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  Let me tell you
… About putting the fun in functional
by Anita Cohen
  Like most people with MS, I rejected using a cane for a long time. I didn't need a cane. I didn't want a cane. A cane would mark me as a cripple, an invalid, incompetent. I was doing just fine without it. Yes, that darned right leg of mine wasn't able to hold me up all the time. Yes, I stumbled frequently and even fell down. But it took a long time to convince me that bruises and achy bones were too high a price to pay for being cane-free. Or that I might walk better, look less crippled, and live longer using a cane.

Once I started using the cane, I would not leave home without it. I was grateful for its support, but I hated its cold metal functionality! I hated how uncomfortable the cane made other people, who looked at me with pity, or simply averted their eyes.

I wasn't alone. My fellow MS travelers, Merri and Terry, were also grappling with this love-hate relationship with their canes. Apart from having MS, we are normal women. We enjoy going out and looking our best. MS had already forced us to trade our stylish shoes for safe and sturdy flat ones. So we tried different ways of imposing some style on our canes.

We found beautiful canes with carved handles. We found canes with lovely designs painted on them. We found shiny Lucite canes. But we also found that these beautiful canes were costly.

So we bought ribbons and bows to dress our canes for holidays. When Merri, Terry, and I met for a holiday lunch, we couldn't help but notice how people looked at our festive canes and smiled. But just as Cinderella's carriage reverted to a lowly pumpkin at midnight, our decorated canes would often revert too soon. The ribbon would unravel, the bows would fall off, and we'd be left feeling about as dressed up as a scullery maid. Still, we talked about how much nicer it was when the cane was an accessory.

Though our conversation segued to other topics, Merri already had an idea. When she went home, she sat down at her sewing machine and began making her first cane cover. The next time Terry and I met Merri for lunch, her cane was covered with snowflakes!

Merri had fashioned a form-fitting fabric sleeve held in place by Velcro at its top and the cane tip at its bottom. Her cold metal cane, with its ugly adjusting buttons, had been transformed into a charming seasonal accessory that drew smiles and comments from other people in the restaurant.

Over the next few weeks, Merri made a wardrobe of cane covers for the three of us. Our canes sported shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day. We had denim daisy covers to herald spring, and red, white and blue covers to celebrate Memorial Day and Independence Day. We looked forward to going out and showing off our canes.

Merri's cane covers, which she registered with the U.S. Patent Office in 1999, were a simple invention that solved a host of problems for us. I now have a new relationship with my cane. When I get ready to go out, I enjoy choosing a complementary cover from my collection. When my daughter got married, Merri fashioned a special cover from a piece of fabric that matched my dress. When I enter a room, I am greeted with smiles and friendly questions about my cane cover. My cane has been transformed into an icebreaker and an accessory. My functional assistive device is now fun to use, and I love it.

Classic Cane Covers--Merri Zielenski


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Last updated February 2006