The Betsy Chronicles

Betsy and I at my graduation
Betsy and I at my graduation

Before my blue Nimbo Frame Martha came into my life, there was Betsy. She was my silver Kaye Walker. I promised you all that I’d tell you all her story one day and now that day has finally arrived.  If you’re a bit confused and want to find out why I choose to name my walking aids, you can check out this post here. If you want to just hear more about my old one Betsy then grab some snacks, pull up a chair and I’ll tell you.

As I’ve said before, she was given to me the day before Christmas Eve in 2011 and went into retirement last month. Usually these frames last longer than that but she was given to me second hand. I didn’t mind. I got a new frame when I needed it and that was all that mattered to me. I was in my final year at university by this point was making an effort to do as much walking as possible so I made sure we had some good times before we had to go our separate ways.

I like to think of Betsy as my frame of firsts. She came with me on lots of work experience placements, was there on the first day of work at my last job and came with me when I got the bus by myself for the first time. This last one didn’t go so well. It’s safe to say that catching the bus alone is not my strong point, but that’s a story for another time.

Oh, and she will always have a special place in my heart for being the frame that I used to get across the stage at my university graduation, which for me was the most symbolical moment  of my life so far.  It was the moment that me, my family and endless physios and doctors had been working towards all my life to date. People said I wouldn’t, people said I couldn’t and others thought I was just too lazy and would rely on my folks to do it all for me forever, so I upped-sticks, moved away  and went on an adventure to prove them all wrong. In that moment, I knew I’d made it. We all made it, and Betsy was there every step (or should that be roll) of the way. For that, I will love her forever.

My new Nimbo Frame Martha
My new Nimbo Frame Martha

There are a few ways that the Kaye Walker differed from my new frame Martha, aside from the fact that she was silver and not blue. My Kaye Walker didn’t have a seat on the back. This meant that I couldn’t always sit down as much as I would have liked, but it also made the frame a lot lighter than my current one. It meant that my arms didn’t get as tired when I was using it (guess this means I should probably work out more, huh?) and that it was easier to lift it up and down kurbs, and for me to deal with every time I got the front wheel stuck in a pot hole (this happened more times that I would care to admit).

It also means that the frame is less compact and takes uo more room in the car  but it was all still worth it in my eyes. Like I’ve said before I can now take rest breaks as and when I need them, sit down if I need to take notes when carrying out interview and I’m guaranteed to have somewhere to sit. To me it’s totally worth it even if it does mean I have to grow some muscle and buy less shopping on my trips out. In the end it’s probably better for my body and (my bank balance) anyway.

The ups and downs of clothes shopping

If there’s one activity that can almost be classed as physical exercise that I love it’s shopping, especially for clothes. I love wondering idly around the racks with Martha looking for the latest edition to my wardrobe, or at least I do most of the time…

Clothes shopping for me has its massive sets of ups and downs. In the ‘yay’ column I get new things that make me feel good about myself and know that I’m doing something that will help me keep fit (kind of). Then there is the ‘not-so-yay’ column which boasts a lot more elements: I have to spend money (boo), find something that fits, and battle with the changing rooms. Ugh.

For those of you who don’t know already, I’m really quite tiny.  I’m 4ft 9” . This makes finding jeans that fit an absolute nightmare. If I want to buy any that fit me properly in the leg I usually have to ones for an age 11 child because even ones from the petite section are way too long. However, I am not an 11-year-old, I am a 22 year-old woman who just happens to have hips that this size of clothing doesn’t always cater for. Thankfully, I have quite a small body frame in general, so the ones for a 12 year-old will often fit around my waist, but then they have to be taken up and then I have to find some that don’t look miles too young for me. Do you see the problem?

Tops, t-shirts, skirts and dresses are simple enough because I can buy those in smaller adult sizes, but I’m lucky enough that I can still get these from the teenager section too if I want –yay for cheaper clothes!

Then, if all that wasn’t enough to take into consideration, I have to try and go to places where I can try the stuff on at home and return it if it doesn’t fit because most store changing rooms and I just don’t get on. I know that more and more places are getting disabled changing rooms installed, many of them don’t have the facilities that I personally need. Lots of the ones that I’ve been in (when I’ve had no other choice so I’ll admit I don’t use them very often) are wider to accommodate a wheelchair or walking aid and a lot of the have a seat (bonus), but the ones I have seen don’t always have handrails. Even though I am perfectly capable of dressing myself, if one doesn’t have a handrail I don’t feel safe enough to get changed by myself given how good I am at falling over. This means I have to take my mum in with me to hold me up. So by the time you have squashed, me, my walking frame, and my Mum into the cubicle there’s not very much move to move around, which when you have problems moving in the first place, isn’t a good thing.

So, now that I think about it, I really don’t know why I like shopping so much. Maybe I just like the challenge of finding something that fits? Hmmm…

The story of a girl and her wheelchair

Do you remember how I said in my first post that some days were better than others and that I sometimes need to use a wheelchair? I think if I had left the house yesterday I would have taken that with me and given Martha a day off. I knew before I even got out of bed in the morning that it was going to be one of my more awkward days when the Cerebral Palsy likes to remind me that I’m not Super Woman, but still, it wasn’t the worst.

Getting up on a Monday is always tough for anyone, but the first thing I noticed yesterday when I made the leap of faith out from under the duvet other than my usual urge to answer a call of nature was the knot of pain behind my left knee. I could tell as soon as I started walking on it that this knot was settling itself in for day so I popped the heating on (I seize up when cold) and took myself back to bed (any old excuse will do). I hoped that warming myself back up would make it go away. I was wrong. My back then decided to join in with the protest and starting aching like it usually does when I spend too long lying down and demanded that I move around. My leg, and by this point, my hip objected to this greatly. In the end I decided to give up, get up and heat myself up and wheat bag while the lot of them battled it out to see which one of them could irritate me most. I’m still not sure who won.

Although I’ve had my walking frame for as long as I can remember, I didn’t get my first wheelchair until I was 11. I refused up until that point. I can remember being in nursery school and vowing that I would never let myself have one. I even used to try sneak out into the playground without my walking frame sometimes. I never managed it obviously but excitement I got from knowing that I could try and be outside without it made the thought of a telling off afterwards worthwhile.  Yes, I am the first to admit I was a very mischievous little madam with no sense of danger back then. If I had managed it, in truth I would have probably burst into tears when the teacher and caught me, but I still like to think it would have been worth it.  I used to get up to these kinds of antics at home too when I’d launch missions to get upstairs without anyone noticing. We didn’t have handrails then so I wasn’t allowed. I’d usually only make it halfway up before I got stopped but one time I made it all the way to the top and managed to get into my Mum and Dad’s room. I was delighted and started started to look for a place to hide and surprise them later, only to be scooped up and carried back to the living room by Mum much to my disappointment.

Despite all my protests I knew deep down that when I started high school it probably wouldn’t be acceptable to take my major buggy with me anymore.

I was surprised to find that I didn’t regret my choice as much as I thought I would at the time. The chair (otherwise known as Louise) and I have had some fun times too. I still get the giggles when I think about the time one of her wheels came off while my boyfriend was pushing me down a hill (It’s okay – I wasn’t hurt so you can laugh if you want) and I decorate her in tinsel at Christmas time. It took me a long time for me to realise that getting her wasn’t a sign of deterioration like I thought it was, but a practical decision and I am proud that I managed to stop being stubborn long enough to see that.

Please, call her Martha

Martha and I
Martha and I

Well, I think it’s about time I introduced you all to me trusty counterpart Martha – AKA my very new, and indeed very blue, Nimbo walking frame. I know what you’re all thinking –pfft, she’s named it, why on Earth would she do that, nutter – well, I’ll tell you.

I’ve always had a frame for as long as I can remember but I haven’t always given them names. That tradition started with my last glamorous aluminium-assistant Betsy who sadly had to go to walker Heaven about three weeks ago after about a year-and-a-half by my side (I’ll tell you more of her life story another time, though).  Her name came about almost by accident. I was given her by the hospital the day before Christmas Eve and I was really excited because the last one was getting so wobbly that I couldn’t wait to get her. In my excitement I decided to announce to the physiotherapist that gave her to me that she deserved a name and that name would be Betsy.  Enough about Betsy for now though, let’s let Martha have her moment of glory first.

After a while, and many confused friends later, I decided that this should be a tradition that I would keep up.  After all, when you are a child you name the teddy bear that you carry about with you all the time and lose on at least sixteen occasions while you’re growing up, so why shouldn’t I do it? And, even though I’m not embarrassed by the fact I need a frame in any way, I think it sounds nicer to ask my parents if they’ve put Martha in the car rather that saying ‘did you remember to bring ‘the frame’”.

Giving her a name is great too because it helps get me out of trouble “Martha didn’t mean to hit your ankles Mum. She’s got PMT today and is very sorry, she won’t do it again”. My mum can’t help but laugh every time I pull that excuse.

It’s a great ice-breaker at parties too. When I say “I’m Nic and this is Martha” they usually look at me like I’ve had one too many, then ponder on it for a minute and offer up what their own choice of name would be in my situation. I think sometimes, it helps people who’ve never met me before relax a bit and realise that they can ask whatever they want about the CP, and that I’m probably not going to mind, as long as they’re polite about it.

As I said, Martha is very new to me but she’s also very special because she is the first walker I’ve ever had with a seat attached which makes all the difference. Now, I don’t have to worry about there being somewhere for me to sit so that I can take notes without falling over if I’m interviewing someone at an event, I can rest if my sister is taking too long to decide if she wants to buy that dress she’s been mulling over for an hour, and I never have to worry if there’ll be a free chair that I can use in the pub. It is these little things that make the biggest difference.

Welcome to my world, Martha. We’re gonna have a blast!

Here goes nothing…

My name is Nic and I think that I’m lucky. Over the years I’ve been called many things: brave, determined, courageous; or freak, lazy and other things depending on whom you speak to. But no one ever seems to call me lucky.

I was born with Cerebral Palsy, a physical disability that effects the way I move – mostly my legs, but more often than not my left arm and I have to have a stern conversation before it will do what I want it to. I usually win that one in the end. Eventually. I don’t know exactly what caused it but I was born fourteen weeks too soon and sometime after that I had a bleed in my brain. Going any deeper than this to find out what caused the bleed doesn’t really interest me. As far as I’m concerned I made it and that’s all that counts. I can still walk, talk and do a lot of things for myself – except tie my own shoelaces – that I’m still working on – but given that I’m twenty four I should probably just give up and focus my time and energy on doing something way more fun and worth the effort, like making endless cups of tea. That I can do, and if there’s one thing in life I love more than the awesome-ness that is chocolate, it’s tea.

Although I can walk by myself around the house I never go anywhere without my trusty walking fame (hence the blog name), or on bad day, my wheelchair. I don’t have the balance to get up curbs by myself and the shock of standing on an uneven bit of pavement would send me crashing to my knees so I choose to play it safe but that’s okay. Falling over isn’t nearly as funny as it sometimes looks. Although, the time I somehow managed to fall into the laundry basket and broke it was pretty funny, or the time I was a toddler reached out to grab the person in front of me to catch myself and ended up pulling the poor man’s trousers down (just his trousers – nothing more, thank you). Well, I’m told that was funny, but really I’m not so sure…

I also make vlogs on YouTube and you can check out my channel here. In the meantime, here’s my channel trailer for you all to have a look at: