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Wearing Luca Brasi’s Cement Shoes

Posted Jul 26 2009 4:11pm

An article has been brewing in the Sunshine for some time.  It’s been a difficult one to write because it means that it’s time for me to address a serious issue that’s arisen for me during this journey with M.S. 

The best way to describe what’s been happening is through a comparison that perhaps some of my Italian in-laws would use.  In Italian lore (or perhaps with some truth) during times of mayhem, certain individuals would be disposed of by attaching cement “shoes” or blocks or other heavy objects to their feet, and then tossing them into a body of water to “sleep with the fishes.”

A few months ago this vision came into my mind as I tried to explain a new phenomenon I’ve been encountering: it’s as if I’m walking through life wearing cement shoes.  I’ve delayed in writing about it because once it’s out there it’s real.  But it’s time to share because I’ve come to learn that many others suffer from similar dreams of the Sopranos or the Corleones invading their footwear.

While some days my stride is normal, on many occasions I have noticed that my legs are heavy, like the massive cabre logs I watched giant men toss around like pick-up sticks during this past weekend’s Scottish Games on the campus where I work.  The feeling of heaviness impedes my ability to exercise, my ability to climb steps comfortably, or my ability to cross one leg over the other while sitting without the use of both of my hands to lift the leg and place it upon the other.   It’s exhausting when the cement shoes come into play, causing me to expend twice the energy to walk from the garage to the house. Sure this causes me to fall down more frequently; my torso moves along through life much more quickly than the motors below it.  Perhaps this is what immobility feels like? I’m uncertain because I’ve never asked someone to describe it to me.

I often feel, on these Moonlit days, like an individual on two, metal crutches, seemingly just dragging my legs along behind me.  The crutches don’t exist, of course, so as usual, to most I look normal, albeit perhaps more winded or a little bit slower. 

So, where does my newfound cement footwear fall on the “M.S. scares the daylights out of me scale?”  For, me it’s way up there – closest to the top.  It’s above the loss of vision I suffered some 21 months ago.  It’s far above the neuralgic pain, the tingling, the vertigo and the cognitive issues.  So far, this side effect of life with M.S. has scared me the most.  It appears without provocation, although I do notice that overuse of my muscles one day may lead to cement-foot shortly thereafter.  It’s unpredictable and disturbing.  I can’t help but think of my future each time it arrives.  And nothing seems to help.

There isn’t a medication to ease the feeling.  So instead I’ve taken it upon myself to work diligently to lighten the “load” naturally.  I’m not a rocket scientist (I just happen to work for one) but common sense tells me that if I reduce my body weight, perhaps the fatigue won’t hit so hard as I drag the lower half of my body around on the pavement.  On days where the load is less noticeable, I spend time walking and using my exercise equipment at home.  Perhaps strengthening the muscles will provide better support and stamina when it’s needed.  I need to work out now, while I still can. I’m fighting muscle atrophy, trying to stay strong – not just for my legs, but also for my spirit.  

The fictional character, Luca Brasi, from the Godfather, died from a garrote to the neck.  While cement shoes never were attached to his feet, Luca Brasi definitely sleeps to this day with the fishes.  I’m still considering taking up swimming as another way to strengthen my body.  I just want to be sure I’m swimming in a chlorine-filled pool and not one filled with salt water and nibbling fish in a feeding frenzy.


Posted in Life with M.S., Symptoms Tagged: M.S., Multiple sclerosis
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