Just one more step. It was the only thought in my head. One more. If I can lift my leg, move it forward, even just a bit, and then repeat with the other leg. My objective, to get back to the car, which was about 50 metres away from me. Every step seemed to push the car further away. How could it be?
When I went for my walk yesterday I must have had a subconscious understanding this would be a very hard walk. I had my FES device on my leg, and the hip flexor assist device. I was hoping for a 1 km walk. On the outward leg my muscles in both legs were starting to wake up, letting me know, through increased pain, this trip would be hard. The hip flexors were crying out for me to stop. The problem was I had to get back to the car.
Over the next 500 metres I gradually increased the power of the FES from 1, to eventually 10, the highest power setting I can use. Despite this electronic flexing of my leg, plus the support of my leg springs (the hip flexor assist device), both of my lower limbs were shying away from this task. It took every ounce of ability to return to my vehicle. Getting in was hard too, I had to lift my leg, so I would be able to sit in the drivers seat. It took every ounce of willpower to achieve this objective.
Is it my fault?
Today, my legs are worse than normal, and I was thinking, was my walk yesterday the cause of this? Did my desire, or will, to walk, actually making it more difficult to be mobile. It would appear to be the case. Overexertion, overdoing it, or just pure and simple bloody-mindedness not to let this cruel beast of an illness take too much of my life. Yet, it is eating away my mobility. Munching happily on the strength of my limbs, removing any chance of walking in the future. It is tempting to see it like this.
Living with this illness for nearly 30 years has taught me several lessons. Some small, and others, well you know what I will write, big. One thing I have learned is how important exercise is in maintaining, or slowing the progression of this illness. It is vital. Perhaps I should not have walked yesterday, but if I don’t get out and walk, or sit on my recumbent exercise bike, I will lose all my walking ability. So despite the setback, I must continue.
There is a time and place for everything. Facing a challenge, willpower will help you stick with it, giving you the strength to crash through the wall you will inevitably face. This morning when I felt my right leg even weaker, I did not weep for its loss. Instead, I went to my cave, sat on the exercise bike and cycled for 15 minutes and achieved a 4 km distance. After that I used the strength machine to build up the strength in my upper body. Arms, chest, stomach and back, all need to be capable, or even more than that, to compensate for lost mobility.
This is a positive experience. Now, writing this after making my body work, work hard, I feel formidable and more capable. If I didn’t use my willpower this morning, I would be lamenting the ability the beast has eaten away. There are days when I should heed my body, resting, recovering, but I cannot let this pass from one day, to a week, or even longer. The losses I would experience may not be recoverable.
I think by using this skill, at the right time, it can be an asset in the treatment of any illness. It is difficult to know when is the right time, something only experience will teach you. As MS is different for everyone, you must find your own course, I have found mine.
Willpower, used correctly, can slow progression.