Walking is something we take for granted, just put one foot in front of the other and we move through space. We can walk and talk at the same time with no problems. We can carry things in our hands, walk up and down the stairs and never trip or feel any twinge of being off balance. We can walk 2-3 miles or walk around a grocery store and make it back to our car with no problem.
For those of us who have drop foot, neuropathy, or leg weakness (I have all three) this is not the case. The first of September, I started a new medication, called Ampyra. I continue to see good improvement. As living with MS goes, I have good days and bad days, but I definitely see great strides.
In my book, Fearless, I mention several of my symptoms and how they affect my overall health. The neuropathy I experience below my knees on both legs is like burning, pins and needles, numbness, and weakness. When I stand for longer than five or ten minutes, I feel like my legs are just going to collapse. I can walk maybe 2 blocks without feeling the need for a nap!
I trip going up the stairs as my right leg and foot do not move as created. On a set of stairs at least I can hold onto the railing. If there is no railing, however, I freeze and freak out a little. I have been taught how to use my cane, but I still feel like I can’t move.
Inclines are much worse than stairs. I feel so out of balance, which is not good to begin with. I get going so fast going down an incline, I need to stop and regain my balance. On an incline that tilts to the side, I feel like any minute I will drop off to one side.
And it takes my whole body to do simple tasks. Normally, walking and eating don’t take a lot of concentration. But I have to concentrate on each step and each movement. (And that requires energy that I don’t have.)
It’s like learning how to walk and use my right hand all over again. You know how you walk with your heel hitting the ground first and then you roll your foot up to the toe and then push off the ground to take the next step? Well I haven’t been able to do that with my right leg for about five years. So now that I can, it’s like learning how to walk all over again. It feels very weird, and yet I’m excited about the enhanced range of motion.
I am using my cane less and less. I was at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in Asheville, NC recently for a meeting. Usually I use my cane, because it is a very large building. Today I intentionally left the cane in the car, and was able to walk quite a ways. And it felt good to do so.
Recently, I walked to our community’s clubhouse, on our very steep and uneven street. I intentionally did not take my cane with me again, and I felt very stable and had a good foot action. I’m continuing to be very happy with the new medicine. I would much rather God heal me, but until that happens I’m glad that this medicine is working very well!
I’m finding that I can eat with my right hand now, but I forget to switch to my right hand. I have developed such muscle memory for using my left hand and walking flat-footed that I need to retrain my muscles. Muscle memory, or also called motor learning, is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition.
I went to see my neurologist a couple of months ago for a routine appointment. She was very please with my walking. I explained to her how weird it feels to walk correctly now, after almost 5 years of walking with the drop foot.
For me since I started Ampyra I’ve been walking easier and smoother, and my hand weakness is not as great. I’m not advocating Ampyra for everyone. I’m simply saying it works for me. You need to check with your neurologist and have that conversation.