When your loved one is weak and tired from cancer, navigating the city is more difficult than it used to be…
One of the things we had to figure out immediately after starting treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was the best ways of navigating the City.
Traveling around New York City when you’re not from there can be challenging.
And when you’re struggling with the symptoms and side effects of cancer, that just makes everything more complicated. Walking a few miles, a day used to be no big deal, and now suddenly it is… moving around takes forever, getting in and out of cabs is a struggle, and life, in general, is totally different.
The constant weakness associated with cancer changes everything and makes navigating the City much more difficult. At least it did for us.
Add that to the pain and moving around is different than it was before.
The wheelchair can be a tremendously helpful resource when you’re navigating the City and you’re not from there. It’s a ton of walking. So, if you’re not used to that it can sneak up on you.
Talk to your primary care doctor honestly about what’s going on… The side effects you’re experiencing, the amount of walking you’re doing, all of it.
If they feel it would be beneficial for you, they can write you a prescription for a wheelchair. After that, our wheelchair (which is actually a rental that we keep as long as we need it) was delivered right to our door.
Making sure the wheelchair is successful…
Watch the potholes:
They are deep in NYC. And they are everywhere. Particularly when you’re crossing the streets. They are pretty easy to avoid, you just have to watch for them and maneuver around.
DON’T try to speed up and “blast” through them. It really does look like you can…
But it doesn’t work.
Our very first time using the wheelchair in NYC. We were crossing the street and I hit a pretty big pothole in the middle of the road, I swear it looked like I could just breeze through it.
The wheelchair jolted and then stopped completely, and my father flew forward (not out of the chair, but close). At the same time, a taxi comes flying around the corner…
I promise I am really good now! But that day… not good at all.
Needless to say, it was a horrible experience and obviously, my dad’s stress level skyrocketed after that. ☹ (P.S. Once I got the hang of it, we were virtually event free).
Don’t underestimate tight spaces:
It looks like you have plenty of room, but when you don’t… It can be a disaster.
Keep in mind that you have to get used to the size and the space issues that come with pushing a wheelchair.
The footrests extend out (longer than you think) so corners, elevators, and people walking in front of you can be problematic until you get the hang of it. Just leave plenty of space and you’ll be fine.
Trying to go over large bumps or onto a curb?
Turn the chair around and go backward. The larger wheels in the back make it easy to get over those bumps.
Down the inclines… NYC is not flat and in fact, it’s totally uneven with a ton of inclines. Going downhill backward- gives you way more control and the ability to stop the wheelchair with your body.
Cars, Cabs, and Uber:
The wheelchair should fold up and fit in the trunk of any car. Meaning, you don’t need a ramp or a wheelchair van or anything like that. You may need to remove the foot petals if they are too long, but they are easy to reattach. Then simply toss it into the trunk and you’re off.
Can make the wheelchair difficult to push. If you are in a house for example where the floors are covered in fluffy rugs, you’re going to have some difficulty. Even flat rugs can be problematic and take more energy to navigate.
Newer is better:
My grandmother had an old wheelchair in her garage that we thought would be perfect…It was HORRIBLE. The wheelchair was ancient, rickety and hard to push. In fact, it took an UNBELIEVABLE amount of effort just to make that thing move. And the brakes (which barely worked) were terrifying.
The newer wheelchairs are so much easier to use. They glide effortlessly, they turn on a dime and they are much lighter, making it SO MUCH easier to maneuver.
From the rider’s perspective:
Word on the street (from my dad) is:
The wheelchair is GREAT for long distances, especially when you have a lot going on health-wise. It gives me the ability to save my strength for when I really need it, so I can actually enjoy the things I want to do, rather than wasting all my energy getting there.
The key is a strong “driver”. Make sure they are good at judging distances and are listening to your concerns. It can be really scary to be the passenger because you have no control. Crossing streets, entering crowded areas, or navigating tight spaces are the worst.
A wheelchair is a great option if you’re cancer treatment takes place in a big city (like NYC) where it’s difficult to get around. Navigating the city is a breeze and a wheelchair gives your loved one the ability to save their energy for the things they really want to do. With a few quick tips and some time to get the hang of it, this will become your new favorite mode of transportation.
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