Category Archives: canes


on the occasion of my 3-year anniversary – 3 years since the day this picture was taken:

i thought i’d answer a few questions that might come to a new reader of my blog and possibly even a longtime reader.

where did the name “tumorfest” come from?

“tumorfest” is the name my friend madalaine gave to the drive that she, my mom, and i took from arizona to oregon. on the first anniversary of my tumor surgery, i was in hawaii and got my phoenix tattoo. for the second anniversary, i wanted to throw a party to get folks from different parts of my recovery together. tumorfest was the logical name. the second tumorfest was this last week. august 7th.

who made that rad tumorfest logo?

the logo came to me in a dream. i drew it and emailed it to my buddy noah (son of madalaine). he does graphic design, so he whipped up the logo. the colors are from my plaid rocking chair.

you used to have a lot of migraines. do you still?

gary, me, mike

i started getting migraines in elementary school. as a young adult, they became more frequent, and before my medical drama i was having 4 or 5 a month. they almost always were on my left side, behind my eye. which is where my tumor was/is. since my surgeries, i haven’t had a single migraine, not even a headache. a silver lining.

where were you when you had your stroke?

my stroke happened after the tumor surgery, so i was conveniently already in the hospital.

how did your stroke happen?

the tumor was too large to remove completely, so dr. spetzler de-massed it. the area where it was collapsed, which pulled on structures it was attached to – that was the bleed – a hemorrhagic stroke.

what is your secret chicanes wish?

my wish is that ellen will discover this blog and have me on her show to shower me with rad canes. this wish is complicated by the fact that i have no desire to be on television.

what are you going to be studying when you start at osu in the fall?

i’m starting a master of arts in interdisciplinary studies. i’ll be integrating three fields (mine are sociology, english, and speech communications) to create my own program of study. i’ll be looking at how writing personal narrative in a group can be used to heal trauma. basically the writing part of  digital storytelling.

do you still collect canes? how many do you have?

there are 14 canes in my hall tree. i inherited a few from my grandma when she died, and i’ll continue to keep a lookout for cool canes. you should, too.

now that you aren’t walking with a cane anymore, shouldn’t you change the name of this blog?

i named the blog “chicanes” because of a line from an ELO song (“can’t get it out of my head” – a little tumor humor). and i stand by my tagline – “if you have to walk with a cane, you might as well have some rad ones.” that’s just a fact.

it looks like your life is really good. should i go and have a stroke so that i can be cool like you?

yes, my life is really good. but i strongly suggest that you avoid having a stroke, if possible. pretty much everything i do is hard. but i don’t mind the hard work – “i’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive.” there has to be an easier way to have a cool life like me. to get started, i’d advise you to look for silver linings, to notice all of the things around you to be grateful for, and to put good into the universe – it comes back to you.

in the very merry month of may

so here we are on the last day of may. looking back, i’ve had a pretty incredible month. some real sadness (i’m still really not over adam yauch’s death. several friends had bad health news. other friends had some difficult life events.), but all of that puts into perspective how truly fortunate i am.

the month of may began with me in durham, north carolina. i had never spent time in that part of the country before, and i hadn’t seen my hostess, jamie, since soon after we graduated from high school way back when. that added up to a fabulous time and many new experiences – my word for this year.

this was actually on april 30th. cut me some slack, truthniks. it was amazing.

on a sunny day early in may, i took myself out to the ballgame. the durham bulls’ (plural possessive, right?) stadium is a short walk from jamie’s apartment. it was day game on a weekday, which meant that the place was crawling with school groups. i enjoyed not having to supervise anybody – teachers don’t have a lot of fun on field trips.

a perfect day for a baseball game.

that weekend jamie and i went out to the coast to visit my friend meghan. meghan and i were exchange students together in high school. we’ve kept in touch since then, but hadn’t seen each other in person since our senior year.

that’s me in the pink shorts, meghan in the orange shirt.

jamie, kriste, meghan – about to successfully climb the currituck beach lighthouse.

while i was in corolla, i climbed the lighthouse, stood in the atlantic ocean, ate frickles (deep-fried pickle chips), hung out with the locals, bought a few books, watched a snapping turtle lay eggs in meghan’s yard, enjoyed two thunderstorms, and on the morning of my 39th birthday meghan’s sons helped me blow out the candles on my cake.

on my birthday, jamie and i drove back to durham, and she put me on the plane back to oregon the next day. i was sad to leave north carolina, and happy to be home. i like seeing different parts of the country, but i’m really content with where i choose to live.

this is about 40 yards out my back door. i didn’t do anything to the picture – it really is that beautiful.

the day after i got back, i decided to go caneless. i carried my cane all over north carolina, and only really needed it on the beach. for months i’ve only been using it as a way to warn people that they need to be careful around me. when i go caneless, i have to pay a lot more attention to my environment, because my environment is paying less attention to me. i feel like i’m undercover – i think that i look a little drunk the way i wobble around sometimes, but other than that you can’t really tell by looking at me that i’m disabled. i find that drivers don’t wave me through crosswalks as often, but pedestrians ask me for the time and directions more often. i haven’t picked up a cane since that day a few weeks ago. it feels like enormous progress.

going caneless means that today i could do this – walk from my apartment to the riverfront fountain and bring a cup of coffee with me.

i had my birthday dinner with my family when i got back. our tradition is that on your birthday, you chose the restaurant and we all go out to dinner. i chose my old neighbors, murphy’s. it was definitely strange not to have gflo there. but i reminded myself to be greatful for all of the meals at murphy’s that i shared with her.

blast from the past – gflo and my niece jessy at murphy’s

the day before mother’s day, my mom and i went on an outing to sisters – about a 2 hour drive east of corvallis. my mom’s buddy connie met us there. we had a mission, in addition to hanging out together in a great little town. sisters is known for its quilts, and my mom was looking for a cute bag to hold the box of gflo’s remains while she’s “in a better place” – the back of the guest bedroom closet in my parents’ house. when we picked up her remains from the fiendish-sounding neptune society, they were given to us in one of those reusable grocery totes. it didn’t seem right, so for mother’s day my mom wanted to shop with her daughter and her FOLD (friend of longest duration) and find a more suitable bag.

gflo was flashy sometimes, and we found a great bag that seemed like something she’d like and was the right size. we walked around town (all three of us were caneless – that was my outing away from my hometurf) and had lunch at a great cafe with tasty food and an outdoor patio.

a lovely bag for a lovely woman

the next weekend, my mom and i headed up the columbia gorge to visit gflo’s sister dorothy, who lives in walla walla, washington. on the way we happened upon the full sail brewery in hood river. lunch was delicious with a great view. we stopped there on our way back, too.

best quesadilla ever

it was whitman college’s graduation that weekend, so walla walla was jumpin’. after dinner my mom’s cousin bill took me out for a walk to see the campus.

see, i take pictures of things other than food.

the next day we went out to the town of dayton, where bill is a pastor. he and my mom golfed. i hung out with aunt dorothy for a while, then went on a stroll around downtown. i stopped for a latte, and the barista asked me if i wanted to drink it on the rooftop garden. my policy is to always answer in the affirmative when asked that question. and my new canefree existence means that i can walk up stairs (that have a railing) with a cup of coffee in my non-railing hand.

in addition to going caneless, may has brought other physical challenges. i’m taking 2 gentle yoga classes at the yoga center, a block away from my apartment. i had done some yoga before my medical drama, and for years i’ve wanted to take a class at this studio. my parents gave me a gift certificate for christmas, and i decided to hold onto it until i was feeling better (christmas was at the height of my shunt-malfunction/potential surgery uncertainty and discomfort). i still don’t think that i feel as well as i did before things went haywire, but i certainly have improved and felt ready to give the class a try. gentle yoga uses a lot of props – bolsters, blocks, straps – to help folks who might have frustration-level difficulty in a more traditional beginning yoga class. i’ve had class twice a week this spring, and i see so much improvement. it’s encouraging that i’m still recovering, but in more finely-tuned ways. i’m looking forward to the summer session.

the yoga center

this month i also had about 6 pilates sessions. it blew my mind what i could do. it also made me spend a lot of time thinking about my nursing home physical therapist, dennis, who started me on the path to being able to sit up on my own, and anne (my home health therapist when i got back to corvallis from phoenix), who taught me how to crawl and to walk with a walker. and my physical therapist brian, who really taught me how to walk. i remember holding onto the counter in my kitchen, doing the grapevine over and over while i worked on relearning how to transfer weight from one foot to the other. and i remember when i couldn’t be in a room with a ceiling fan, because it would send my vertigo out of control. my pilates teacher, lyssa, had me doing things that kriste2.0 would not believe. progress. even as i near the 3 year anniversary this summer.

about a week ago, i took the train to portland. emily picked me up and zari met us at potato champion for dinner. i’d been eating pb&j sandwiches for days as i waited to get my order of pb&j fries. they didn’t disappoint.

seriously. these are insanely good.

the three of us headed over to the mission theater for a back fence pdx storytelling event. one of the storytellers (cheryl strayed) that night is the author of the book my skype book group just read. i met one of the book clubbers, theresa, for the first time in person that night. after the show, i got to see the house that emily and her husband bought. in fact, i even got to spend the night there. the next morning, i met my friend bucko. he gave me a tour of his new apartment and his new neighborhood. he drove me back to corvallis, so we had lots of time to chat.

the view from bucko’s stoop

this weekend, zari took the bus down from portland. when she got here we immediately went to farmers’ market for zia burritos. we spent lots of time chatting, walking, drinking, cooking, watching queer eye – sometimes several of those things at once. i used to babysit for zari when she was a preschooler, and i’m grateful to have been a part of her life since she was a little kid. and it’s so much fun to get to be adults together.

my mom and i took zari for her first wine tasting experience. my friend marcia did the honors.

one evening i took zari to my current favorite downtown lounge, terminus. we enjoyed some drinks and the folks and the view and the food.

happy hour drinks at terminus

this month i’ve also started to really enjoy baking. i found a great book about cooking small pies in muffin tins. i’ve been making a lot of them – there’s dough in my fridge right now. i’m thinking about either salted caramel apple or lemon meringue this evening.

sweet potato pies – in honor of north carolina

i’ve also watched a lot of queer eye in may. my friend jessica mentioned that it’s on netflix instant, and it’s my current reality tv addiction. i spend a lot of time analyzing which of the fab 5 is my favorite, and what that might mean.

maybe i’ll get a doctorate in studying what is revealed by a person’s favorite queer eye guy, monkee, beatle, beastie boy, etc.

which reminds me. i forgot to mention my big may news – i’ll be starting a master’s degree at osu in the fall! more on that later.

and june isn’t looking too shabby either.

the peacock

about a week ago i was walking down my street to the gym pretty early in the morning.

a man sitting outside of a local watering hole, the peacock, was staring at me while i walked toward him. when i got up to him he said, “can i ask you a question?”

“sure.” i said, and braced for the question.

“about a year ago i had knee replacement surgery,” he said, “and i have a few canes i’m not using. would you want one?”

i told him that i’d love one, and i mentally kicked myself as i realized why he had been staring at me. maybe i haven’t fully made the switch to always assuming the best of people. he said that he lived right next door, and he could get one of the canes right then. i said that i was on my way to the gym and could i meet up with him another time. he said sure, introduced himself as randy, and explained that he just hangs out there for the company – he doesn’t drink. i said i’d keep an eye out for him and went back on my way.

the exchange made my day, and i’ve told several people about it. filed under “i live in such a great town.”

on saturday i was cruising around downtown, thinking about checking to see if a new restaurant had opened yet. when i passed the peacock i heard a familiar voice. “do you remember me?”

“of course. you’re randy.”

“i can go up to my place right now and get the cane if you want.”

i was headed in the other direction, and getting the cane would mean walking back to my apartment to put it away. not even i can pull off walking around with two canes. “that would be fantastic,” i said.

he got up and headed next door. “i have a camouflage one and one that’s purple and black. which one do you want?”

i said that the camouflage one sounded great. “ok. you wait here. i’ll be right back.”

so i waited on the sidewalk. he was right back.

he showed me all of the features of the camo cane. he even gave me a quick lesson in how to properly size a cane. he’s of the hip height school. i was taught that the right height is where your wrist falls when  your arms hang at your side. maybe it’s all the same. whatever. the cane’s adjustable, so i’m all set.

now what to name it. i’m leaning toward the peacock.

i know that i walk with a cane.

a month or so ago, my grandma’s good friend barbara became blind pretty much overnight. her family rallied to find a good new living situation for her, since she all of the sudden wasn’t able to live safely on her own in her apartment. a “foster home” was found near one of her daughters, which meant that she would be moving to washington. her vision loss and her move probably all happened within a two-week period.

me and my grandma in action, from my walker (and gait belt) days

i was a frequent guest at meals at the retirement lodge where my grandma lives, sitting with her and barbara and their friend shirley. barbara has been such a support to my grandma through my health tribulations, and has been a very kind member of my booster club.

barbara is also whip-smart and pretty darn sassy. i had to bring my a-game when i sat at that table.

my mom and i made plans to visit barbara the day before she moved. i thought about something to bring her. flowers weren’t right, not only because she was moving the next day but also because she just went blind. i decided that if i were bringing her flowers, i would bring her the ugliest good-smelling flowers that i could find. thinking about that made me a little less nervous. i had heard that barbara was really making the best of things, but i was still worried that i would say something awkward. i ended up bringing her the scarf i had crocheted with yarn that a friend of mine made. it felt wonderful and i knew that the story behind it – it’s pretty amazing that i can crochet – would matter to barbara.

i shouldn’t have been nervous. barbara was so pleased about the scarf, and she and her daughter (down to help with the move) told stories and laughed. barbara happily showed off the talking watch that my grandma and shirley gave her as a going away present. we talked about how quickly things like telling the time can change.

my mom told us about the article she read in reader’s digest way back when. a young boy was at the grocery store and said to his mother in a loud voice, “that man only has one arm!” his mother shushed him and was horrified. the man said, “it’s ok, lady. i know that i only have one arm.”

barbara knows that she’s blind.

a few days ago i was out on a walk. a woman passed me and asked me what time it was. i told her and then she asked, “what happened?” i told her that i had a stroke about a year and a half ago. we started to walk again, and she said, “thank you for telling me.” i said, “thank you for asking.” and i meant it. when i first started walking out in public, i was embarrassed because i knew that people were looking at me and thinking to themselves, “there’s something wrong with her.” i got over it by forcing myself to walk in very public places. one amazing thing that happened was that people i knew would get in touch with me if they had spotted me out in the wild. early on, the mom of a former student emailed me to say that she’d seen me out walking. she said it was a beautiful sight. i’ll never forget that kindness. it completely reframed what i think about when i’m out in public. i remember that “team kriste” is driving by, cheering me on.

early in my one-handed walking days

i also forgave myself for looking like something is wrong with me, because something is wrong with me. i had a stroke, and i’m an amazing walker all things considered. so when somebody just asks me instead of staring at me, i’m happy for the chance to explain. it doesn’t embarrass me.

i know that i walk with a cane. and it’s usually a pretty rad one.

i walk with a cane, and i'm gettin' pretty good at it.

henry and leon

my grandparents, bill and aleatha, sponsored my winter break – a trip to southern california in january and february. my second stop was with my friend kristin – we went to elementary school together, hadn’t seen each other since i moved in 7th grade, and reconnected over the internet before my surgery. she’s been a rock star in my recovery. she and her young son (he’ll turn 4 this year) were staying with her mom in the house she grew up in, so they were big parts of my visit, too.

kristin, henry, bonnie

one of the first things that henry said to me was, “why do you have that?” kids ask that question – they don’t have the filter that tells them not to ask about certain things (some of us never get it). i like being asked that question – sometimes i want to answer it pre-emptively when people stare at me around town. i’ve struggled, though, with the best way to answer it when a kid asks – with adults i talk about my brain tumor and my stroke, relearning how to walk. i think that when henry asked, i said that i had been sick and now i need a cane to help me walk. he was very satisfied with my answer, and he informed me several times during my visit that i needed a cane to help me walk because i had been sick. he was very interested in my cane. it was a gun, a rocket, and part of the pile of toys on the floor. when i’d be sitting down with my cane, he’d offer to put it away for me. this meant that he took it and played with it for a while, then he’d lose interest and set it down somewhere, which created a fun game for me called “where’s my cane?”

henry is about to make my cane disappear.

i don’t like that “i was sick” answer, though. i’ve thought about it a lot since then, tested different responses in my head. i don’t like it because i think that it has the potential to scare a kid – they get sick, so does that mean that they are going to have to walk with a cane? i thought about saying that i had been in the hospital and now i walk with a cane, but i don’t like that one either. and i want whatever i say to be hopeful – me walking with a cane is a huge victory. right now i’m thinking that i’ll say that i used to be in a wheelchair and now i use a cane to help me walk. this is true, and shows progress, i think. but i still don’t think it’s right – lots of people who are in wheelchairs won’t ever be able to walk again, so does that set up unrealistic expectations? i’m happy to hear suggestions.

sandy took this picture when he and i went out to lunch with kristin.

i don’t know that i can ever thank kristin enough for her role in my recovery. when i found out my surgery date, she said that on that day she would sit in a chair turned to face phoenix (where i had my surgery) – that’s one of the kindest things that anyone said to me during that time (and i heard a lot of very kind things, so that’s saying something). fast forward a year and a half, and she was there to help me feel like the real struggle part of my recovery is behind me, that my life is the new normal, and that i can do so many of the things that i want to do. like sit around with an old friend and drink wine and laugh.

8 ball

a time sometimes comes in a woman’s life when she has to choose which cane to use. at age 37, this choice is one that i make every time i leave my house. so yesterday, christmas, was no different. my grandma was coming to pick me up for brunch at my parents’ house – i can’t drive, and one of my two grandmas who live in my city is a driver, so she was enlisted to transport me and my packages.

santa greeted us at my parents' house

i chose my 8 ball cane for christmas morning with the family.

when you unscrew the top, there’s a foot-plus long sword inside it. now, i had no reason to fear violence, it’s just that my family isn’t very sentimental about holidays, or canes, for that matter.

my friend john gave me this cane for my birthday this year – he knew that i wanted a cane with an 8 ball for a handle, and i also wanted a cane with a sword in it, and through the magic of the interwebs he found a cane that was both. i don’t take this cane out much, what with the concealed weapon and all, but when i do it’s always a big hit. it’s pretty heavy, and the 8 ball (i think it’s a real one) makes for a comfortable grip. i added a wrist strap that my mom got for me – makes it easier to go up and down stairs. voila! the perfect cane for christmas with the family. it might be a new christmas tradition. last year, i was still in my wheelchair and just learning how to walk with a walker, so canes – walking one-handed! – seemed like more than i could hope for. the christmas before that, i would never have guessed that two years later i’d happily walk around my parents’ house on christmas morning with a cane with a sword inside it. but i did.

and i was a little surprised that i didn’t get any new additions to my cane collection this christmas.

lady bubba

my cousin mark still likes to give me a hard time, just like when we were kids.

but unlike way back then, now he gives me a hard time about my mobility. not only is he my only cousin, but he spent a lot of time with my mom and me when we were in phoenix for my surgery and the first part of my recovery. so he has really earned his right to give me a hard time. he and i used to joke about me having walker races with our grandma. so we staged a photo-op just for him.

i could barely walk with a walker back then. that’s why i’m wearing my gait belt.

mark joked with me that i needed a cane with flames on it, so that even though i was going slow it would look like i was going fast. in summer of 2010, my cousin’s parents and his daughter passed through town. my niece had a suspicious package for me from mark. talk about special delivery!

mark and my niece had found the cane in an antique store in phoenix. it had the words “lady bubba” branded into the wood just below the handle. mark carved flames into it, as well as our initials.  the day after my flame cane arrived, i was walking with it through a festival. a boy, probably 10 or so years old, passed me (imagine that), then turned to me and said, “hey! those flames make it look like you’re going fast even though you’re not.” i told him that he was exactly right. when i told my cousin, he was really pleased. a few minutes later, i took my picture in the reflection of the handle, while my mom went to get her car to pick me up. managed to get my initials and my “new” bracelet – new was my theme for the year after my surgeries – into the picture. multi-tasking!

lady bubba is a substantial cane. the handle feels like a gear shift. maybe mark (a car buff) will create a gear shift cane for me. custom canes by mark. my birthday isn’t until may, and my new year starts in early august. since it’s almost christmas, i’ll keep an eye out for suspicious packages.