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Meet Pearl, My Cane and Sidekick

I can’t remember if it was February or March, but the weather was snowy and raw. My foot was raging with pain; every step I took made a “snap” sound. Even wearing winter boots was a struggle due to the swelling. My normal flare routine wasn’t easing the pain, and I desperately needed something to take some weight off my foot. So on a painful day (with my doctor’s blessing), I broke down and bought a cane.

Trying to stay positive

My cane is a bubblegum pink aluminum folding cane with a soft gray handle. While I was instantly attracted to her color (I’m a pink girl!), she was just something on sale at CVS. Being 19 years old and using a cane was extremely depressing; it felt like I was surrendering to my arthritis. To make the experience a little more light-hearted, I referred to her as Pearl since her color is similar to a Pink Pearl eraser. However, I quickly found it empowering to walk with less pain. For a painful year and a half, she became my loyal sidekick.

How Pearl helped

That flare left me with some joint damage, and I bet it would’ve been worse if I hadn’t used her. From the Walk to Cure Psoriasis to the walk to psychology class, she was always there to support me (literally). There were even times when Pearl spoke for me; telling the people on the crowded bus that I needed a seat, and calling my loved one’s attention to the fact that I needed extra support. It was great to have someone there to say those things since I’m too timid to say them myself.

The pain of a cane

But as sentimentally as I write about her, I was ecstatic to retire her. Despite being a relief for my feet, she took a toll on my hands. On days my hands felt sore, I had to make a decision between a painful foot or a sore hand. It’s also ironically awkward to get around with a cane. I found it hard to go shopping, get fast food, or even use the phone because one hand was constantly in use. I often used a backpack to carry groceries home and ordered fast food meals to-go so I wouldn’t have to use a tray. Simple things that were already hard due to my arthritis became even harder with Pearl, like opening a heavy door.

She’s always there

While Pearl has been in retirement for over a year, I keep her close in case I need her. While she does a great job taking some pressure off my feet, she puts a lot of strain on my arm. My most recent flares have given me a lot of pain in my shoulders and upper back, so using Pearl hasn’t been an option recently. But you never know if just a foot or knee will flare one day. Sometimes it’s hard to know if the positives outweigh the negatives.

The decision to use a cane is very personal. You should talk to your medical professional when making the decision, and see a physical therapist if possible. Having a lesson on using a cane properly will help prevent improper form, which can cause more pain and damage. Ultimately, canes are a tool to help prevent pain and damage.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.