I haven’t been around much because I was going to many doctor appointments, had abdominal surgery, and then recovery. I’m still recovering but I’m getting better. I want to talk to you about disability and ageism.
This was my third surgery and every time I have one, I’m disabled for a minimum of a month. And, every time, I’m reminded how people can act toward younger people who can’t walk fast and who carry canes. Here’s the thing about having abdominal surgery – it HURTS! The first time you get up, you can yell out from pain. I did. I had to have two nurses help me up -one to move my legs down and the other to help push my back up. I had to lean on something to be able to walk and it was agony to walk to the bathroom. Also, if you’re healthy, you may not notice how much your abdomen works for you.
First laugh, there’s tightness and pulling in the abdomen. It will bring you to tears. The first cough, you will want to cough slowly and a couple of times because it hurts. The first sneeze. Stars, it hurt. My best friend is a pillow whenever I laugh, cough, or sneeze to put pressure on the abdomen. So, yes its a major surgery and it hurts. I got me a cane so I could move around. My son doesn’t get that I can’t pick him and so sometimes he hangs on my arm. The cane helps me stand and not fall.
But, anyway, now that you know a little background on what happens during recovery, hopefully you understand I’m not exaggerating to being disabled. It’s temporary but if a cane helps me get food shopping done and get my son out to get fries, I’m happy. Many people whom I seen on the street, Lyft drivers, and or in restaurants, snickered or gave me looks that said – why does she have a cane? Why can’t she pick up the crying toddler and her ‘what mother’ is picking him up? Is she trying to get attention?
I had a 72 male snicker about my cane and he even asked why I need it. He thought it was a prop for something. After I said I had abdominal surgery, he wasn’t snickering anymore. I shouldn’t have had to explain to him why I needed the cane. He shouldn’t have asked. He just thought that a person my age can’t be disabled. When I was crossing the street with my son who was walking next to me and my cane, drivers just zoomed by and I had twice, young men walk with us so the drivers would stop at two locations. They understood that I couldn’t walk faster. I was thankful.
Believe me, I would rather carry my son and walk faster than walk with a cane. I feel horrible for relying on my mom to help me get up and move around. I’m super thankful that she understands and helps me so much in this hard time.
I hate sticking out. I’m not walking with a cane to get attention. I walk with a cane so I could not lay in the house all day like I did for weeks. I walk with a cane and get out of the house so my kid could get out of the house. He was in the house for weeks with me and let me tell you, toddlers shouldn’t stay in all the time. So if I can get out for an hour and do something with him even if I have to force myself to walk, I’ll do it. Plus, walking helps recovery, it’s just hard.
Age doesn’t matter when it comes to having a disability. You have no idea why someone is walking with a cane or moves around slowly. Just because you can’t see the disability, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The way you look at people and the way you say things… it matters. Others will notice. The person who is disabled WILL notice. Some are strong, especially who don’t have a chance at recovery. They learned to take it. Others aren’t as strong and they may cry themselves to sleep at how they been treated. People shouldn’t have to explain to you why they are the way they are.
Be sensitive. Pay attention to your words and your facial expressions.
I still remember that 72 year old. I still remember the way he make me feel – like I was doing somewhere wrong WHEN I wasn’t. It really sucks and it’s at the back of my mind constantly. What other reactions, I’ll receive. How many more times will I have to repeat myself about my surgery?
Thank you for reading this letter. It means a lot to me that you took the time.
Ageism can cut in all sorts of ways, but one way is definitely with younger people with canes (or even wheelchairs) not being believed. Disability does not discriminate by age, but people do.
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