The Freedom Of My Ride

Posted on June 17, 2014

I got sick two years ago. Not the kind of sick where you throw up. I got the kind of sick where you can’t move. Literally, I had somehow acquired something called an Idiopathic Neuropathy. I woke up one morning and my ankles, feet and toes were so weak they were paralyzed. As a New Yorker, it was difficult to get around. I splurged on cabs for the first month or so. My clumsiness made the subway seem like a frightening prospect. But I wanted my freedom back and one day took the plunge, riding the 2/3 train to a doctor appointment. The subway ride felt wrong. I was scared I was going to fall. Because of my newfound disability, I saw the subway in a whole new light. Fortunately after a few rides, the feeling dissipated and I stopped taking cabs.

I recently decided to take a break from physical therapy to try yoga. It has been a pleasant surprise to see my progress, to see that I am able to relax in poses I couldn’t originally hold. Using focus, patience and strength, my comfort zone has literally grown. So has the strength of my extremities (though I don’t have EMG proof of this progress yet). And since I have been feeling so strong, I’ve decided it’s time to branch out. I want to ride my bike.

Riding a bike requires certain tools; a bike, a lock, a helmet. But for me, it also require something else. I simply can’t get around without my cane. So my bike now comes accessorized with ‘Cane Belts’.

Cane Belts Close Up

I often write about the stigma and aesthetic of so many assistive devices. If the device isn’t ugly, then it’s probably covered in cooties. So I actually found it convenient that the product I needed didn’t exist. I sought out the company that I believe makes the most beautiful bicycle accessories around and I asked for their help. And lo and behold, Walnut Studio crafted the most stunning pair of ‘Cane Belts’ for my bike.

Walnut Studio Cane Belts

Why is it so important to me that the cane belts are beautiful? It’s simple, I’m dead set on beating you to stigma. My cane belts are hand crafted and customized just for my need, my disability. And I want you to be jealous of them.

And that look on your face when I ride in on my bike and hobble off on my cane? I see it. And inside, I’m filled with delight. Nothing thrills me more than when I cause you to question your perceptions of disability.

Cane Belts attaching

I have done a lot of work so that I can confuse you. Yoga has been improving my strength and balance. But until recently I couldn’t figure out how to build my cardio energy. My drop foot prevents me from running and there aren’t many indoor pools in Harlem. So it was a game changer when my partner invested in something called a Peloton cycle for our home. This thing is insane; it’s a state of the art spinning bike with a state of the art touchscreen that taps you into live or recorded studio classes. You race others in the not-so-virtual world of Peloton.

Peloton Cycle

My Peloton does many things. It makes me sweat, it makes me sick (ok, so I can get a little too competitive on it). But most importantly it makes me me confident that I have the tools I need to get from point A to point B.

So with the support of Harlem Yoga Studio, Walnut Studio and Peloton, I am going to get even more uncomfortable. I am going to ride my bike and see where it takes me.

How will you get uncomfortable today?

 

I am passionate about finding creative ways to address the stigma of assistive devices. It would be so wonderful if you took a moment to check out (and sign?) my petition.

…or you could pull a Patricia and tell me it’s stupid [LaughAndCry]

YesJCrewCane Twitter

 

What Others Are Saying

  1. Tiffany C. June 17, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    You are simply amazing!

  2. Noam N. Kogen June 18, 2014 at 3:51 am

    This is a terrific story, Liz. I do want to hear more from you and know how you are doing and what’s doing.

    I hope you’re being paid for your writing because this is a great story.

    Let me know how things are going.

  3. melissa K Noto Ornelas June 18, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    I just think you are ossume I suffer from Lymphoma that is in remission at this time but I know how you feel I went thru Chemotherapy and I did not look preety or feel preety. I also suffer from a type of hemophilia that there are only 25-30 people diagnosed in the world so I am alwsys covered in bruises and boy do people stare at me like I have been beaten. I have delt with the stares all my life plus 2 of my children and my granddaughter are of the 30 people diagnosed with this condition so can you imagine how I as a parent of a child covered in bruises gets treated and looked at like I’m a child abuser. Both my children and granddaughter have medical alert bracelets and I have files of medical diagnosis on hand at all times but even though I have protected us with all this information I still get the Department of Children & Family’s called on me. I get trated terribly from all kinds of people. Department of Children & Family has to investigate every case that is called in even though they know me and my children and my granddaughter and they know what is going on the case still has to be investigated and a determination has to be made before the case can be closed. Its hard taking your children to a doctor’s office you dont know and who doesn’t know us I really get looked at terribly because the staff only knows DCF sent us there so of coarse they look at me crazy and are always rude to me until after all the blood work comes back and everyone is baffled with the results because the platelet count is so low its almost impossible to be alive with such a low platelet count, it is at that time everyone who treated me badly changes there view of me!! Let me tell you its a hell of a thing to go thru regularly but we go thru it and we survive and our family becomes stronger. So I totally believe in what you are doing and I understand it all.!!! 🙂 Keep on surviving and being stong and doing what your doing!!

    • The Girl with the Purple Cane June 19, 2014 at 12:35 am

      Hi Melissa. Seems to me you need to make yourself a ‘Bruised but not Beaten’ t-shirt. I do hope you will keep your head held high. I have been learning that when I am able to take a deep breath and understand how things may appear before explaining my ‘condition’, others are much more open and understanding. It can be tiring explaining yourself over and over, but I’d rather someone ask than someone stare. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your kind support!

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  6. Mir July 29, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Liz- joy and awe is what I feel when I spend time with you guys. The way you both have handled this rocky road you have been on has been inspiring. At the same time you have the strength to go out there and inspire and support others! When you are feeling low or doubt yourself – look in the mirror and see the amazing warrior you are! Hold your head up high and keep going!!!

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