The Cane

As a blog writer, I try to always be both honest and optimistic.  Tonight, I feel torn because I do not know whether I can write a post that is both.  Here is the truth.  After work tonight, I met with Kasey, my mobility trainer, for a lesson.  I knew what to expect.  I knew he was going to talk to me about using a cane.  I was on edge, uneasy.  I was aware that my body language was closed and stiff.  My body language was echoing my mind – closed, stressed, bordering on hostile.

Kasey talked to me about his own journey of vision loss and his feelings when he started carrying a cane.  He chose an ID cane for my height and showed me how it folds and unfolds.  It looked really small and lightweight, but ugly and so white.  He asked if I was ready to try it.  I cried.  I felt so stupid, but I couldn’t stop myself.  I could not bear to touch or even look at the cane.  He asked if he could show me how he uses  one.  After a few minutes, I agreed.  We walked down the hallway and he showed me how to hold it and how to use it going up and down stairs.

We went back into his office and, finally, he held out the cane and I took it.  I hated that cane.  Taking that cane was the hardest step on my low-vision journey so far.  I dutifully put it together and then folded it back up.  I felt sick to my stomach.  Kasey finally convinced me to go for a short walk while holding the cane.  Down the hall, up the stairs, down the stairs.  It was nothing, but it was terrible.  I felt conspicuous.  I hoped no one would see me holding the cane.

After our three-minute walk, Kasey said that was enough.  We talked a bit, just chatting about anything but that cane.  Finally, he asked if I would take the cane with me and I agreed.  He was glad, because he said that he was going to insist that I take it.  I don’t have to use it, but I have to have it with me, just in case I need it.  He advised me to just keep it in my purse.  I stuffed it in the bottom of my purse and put other things on top of it.  I hate that cane.

The preceding was the honest part.  Here is the optimistic part.  Some day (soon) I will catch the bus and ride home.  It will grow dark while I ride the bus.  I will get off the bus and realize that I can not see clearly to walk home.  I will take out the cane and use it to pick out curbs and any unseen objects in my path.  I will arrive home safely.  And I will fold up the cane and store it for the next day.  On that first day that I need to use the cane to get home safely, I will have it with me.  God will provide the courage and strength to use it.  Fear and vanity and pride will lose.  And independence and faith and hope will win.  And a flower of grace will bloom.

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28 thoughts on “The Cane

  1. Hi Belinda,

    I really can’t pretend to understand how you feel. I’ve had a cane or guide dog with me since I was seven years old. Except, of course, around my own home. Before that, I had a more or less permanent knot on my forehead from running into things. I have never understood some people’s strong negative feelings towards the cane; it’s always been liberating for me, and has been as much a part of me as anything. But I’ve grown to understand that it’s not necessarily the physical object that people hate (I mean, it’s just a long piece of aluminum, or fiberglass, or…), but the very visible reminder of blindness and all of the perceived limitations tied up in that. Thanks for your honesty in this post. And, I’m happy to see that you’re preparing for acceptance, or the next step towards it; far too many people need to fall in a hole first. Yes, literally. So, like others are saying, hang in there. You’ll be OK.

  2. I just found your site today, I know how you feel, I have been losing my site gradually for several years now and when I got my cane I felt the same way. I carry it in my purse, but only use it when I am alone andin an unfamiliar place. Thanks for your honesty and hopefully we will both become more comfortable with our canes!!!

    • Donna, I am so glad that you came across my blog today and I am REALLY glad that you took the time to comment. It is good to know that there is someone else with my same feelings about the cane. I keep mine in my purse but still am dreading the day i will have to use it. Thank you for writing.

  3. Thank you for sharing this experience. I remember starting mobility training in high school and hating it just like you did. In fact I didn’t start using my cane on a regular basis until I got to college, and then two years later I got a guide dog. Acceptance can be really hard, but I think it’s awesome that you’re sharing what you’re going through. I wish you the best with your future cane travel.

  4. Since I joined the staff at Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic over a year ago, I have been spending a lot of in depth time with people who use canes (and others who use guide dogs, assistive technology for learning, and much more). As a sighted person, I am continually impressed by the ease and dexterity with which they use the cane, but your essay reveals a deeply hidden story — I’m grateful for the personal insight you’ve brought to light. Thank you for that.

    • Hi Doug. Thanks for your nice comment. I really appreciate that you took the time to write. I’m glad my writing could help you in some way. Please visit my blog again if you get a chance. Thank you.

  5. Do you realize there are parts of the U.S. where there are NO OMT professionals for non-students, non-employed people? Losing vision means hanging on to someone’s arm, losing independence. Or staying home, losing contact. Or going away for intensive training, losing life continuity.

    Yes, in a “great place to retire”, Prescott AZ, OMT is nearly unavailable. due to cuts in state services and long-time shortage of occupational trainers.

    I waited a year for a window of opportunity for long cane training. I use my cane to reach and teach lifelong learning classes, independent appointments, book clubs, lunch with friends or on my own, travel to national meetings to advocate for better accessibility and for removing barriers for students.

    Your cane might be a symbol of loss to you, but it’s an instrument of freedom for many. And for those who will never have OMT, it’s a guillotine of opportunity.,

    To OMT professionals, AZ needs you!!.

    • Thank you for your comment. I do realize how blessed I am to have the wonderful staff at ABVI to help me with my transition to low vision living. I am so grateful for Kasey and his patience, to allow me to mentally prepare before giving me the cane. Even though I am grateful and know how blessed I am, it was hard for me to actually reach out and take the cane. I am glad that your cane has opened up such a wonderful world for you and I pray that I will be able to come to a point where I am able to help others. OMT Professionals are needed everywhere and I hope to work to raise awareness of this wonderful vocation to anyone who is considering a career in a helping profession.

  6. Hallo Belinda your use of words is so clever and shows your absolute inner soul! You are such a Brave person. My daughter cried when I read it to her! I was shocked as she is quite a hard person. I luv the idea of “pink cane” to match “pink lady” but white does serve a purpose.
    Keep your spirit high!!

  7. About the last four sentences in this post: amen to that.

    And kudos on chronicling your experiences. The closest I came to your situation was back in the early seventies, when I grudgingly conceded that using a cane would help me walk. Which it did.

    This is trite, but sincere: ‘Hang in there.’

    • Thank you very much. I wish I could have integrated honesty with optimism, but I had to work through the experience before I could even think about allowing grace to work in this situation. God is good.

  8. I feel I would react in the same way Belinda. As you say and we both agree that we are so much alike. Others do not see that you have a vision problem unless something about you defines it. Hence the cane. But when I see people with canes for vision assistance I am totally in awe. How courageous they are to venture out with only a cane and inner strength. I was a home health nurse for a couple who were both legally blind. Sure there home was not perfectly tidy but they were the happiest couple and most inspiring I had met in a long time. They traveled, shopped and did everything together. Part of me felt ashamed of things that I complained about and realized they were the lucky ones. They had a fervor (sp) for life and were going to get everything out of it they could. Do I know how they started out with their vision loss journey? No. Had I wanted to ask them? Most definitely. But my mouth couldnt form the words. If I am like most people others will look at you in high regard for venturing out and trusting others and God for guiding you through this journey. I applaud you for your honesty and putting yourself out there. (hugs)

    • Thank you, Pam. This is really a hard step. I just kept the cane in my purse today, but I could feel it weighing me down. I pray for strength to actually use it when the time comes that I need it. Thanks for the hugs.

  9. i cried when i read your blog today. not because i could possibly understand what you’re going through but because i witnessed my mom going through almost the same thing. she has vision and balance problems due to nerve deterioration and must use a cane all the time just to navigate her own home. she fought the use of the cane silently in public so your blog today gives me a glimpse of what she must have been going through in private. i was with her once when she fell because she wouldn’t use the cane and i hated that she put me through that but now i understand that was nothing compared to her pain. thanx Belinda

    • Jim, your comment means a lot to me. The whole point of baring my soul is to open the possibility that my experience might help someone in some way. I am so glad that my story helped you understand your mom a little better. Peace.

  10. Belinda, your raw honesty, ‘I hate that cane,’ struck a cord with me. I don’t even know what… maybe… both hating my own vulnerability AND wishing someone could give me a metaphorical cane to help negotiate unseen obsticles.
    Thank you for speaking your truth.
    Love, Sheri

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