Suzan Black has lived with MS for 25 years, and learned that “regardless of my disability, staying mobile is the most important job that I have.”
A Can Do Multiple Sclerosis Staff member (Can Do) chats with Suzan about her tips and insights and shares some thoughts from Can Do.
Take the "Scenic Route"
SUZAN: When walking, rolling, driving, or any method of moving, LOOK, MAP, MOBILIZE:
First, look ahead for potential obstacles.
Second, mentally map out a plan of action.
And, finally.... mobilize.
Can Do: Know your options. Determine the best route to your destination. It may not always be the shortest distance, but choose the safest.
SUZAN: Before leaving the house, call for directions and ask about provisions for people with special needs (i.e. parking, elevators, ramps, etc.), if you need any.
Can Do: ”Accessibility” is individual so make sure you make your own needs known so that you can plan properly.
Allow ample time
SUZAN: It is much less stressful to arrive early than to feel panicked because you are late. Build in plenty of extra time in your date book for a "leisurely" journey. Bring along a book or something you can do while waiting if you arrive early.
Collect a variety of mobility devices (cane, walker, wheelchair, scooter, etc.)
SUZAN: Mobility aids don't have to be boring. Get yourself a device that expresses your personality.
Can Do: Your health care team (specifically rehabilitation professionals) can identify the appropriate assistive devices for you, taking into consideration your different needs and purposes, ergonomics, size, and other factors.
"I Want to Hold Your Hand"
SUZAN: If you are with a companion, it is safer if you hold onto him/her rather than your companion holding onto you.
Can Do: If you notice that you always need the assistance of someone for walking then you need an ambulatory aid.
SUZAN: Explain to family and friends your need for flexibility in participating in planned activities.
Can Do: Many people do not understand the variable symptoms of MS, particularly fatigue, so take the opportunity to educate them.
Plan a time to relax each day
SUZAN: Read, watch TV, listen to a meditation tape, or lie down; it will help replenish your battery.
Can Do: Keep a diary of your daily activities and determine where you are spending your energy and when it is best to rest.
Evaluate and adapt your home/office
SUZAN: Move your frequently-used items to a place where you don't have to reach over your head to access them.
Can Do: Adapting your environment will allow you to move more efficiently. Consult an occupational therapist for some ideas if you are ‘stuck’.
Be the master of your destiny
SUZAN: Don’t assume others know what you need. Be the master of your own destiny! Ask for help when you need it. Don’t forget to say “Thank You.”
Can Do: Keep in mind that there are often special provisions (reserved seating, accessible entrances, etc.) that may help you access activities you enjoy.
If you are sensitive to heat:
Can Do: Heat sensitivity can affect mobility. To learn more, go to You CAN Beat the Heat. Give yourself permission to stop and smell the roses. And BREATHE!
SUZAN: Sometimes we are so focused on where we need to go that we forget to see the beauty around us. Enjoy where you are on the journey. We also need to be aware of our breathing. We can be so concentrated on our efforts that we don’t realize we are taking shallow breaths or even holding our breath.
And last, but definitely not least, EXERCISE on a regular basis!
Can Do: Exercise can increase endurance, flexibility, and strength thereby improving mobility.
SUZAN: Call the nearest Society office (1-800-344-4867) about exercise or wellness programs they may sponsor or know of in your area.
Written by: Suzan Black with contributing editors: Staff, Can Do Multiple Sclerosis