Kumfs – #AtoZChallenge

(David said my “K” word should be either kleptomania, Kansas, or keratin. These have nothing whatsoever to do with MS. Or with me, for that matter.)

I have been known to fall a lot in my life. I think I had stitches in my head three times before my fifth birthday. I was teased mercilessly by my friends in junior high for falling off my brown leather platform sandals while standing still. (I just keeled over. There’s no explanation.)

Mine were like “G,” although — had I seen them — I probably would have wanted “K” back in the day.

If I’m completely honest, my friends have teased me my entire adult life about my inability to wear heels of any height. (It’s like Joey said about Chandler and bras. I can’t work ’em.)

Now, throw Multiple Sclerosis into the situation!

When I was first diagnosed, I was falling pretty regularly. I had foot drop in my left foot, so I’d catch my toe on the floor all the time. But, just like in 7th grade, there were also plenty of times that I just fell over for no apparent reason.

It got to the point where I was constantly checking in with David on it. “Would anyone have fallen right there? That was kind of uneven, right? I mean… right?” Sometimes he was able to reassure me, sometimes not.

I fall a lot less now. I wear what I call “orthopedic shoes” (almost exclusively walking shoes from Ziera, which used to be called Kumfs), because they are comfortable, supportive, and don’t irritate my sensitive foot. I can get most of the styles in whatever color I want, which is black. (They sell other colors for you people who don’t want to own ten pairs of black shoes.)

I sound like an ad, I know, but it took me a lot of trial and error to find shoes that would work, so if this helps someone who has similar issues, I’m glad. These shoes are spendy, I won’t lie; they probably average about $150 a pair, but it’s an investment in my health. I’ve decided to consider it a fair exchange for all the money I have saved by not dyeing my hair.

Europe – #AtoZChallenge

Oh, my. Traveling to Europe for a six-month trip was impacted by having MS in a variety of amusing ways.

First off, I decided that the best way to enable myself to be active was to take along a cooling vest, since heat can really exacerbate the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. The deal was, the vest looked puffy but was actually fitted with these long gel packs that you would freeze and then stuff into pockets that encircle your torso. It was so bulky and heavy that I had to wear it on the plane to save room in our bags, so I looked, basically, like a mild-mannered, middle-aged suicide bomber.

Modeling the cooling vest. Note the handy Velcro shoulder and side straps!

That was only the first thing that caused problems for airport security, though! The other was that I needed to bring six months’ worth of medication, so my entire carry-on bag was packed with drugs. Nothing to see here, security people!

Being gimpy and slow had two main consequences on the trip. First, David and Quinland would inevitably drift farther and farther ahead of me. Honestly, this didn’t bother me much, because I like to window shop and they don’t, so I’d have been falling behind anyway, and this was a good excuse. One time in Portugal, though, I tripped and fell while strolling down the street (very gracelessly, I should add; I just pitched over, face-first) and my family was just out of shouting range. Thankfully, I was immediately attended to by the wonderful local folks, whom I tried to assure, without actually knowing any Portuguese, that I was scraped up but otherwise fine.

The second thing was that — and this holds true today — if I over-exert myself on one day, I usually am laid up on the next. D and Q thus got to go on many adventures without me, though we tried to make those days either sites-I-was-less-interested-in or physical-activities-I-probably-couldn’t-do-anyway. It would have been fun to mountain bike in Istria or kayak in Norwegian fjords, but I can’t complain — I can still travel, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

I’m also grateful that I got to visit massage therapists all over Europe, from the relaxing one in Lisbon to the near-chiropractic one in Barcelona to the health-club vibe of the one in Hannover. (After being introduced to hot yoga in London, I also got to explore yoga studios in Paris and Dublin!)