Friday, 22 August 2014

Degenerative Disc Disease

Whoa! It's been a long time between posts. But now I finally have something to write about.

I have degenerative Disc Disease - kind of an invisible illness. I've had it for about 15 years and unfortunately, I'm one of the few who has chronic pain because of it. I'm not on disability - not sure I could even qualify for a disabled parking sticker - haven't even tried to get one (I don't drive anyway).

As regular readers know, I'm a commuter cyclist and I'm very lucky that I have no pain while riding - it's the only time I'm (thus far) guaranteed to have no pain at all. So I'm often seen riding around my neighborhood like a totally fit athletic person, which I am while I'm on the bike - I can cycle for 60 miles or more, no problem. But recently my illness has become worse - another disc gone kaput - still no problems cycling, but if I walk more than a couple of blocks, I need a walking stick; if I walk for an hour or so, I need a back brace, and if I'm out for more than an couple of hours, I need a wheelchair. I avoided even considering a wheelchair until my wife suggested I use one while we were at Disneyworld (they rent them out for $10 per day - pretty good deal, so I went for it), and afterwards I was convinced, because it made it possible to join in all-day family activities that I had subconsciously canceled from my routine.

So I just bought a wheelchair for the first time today, yay! But I'm a bit worried about what friends and neighbors are going to think of a person who's out and about on a bike 5 days a week, but who occasionally uses a wheelchair. When I rented a wheelchair I was even kinda embarrassed to get out of it and stand up or walk around for fear of being labeled a disability scammer or a joyrider. There's a lot of ignorance out there about disability - for so many people it seems like there are only a few kinds of health states - amputee, paraplegic, quadriplegic and perfectly healthy. If you don't fit into the first three categories, because your illness is invisible, that means you're fine. It's nuts, but I'm anticipating puzzled looks and perhaps even questions.

Anyway, just thought I'd share. Does anyone have any thoughts? Any similar experiences or friends with similar issues?


  1. Thanks for sharing Ian, that was a new insight for me.

  2. It sounds like a practical solution to allow you to enjoy family activities that wouldn't otherwise be possible for you. I've been dealing with mobility problems due to multiple injuries to my legs and have contemplated the same solution if my inability to handle things like going to a museum and standing for extended periods of time persists.

  3. Just found your blog today and am so sorry to hear about you degenerative disease. Do I understand correctly that cycling long distance is easy for you while walking is not?

    I'm 52 years old and would really like one of those sleek, low recumbent trikes for when (if) I'm 82. They are so expensive right now. I'd love it if they were mass produced. There is the width and eye-level/visibility problem but I think I've found a Lithium battery solution for that.

    Recumbent trikes have two wheels in the front. They brake, corner, and handle safely but I'm sure you knew that.