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My stomach was in knots. I was about to get my hair cut! No, I wasn't afraid of getting a new style, I was afraid of falling in the parking lot as I made my way inside the salon or even falling once inside. MS is so unpredictable!

It's happened too many times over the years. Often at home but also on a busy street, at the pharmacy, someone's house. Once I was exiting a store with a bagful of groceries, I tripped on a tiny lip in the floor and then I went on autopilot. It goes like this, I scream, my arms go up and out to break my fall so that everything I’m holding goes flying in all directions, sometimes I twist my body to make sure I land on a shoulder or hip to avoid hitting my head. I find it fascinating to watch my survival instinct kick in (after the crisis has passed). I’m always moved by the kindness of strangers when in this case they gathered all my runaway food and made sure I was ok.

Since Covid I rarely go out alone. I work from home, see clients on Zoom. Stephen does all the shopping and errands. To be honest, he's been doing that for years however we always have fun shopping together when schedules permit.

He offered to drive and escort me inside, but I refused. Driving provides me a rare sense of movement, freedom, independence. My best decision ever was to install hand controls in my car nine years ago.

Walking is another story. Lately at home I use the furniture or a walker for support. The walker seat works as a table to transport drinks, food, my phone or work... great for everything except walking. Trekking poles enable me to stand up straight, in proper alignment, whereas it’s easy to lean on the walker which can aggravate my back from being bent over. I decided to use trekking poles for this excursion despite being exclusively on the walker all year. Another scary prospect.

I took a deep breath, turned on the car radio and absorbed every minute of the wonderful drive. In the parking lot I noticed an elderly couple sitting by the entrance and another woman on a nearby bench. I hung my disabled sticker, put on my mask, grabbed my purse and poles and opened the car door.

I stood there for a while trying to figure out the safest way to the entrance. The shorter route meant taking a big step up to the sidewalk, the longer route up a steep incline (for wheelchairs). I must have looked like a deer in the headlights. The heat didn’t help. Like most people with MS I am heat intolerant. Within minutes I felt numb, weak and unsteady.

The man from the table and woman on the bench jumped to my aid. I accepted gratefully. Phew! Step one complete.

Turns out the bench lady was MJ, the assistant who washed my hair. She stayed close as I maneuvered my way around the salon ( just in case). Before I let my hair grow to its natural grey/white I was a regular every 6 weeks for years. It‘s like a big family there, I knew they’d understand and support me. That was how I reassured myself that going would be ok no matter what— my backup plan. Without asking, MJ helped me back to my car after a fun reunion with the gang inside.

It was a great day. It felt so good to be out by myself. I learned just like with every other challenging decision that I can stay safe and protected or go for it. I prefer to face fear and go for it, as long as I have a backup plan.

My hair looks good too!

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