Why am I using my stick today when I didn’t need it yesterday?

I am travelling by train for the first time since my surgery. The journey involves several changes and I am carrying quite a full backpack. As I am still recovering, I need to be careful that I do not fall or get knocked into as these could both potentially cause muscle strain that can lead to other complications. Although I haven’t needed my walking stick for the last couple of weeks, having returned to work this week has shown me that I am far from fully recovered.

As my work requires me to be on my feet a lot, by mid-afternoon yesterday my stomach muscles were beginning to protest. I thought this ache would go away if I sat down and hugged my hot water bottle when I got home but, unfortunately, the pain persisted throughout the night and I am still quite sore even now.

What does all this have to do with my using my walking stick today? Well, as I am travelling through the busy London underground for part of my journey, it will not only help support me as I walk around, but it will also act as a “red flag” to other commuters that I won’t be able to move out of their way and to be mindful to not jostle me as they rush for the tube.

I have said this before but I think it’s worth repeating because not everyone understands that you can be fine one day and not the next. Recovery is not linear.

Using a mobility aid after surgery

I have had four surgeries on my gut in the last two years. As you might imagine, this puts a lot of strain on my stomach muscles. Muscles we use for pretty much everything, from carrying to simply standing.

When you first start moving after surgery, every twist, every step is painful and you feel like you might just rip your stitches open at any moment. Thankfully, while in hospital, there is always someone to help you, to hold your arm or fetch a wheelchair for you when you can’t quite make it back to your bed. However, when you’re home and out in the real world, those safety nets aren’t always there.

It takes a while for your muscles, and in fact your whole body, to recover and adjust to how things are post-surgery. Sure, a friend or family member will likely be with you on every excursion out the house for the first few weeks but what about when you want to go out when no one can go with you? What about even when someone is with you but you’re not sure you’ll make it to the car, let along the cafe you’re going to for lunch?

That’s where mobility aids come in.

I have a walking stick. I am 31 years old and look fairly healthy, albeit a bit skinny, and I have a walking stick. I got it for the very reasons mentioned above. I can go out with family, sure, but they can’t always hold me and most probably couldn’t lift me if I fell. The walking stick acts as a support for me if I stumble or when going up or down steps, it allows me to keep my independence. It allows me to walk further and for longer and gives me the confidence to go out on my own.

But it’s not only that. It also acts as a warning to others who can’t see the scars, the ostomy bag and the healing wounds, that I may be slower, unable to move out of their way or cross the road in time. It lets people know to give me a little extra space, to catch that door or hold the lift.

My point is that mobility aids are useful and we shouldn’t be ashamed to use them just because we may look healthy or young or otherwise as if we don’t need it. If you feel you need a mobility aid, regardless if it’s a wheelchair, a walker or a walking stick, you should use it. It doesn’t matter if it’s for six days or for the rest of your life, you should use the tools at your disposal if it makes life easier for you.

And to anyone who has felt the need to question why someone is using a mobility aid, it’s none of your business. You don’t know what’s going on inside, what that person is dealing with. They may be walking fine but that’s probably because they are using that mobility aid. Please don’t be so quick to judge.

Recovery update

It’s been two months since surgery so I thought I’d do a little update.

I haven’t had a partial blockage in a while now and I feel my appetite has returned so I’m eating normal food now in slightly smaller portions with the occasional snack in between meals. I’ve found a normal diet (including gluten and milk) is working fine for me at the moment but I suspect I’ll have to reduce my gluten intact later once I’ve recovered a bit more and my eating habits return to normal. My snacks are usually either crackers, PomBear crisps (I find crisps like Walkers don’t digest too well) or biscuits/cookies. My main meals mostly consist of chicken (breaded or in a non-spicy sauce) with some form of potato (chips, wedges, mash ect.) I can’t eat beans so I’ll sometimes have tinned spaghetti instead. Noodles and pasta are ok for me in moderation but I don’t cook a lot of it as it’s only me who’ll eat it. As for sweet stuff, pretty much anything is fair game so long as it doesn’t have any nuts/seeds or dried fruits in it. I sometimes binge on cookies or chocolate.

As for my walking, I’m able to walk just fine when I’m inside my own flat or at my parents as I know there are plenty of places to sit down if I need to. However,  when I’m outside, I’m a bit slower and a lot more cautious of the people around me (I don’t fancy an accidental elbow to the stoma). I’ve been using my walking stick for the last month or so but I don’t feel I need it as much anymore. I’m sort in a grey area of needing it and not needing it so I’m trying to go out with it in my bag in case I need it later, rather than using it straight off the bat.

In regard to my stoma, it’s been better since using the barrier rings my stoma nurse gave me. The skin looks and feel so much better and the bags feel like they could last an extra day if I needed them to which is ideal.

Lastly, I’ve got an appointment to see my surgeon about closing off the blob later next month so if all goes well, I’ll be stoma-free by the New Year.

Let’s talk about this

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I bought myself a walking stick to aid me in my recovery after my surgery last year. The point of it was to help me to walk faster and for longer. It also worked as a sort of “red flag” to others to give me space and extra time to cross road, move out of their way, ect. As I’ve had surgery on the same area recently, I’ve been using my stick again when walking for long periods.

One such time was recently, when I had to go see my nurse at my GP surgery which is only a short walk from where I live. I got there fine, and I was on my way home when something happened to me that I have never experienced before; someone jeered at me, asking why I was using a walking stick.

Now, I’m 30 years old and I don’t look my age. I also look perfectly healthy so when I use my walking stick, I understand it might look a bit odd. However, their comment made me a little upset and I realised that I shouldn’t have to put up with that. I have my reasons for using a mobility aid at the moment and I shouldn’t have to justify myself.

There is a odd thing that I have noticed as a young person using a walking stick; (some) older people don’t take note of the stick and brush past me with little to no care. By contrast, younger people give me space, offer their seats if there are none free, and hold doors for me. This isn’t to say that all older people are ignorant of others needs or that younger people are kinder, it’s just a observation from my experience.

Has anyone else had someone comment on their use of a mobility aid/s? Have you said anything or just ignored them? Have you also found that older/younger people are more/less cautious around you or are they about the same? I’m interested to know what other people have experienced so please let me know by comment or PM so I can put all together in a post later. Thank you!

So, the stick is back in use, at least for now. I’m finding my middle is very sore throughout the day and using my stick to move around when not at home helps take some of the strain off my muscles. It also gives me a little bit of security in that I know I’ll be able to get home eventually with it. Whereas without it, I’d feel stranded if I found walking too hard.

It sort of feels like I’ve taken a couple of steps backwards but I know it’s not something I can control. That doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, but I’m dealing. I hope.

Three days down and three to go. I’ve been taking my stick with me to work but not using it. Feeling a little tired, as usual, but I’m also a little proud of myself for being able to do the commute without the use of my stick. I guess I’ll see how things go next week without it but I’ll keep it with me just in case.

So I didn’t end up using my stick at all today. I was walking a little slower and was quite tired by the time I got home, but not in any pain which I think means I’m getting stronger. I’ll still take my stick with me to work next week but try not to use it unless I feel I need to.

I’m testing myself today by not using my stick on the way into work this morning. I’m still bringing it with me in case I need it on the way home but I’m hoping I won’t. It all depends how much moving around I’ve done during the day and how tired I am by the time I go home.

On the train home after having such a great time yesterday; the wedding ceremony was beautiful and the venue for the breakfast/reception was gorgeous. I surprised myself with not needed my stick at all. I didn’t really want to use it so I left it in the hotel room (thinking I’d regret it) but actually, I was fine without it. It’s not like we did a lot of walking but there was plenty of standing which usually would cause my stomach muscles to ache after a while. Not yesterday though; I was able to stand and be sociable without needing to lean on anything/anyone. By the end of the day, I was tired but not achy or stiff as I usually am after a long day. I’m quite proud of myself.

1st day out on my own

I made it out to town on my own today! I needed to run a few errands so I figured I see how much I could do without pushing it. I’m taking a break in Costa at the moment because my hips started aching but I’ll be heading home soon anyway.

I went out with my stick, of course, and I thought I’d be more self-conscious with it but actually I’ve been ok. I’ve gotten a few stares from the odd passer-by but no ones commented or anything which I’m very grateful for; I’d rather not have to explain my situation to complete strangers.