Hello: my name is Jodie. In this article I would like to share with you my journey of becoming a cane user, drawing upon how I felt when I did not use a cane, the day that changed my whole outlook about using a cane and finally the impact it has had on my life today.
Growing up I remember not wanting to be seen as different to those around me. I would always ask my teachers if I could join in with whatever the other children were doing, whether I found it a challenge or not. I guess this is one of the reasons why I was so reluctant to use any aids that would make me stand out. I just wanted to be treated as an equal.
If I’m honest, as a child, I found it hard to accept the fact that I could not see that well, and thought that if I gave in to the idea of using a cane then it was like admitting that I was different to everyone else. I felt scared, angry, sad… all sorts of different emotions. In my mind I was a failure. I had been bullied throughout school and college; surely this would give the bullies more of a reason to target me? How wrong I was!
One incident that sticks in my mind was one Winter evening whilst walking to my Gran’s, as I did often. I somehow lost my bearings and ended up falling over someone’s garden fence, losing my shopping in the process. Even this did not faze me and make me reconsider using a cane; all I was concerned about was my lost shopping (which I never did find)!
The turning point for me was when I was out shopping in my local town with a good friend of mine. All was going well until I accidently walked into a young mother pushing a pushchair, as I did not see her coming towards me. I immediately apologized and explained to her that I was visually impaired and registered blind. Unfortunately, her reaction was to become aggravated and she began shouting and hurling abuse at me. At this point my friend stepped in and said “look, there is no need to treat her like that. She told you why it had happened”. The woman then turned on my friend, grabbing hold of her, pushing her into a shop window and winding her. I felt awful that this had happened to her because of something I had done. That was the day my whole attitude changed. I needed something to make others around me aware of my visual impairment, so I began my journey of becoming a cane user.
Initially I was apprehensive about getting a cane. However, after a little bit of training my confidence grew and, for the first time ever, I did not feel scared about going out. Most importantly I did not care about what others thought of me.
On a personal level the impact of using a cane has been life changing. It has given me even more independence and I can honestly say that, if did not have it, I would feel totally lost and extremely vulnerable without it. My friends call me Speedy Gonzales as they struggle to keep up with me!
Like most things, using a cane does have its downfalls. One day, whilst out, a member of the public ran over my cane with her mobility aid which resulted in her ripping off the roller ball completely breaking the whole cane. Also, with my miles of walking, I have a tendency to wear out the roller balls meaning they have to be replaced regularly. This process can sometimes be lengthy, leaving me for periods of time without a fully functioning cane. I have now invested in a higher mileage ball but even this is wearing thin now.
The overall outcome is that the positives heavily outweigh the negatives. So my message for anyone who is unsure whether or not using a white cane will help them: just go for it! It is one of the best decisions I ever made. My late gran’s motto was “always say I can instead of I can’t” and this is something I like to live by.