimmune disorders like MS where you can lose and regain normal skills. Most often this happens when someone asks me why I'm in a wheelchair ("Did you have knee surgery?" "Did you sprain your ankle?") and I tell them I have MS and lost my ability to walk. I most often get one response:


"I know someone who has MS. They were in a wheelchair for [#] years and then, one day, they got up and could walk normally!"


After much speaking with other MSers and my doctors and physical therapist, I can say I've not met anyone who's heard of this in actuality. Often, it takes months and months of going to physical therapy (sometimes a year or more) before a person who's previously been wheelchair bound to walk again. And that, of course, is assuming the part of their brain that handles leg movement, balance, etc, isn't completely destroyed by the immune system. But saying these things gives a person unreasonable hope. Muscles atrophy and skills degrade. Walking is a skill, even if it's seen as default for humans.


There's a woman in my husband's extended family's extended family, his aunt's sister (aunt married into the family). She has MS and she had a hard time with mobility for years. She was in and out of wheelchair, always with crutches or a cane, fell into depression believing she'd never walk again. Then, when her MS finally went back into remission, she went to physical therapy and worked hard. Overall, I believe it was a 6 or 7 year time between her losing mobility and going back to being able to walk again. And now? Now she climbs mountains, hikes, travels all the time. The doctors cautioned she might be back to using a cane in her 50s. She's in her 60s now and still climbing mountains, no cane in sight.


But she said something odd happened after she learned to walk again. She would go to her neurologist appointments and see people from her treatment program, people still stuck in wheelchairs, and they'd tell her how she was one of the lucky ones because they were never able to get up and walk again. It's clear it doesn't work for everyone, no matter how much effort they put in.


Of course, this disease is highly personalized. I started having trouble with walking in 2015, was using a cane by December of that year, and was in a wheelchair by February 2016. A friend's brother had his first relapse a year or two after that, but, to my knowledge, he's never had to depend on a cane. Some people just get vague numbness in one or two of their limbs, some don't really have problems at all until they're elderly, despite having the disease for a long time. Others, like me, go from seemingly perfectly healthy to disabled in less than 6 months. Sometimes it feels like a sick joke.


Still, I practice every day. The therapist believes I'll be able to walk again. I don't know that I'll include further updates regularly. I might do it monthly, but I doubt I'll share too much, not unless I have progress.


I'm still writing, but the release date for Of Mercy and Mayhem is pushed back a bit as I'm working hard on my walking. It takes a lot of energy. Maybe I'll put a character through it someday.


Anyway, have a great week, everyone! Thanks for joining me today and I'll see you next Wednesday.

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