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Backpacking with MS: III

Updated on June 30, 2016

A Brief Note in Passing

This next blog is very late. I had meant to continue my conversations about backpacking with MS every two to three days but this hiatus has been over a month. I don't know entirely why I stopped writing but I know it was my own version of MS in part: my biggest problem, outside of ataxia and heat-sensitivity, is fatigue. Fully able to ambulate, perform chores, drive and so forth, the idea of sitting down to the keyboard and producing scintillating copy was a kinetic mental wall I could not breach. Until yesterday.

I live with MS but also with type II diabetes. My sugar has always been poorly controlled but my basic labs have spoken against significant kidney damage so I have not acted with total dietary self-control. My internist, more concerned about my well-being than I am, started me on Byetta, a non-insulin injectable, which with the Metformin and Actos I am already on, has lowered my blood sugar to well below 200 for the first time in two years.

The point? I wake with much more energy today and the Need to Blog.

'Physician, heal thyself' doesn't seem to work for me and my wife takes the credit for getting me to my new internist. So, without further ado, on to our backpack.

Portland, Oregon: Capitol Hill from my brother's veranda
Portland, Oregon: Capitol Hill from my brother's veranda

MS Backpacker, Continued

(C) Copyright 2011 Thomas Vetto, MD: all rights reserved

Another problem which will arise is the easy use of cane or crutches. Any honest person will quickly agree that while a cane may be necessary, in MS it is not for support of weight per se.(If it is, you shouldn't be backpacking, but should be home watching The Travel Channel - something I have done and enjoy, even when my ataxia does not keep me on the sofa). A cane- or walking-stick-- in the hand of a reasonably-ambulatory MS patient is a stabilizing tripod point for proper balance, in the same way the head is never a weight-supporting point as part of a Yogic headstand. In MS, the cane is a device which gives a firm, undeniable placement when the legs too often lie about their position in space to the brain. Besides, a walking stick looks cool. Realistically, it provides defense as well as balance and since the distance from a too-public terminus is likely to be less than two or three miles, this can be important.


Backpacking with MS involves a certain 'change of scale' in regards to the extent of a walking trip being contemplated. One hundred miles in five days? Not likely. How about ten over a week. Sixty pound pack? No. Fifteen tops including a butt pack. The point, I think, is that Peripatetic Minaturization solves the problem of MS/backpacking, leaves a smaller carbon footprint and provides worthier and more interesting problems than do arranging health and disability insurance or worrying about a neurogenic bladder. The Walk is as big as I want it to be and as much in the mind as on the trail. ( In chronic disease states like MS, the planning stage is at least as important as the actual walk and can be seen as an integral part of the walk in fact.)

Maybe one of the unsuspected benefits of resizing the Walk is that less water, at two pounds a quart, need be carried.

And, of course, you have people with you to help carry the necessary larger items. This is a Take Home Point. Although you may seek solitude, walking alone is a mistake with MS. More than one companion? Yes,unless one of the aims of your excursion is to bore your friends to death. Keep them entertained with someone else's company. God knows it won't be a physical challenge for anyone else but you.

Further backpacking notes!

This brief blog is part of my effort to record the thoughts and concerns of a Backpacker with MS.


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