When I was 10 my parents took me to a cycle shop to choose a brand new bike, not one that had been bought secondhand and then passed down from my sisters, as had been the case with previous bikes; this one was to be brand spanking new and just for me. I remember the occasion vividly as one of the best moments of my childhood. I remember the awe I felt as I stood in that shop surrounded by bicycles that had been squeezed into every available nook. Bikes as tall as me lined the shop floor while more bikes swung precariously above my head. Choosing my bike was the most important decision I’d ever had to make in my young life. This bike was destined to be my faithful companion throughout my childhood, my adolescence, even through university and beyond, until it finally found its way onto the tip one September day 17 years later.
I couldn’t stop admiring my new bike as I wheeled it home from the shop. It felt too precious to ride and yet I couldn’t wait to get out on it. I remember wanting to keep it ‘new’ forever, scared of getting the slightest bit of dirt on it or, even worse, a scratch! I soon got over that and set about jazzing it up with stickers and wheel reflectors that I’d got out of Kellogg’s cereal boxes in the days when you used to find actual toys hidden amongst your Coco Pops.
Fast forward 27 years and I find myself being taken back to that day in 1992, but this time my new set of wheels belong to a wheelchair. I’d had a call from the delivery man to say that he was on his way and I sat by the window eagerly awaiting the arrival of my very own new wheelchair. Gone are the days of borrowing ‘chairs that can accomodate people thrice the size of me, no longer will I need to cart a clunky old ‘chair back to The Red Cross centre to get a flat tyre repaired. This wheelchair is mine and it’s made to measure!
Just as I had done with my bike, I parked my new wheelchair up and sat looking at it for a considerable length of time, admiring its super new sparkle and its comfy padded seat. Just as my bike had provided me with independence and a means to explore the world (or at least a small patch of Essex), this new wheelchair has the power to give me back some of the freedom I’ve lost since having MS and I couldn’t be more excited.
My first ‘go’ on the wheelchair was a cautious circuit around my house, carefully negotiating narrow doorways every few feet. The ride was smooth and when it was done I couldn’t help shedding a small tear as I sat there, reluctant to get out of my new faithful companion.