Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In Praise of Cool Canes (and Where to Find Them, at a Discount)

I have a confession to make. I kind of have a fetish for canes. I can't help it, I have some weird genetic trait that forces me to start collecting things that pique my interest. This compulsion to collect has led me to possess way too many antique wristwatches, vintage New York travel books, old cameras, memorabilia from the 1964 world's fair, antique New York City postcards, aged tie clips, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Before I got sick, I had more pairs of shoes than my wife, and she's no slouch in the shoe department.

As my disability has progressed, I've been faced with having to accept the need for an ever evolving series assistive devices, most of which I resisted for as long as possible. With dogged determination, I insisted on struggling until I was way beyond the point where the use of an assistive device was a choice. I waited until they became absolute necessities.

In retrospect, I realize how asinine this stubbornness was, although I also realize it's only natural to harbor the mistaken notion that you’re "giving in" to the disease by using a brace, cane, or wheelchair. I suppose it's a form of denial. Despite a gait that made Quasimodo look like Fred Astaire, as long as I didn't need any "assistance", I must not be doing that badly. The result of this foolishness was that I often wound up frustrated and angry, and made things more difficult on myself, which in turn only made me feel worse about my condition. Once I grudgingly accepted the need for some assistance, life started to become easier. The best example of this is that I just about became a shut in before I agreed to get a power wheelchair, the device that once again opened up the world to me and led me to discover my inner "Wheelchair Kamikaze", and to start this blog.

One of the tools I steadfastly resisted using for way too long was a cane. At some point in my MS journey, I'd been given a standard medical supply store cane, a hideous and bulky contraption of gray metal tubing and ugly rubber appendages. I tried it once in my apartment, took a gander of myself in the mirror, and then relegated it to its permanent home in the back of the hall closet. No way was I going to be seen in public using an apparatus as hideous as that. I'd stick to limiting my mobility to a range of about 50 feet rather than suffer the indignity of using such a beastly piece of equipment.

Soon enough, though, it became clear that I absolutely needed a cane, when I couldn't even make it around my apartment unassisted. I figured if I had to have a cane, I might as well have one that I liked, so I started searching the Internet for acceptable candidates that I wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen with. I soon found there are quite a few Internet cane stores, offering a wide variety of styles. Who knew?

After agonizing over the choice, I placed an order with one of these Internet cane emporiums. It was a nice enough dark wood stick, and I did find that I wasn't mortified to be seen using it, but the "collector" spark in me had been lit. I started searching high and low across the Internet for the most interesting canes I could find.

During a search of eBay, I came across the products of a man named Jerry, who imports beautiful canes made of exotic woods from Costa Rica. The canes come in a wide variety of styles, and many have handles that are hand carved into the shapes of all kinds of beasts and other figurines. Not only were the canes striking, but they were cheaper than the much plainer items sold in other places on the Internet.

I ordered my first cane from Jerry (who is eBay name is costaricatreasurehouse) with low expectations, figuring that for the price the cane must be of shoddy construction, or have some other fatal flaws. When it arrived, I was happy to find that it was of extremely high quality, and was actually quite artful. I've since ordered several more canes from Jerry, my favorite being one with a handle in the shape of a cobra, complete with fangs and forked tongue. It's a real attention grabber, and people comment on it constantly. Little boys especially seem fascinated by it.

I recently wrote Jerry a note telling him of my Wheelchair Kamikaze blog, and he agreed to offer a 10% discount to anybody who buys one of his canes from eBay (click here to go to his eBay store) and mentions "Wheelchair Kamikaze" in their correspondence with him. The offer is good on all of the canes he sells, except for ones that are already discounted. I'm really hoping this arrangement works out, because it seems to be a classic "win-win", in that it will generate more business for Jerry, and mobility challenged readers of this site will get a discount on some of the nicest canes I've come across.

Here's just a small sample of some of the canes Costa Rica Treasure House offers...


  1. You failed to mention the saber and electrical cow prod concealed in the cane.

    Hey, if Classy Freddy Blassy could wield a cane it's got to be legit.

  2. I'm with you on a nice cane. The ones from the drug store are downright fugly. I have some nice canes, but they cost a small fortune, well, $100 a pop - I sure wish I'd known about this ebay place. Tx for the heads up.

  3. Those Costa Rican jobs are sweet! I'll definitely check out his site. Irish blackwood is nice, too.

  4. Although I can no longer use it, I still have a wonderful greyhound-head cane I bought on eBay. I haven't been able to find a wheelchair or power chair anywhere near as cool as that cane.

  5. Beautiful canes. How slippery is the finish? I am concerned about "grip".

    Heard you Q on the Web Forum today. I waved hello (virtually).

    Anne in Toronto

  6. Of the 100+ pairs of shoes in my closet of which I can now wear only four pairs, maybe stylish canes could help me redefine my sense of fashion! Thanks for helping me get through my denial with lines such as, ""Despite a gait that made Quasimodo look like Fred Astaire..." I actually laughed at myself for the first time, by laughing at your description! Thanks, I needed that.

  7. although it isn't nearly as interesting as the canes Jerry sells, I do have a walking stick with a compass in it that has gotten a few coments.

    if i ever need another cane/walking stick, i will be sure to buy from Jerry


  8. It's amazing how freeing adaptive equipment can be. I stopped going to my chiropractor, though she helped, when she asked how long I planned to use the scooter--I think she saw she crossed a line. To her, it represented a failure of her abilities or mine; to me, it represented freedom.

    I've seen a lovely camoflauge cane wielded by one young woman with spina bifida. I did not like the silver quad cane my grandfather gave me, though I needed it (I wouldn't use it at first). Now I use it every day to help with transfers, and it reminds me of him. I did get a folding one too and am trying to think of a way to rig one to a wheelchair without paying $99 for the holder (mounts used for biking equipment?)--I'd rather pay $99 for a pretty cane.

    My Quantum 6000Z is here, by the way, and far more comfortable than the scooter. It does not work well with the platform lift, though--we are checking into the automatic/electric Roll-a-ramp this afternoon.

  9. Thanks again for your astute commentary and observations! Funny and spot on true! I have a few colorful folding canes but would love something classier so thanks for the referral, I'll check it out.

    I, too, noted your question yesterday on the CCSVI forum, thought it was an excellent one, but felt it wasn't answered very well. Not certain I found the discussions all that helpful and listening/understanding was tough for me due to the heavy accents of 2 of the MDs. Perhaps reading the transcript will be more enlightening. Will you write about it?

  10. Marc:I liked your question at yesterday's web forum but didn't think it was answered fully. If you have any comments about what you saw and heard I'd be interested in reading them. (It was fun to hear that your question was addressed---cyberspace seems so huge to me that when someone I "know" appears, I don't feel so invisible.)

    By-the-way, I was in NYC last week and may have seen you whiz by Tuesday, midday, on W. 59 near 7th Ave. I was walking with rollator and saw someone navigate quickly thru the crowd with a chair and by the time I found my voice to holler out, the person was far away. Maybe you?

    Patrice (aka hopeful2)

  11. Marc,
    My stepfather has a cane made from a Bull penis. It is streached out and petrified. It is not real practical but a good conversation piece. When I use a cane (not very often because I use a walker at home and a scooter most of the time when I am out) I have a cane that pivots when I walk. That keeps the cane firmly on the ground as a move. Not real stylish but practicle.

  12. Hi Marc,
    So pleased that others heard your comment come in at the forum yesterday. McBride said, "Marc, aka Wheelchair Kamikaze" and I think that all of your friends all over the world yelled out a collective, "Yes!" Getting one out of 7000 emailed questions chosen must speak to your skill at composition. Anyhow, it sure was the highlight of the event for me. Those guys are being so damned circumspect, it was making me sick. The researcher from Buffalo, Zivadinov, could give a shit about the suffering hordes...just more interested in following protocols and numbers, not in rendering treatment. The interventional radiologist seemed skilled enough in working with veins, perhaps a little leary as his friend at Stanford, Dake, had been shut down due to "migrating stents." The M.S. neuro guy was a tow-the-typical-party-line guy, as in stick to your ABCR drugs...but what about those of us who do not have RR, but are progressing rapidly with no disease modifiers in sight? Zamboni was the only one who expressed an ounce of compassion, and you could tell that the others had tried to beat that out of him...
    We'll see what happens next. I hope they will try to help you with it again, if you are game.

  13. Thanks for all the nice comments, folks. I find that having an interesting cane helps make a positive out of a potential negative, and I like telling inquiring strangers the story behind them.

    I was as surprised as anyone to hear my question asked during the Web forum. I think it was an inside job, though, since I've corresponded with one of the NMSS people who put on the forum...

    Oh, the Finnish army canes is not too slippery, and they are actually very comfortable in the hand...

  14. Thanks so much for posting the links to the canes! I have a small collection and lost my favorite cane a few months ago. I am always forgetting it because my walking problems come and go during the day, so I'll just walk off without it. :) My next cane purchase will definitely be from this ebay seller!

  15. on a semi-related note- clog shoes did a world of good for me, my walking, and my posture. Dansko has many fashionable clogs, which I was so very grateful to discover.

  16. Marc, enjoyed this very much. me too.
    I have one french bulldog cane with silver ear tips and a silver wire muzzle from e-bay worth a small fortune. fits's my hand and height perfectly. i save it for special occasions. I find the cane helps people open conversation with the crippled lady.

  17. Check out this fine cane I ordered so I didn't have the same drug store type my mum uses!

  18. love the snake head one

    follow if u like what u see?


  19. I am at this point now where I realize how much better things could be if I had a cane. I am loving the foldong ones, but havent yet decided on one. Going to ck out your friends stuff now....THANKS KAMIKAZE