FOR several years now, I've had a difficult relationship with wheelchairs.

In 2014 I learned that I had a rare spinal cancer and underwent multiple surgeries. A complication in one of those surgeries caused a spinal cord injury, and I was left with a partial leg paralysis.

Since then, my goal has been mobility on my terms - and that means walking.

To avoid having to use a wheelchair I have trained almost daily experimented with stimulation technologies, anti-gravity treadmills, healing therapies like deep-massage and Pilates. I made progress, enough to consider disassembling my home's steel wheelchair ramp.

WHEN I had a post-operative stroke in January, the weakness got worse. The ramp stayed. I found myself craving a seat. I'm only 58. Athletic. I planned for this to go differently, but I am trying to imagine the scenario I can live with.

I don't want to think about using a wheelchair as capitulation, or worse, surrender, but I do, and in part I have only myself to blame. I have framed the fight that way : standing versus sitting, strength versus weakness. 

I have met and read about enough people to know how silly that  thinking is. Journalists like myself have reported from foreign war zones using a wheelchair.

Dr. Cheri Blanwet, who wrote the essay :
''I Use a Wheelchair. And Yes I'm Your Doctor.'' for this series is a friend of mine.

She is a human whirlwind with a demanding medical practice and a worldwide travel schedule; she serves on multiple national boards and has a husband and two preschool children. Whether standing or sitting, I aspire to her energy and life force.

Among my tribe - people who have a better than 50 percent chance of doing some form of walking,  sometimes referred to as ''incompletes'' - there isn't unanimity.

Some stop at nothing to walk; some maintain the compulsion is misguided and selfish, potentially life-wrecking. The latter are not resigned to a wheelchair; they select it.

There is no guidebook, no criteria or benchmarks for when to trade legs for wheels. I recently noticed at Y.M.C.A. who moves so fast in her chair that she is hard to track. She flies from station to station.

One day while I was using the stationary hand cycle machine, she wheeled past into the mate area, dismounted in a flash from her chair and began a killer core-routine, balancing most of the time from the blue half rise of a rubbery Bosu training ball.

I intended to ask her some questions about her workout, but before I could she was gone. For the first time I began to imagine a world I couldn't before.

My mind often turns a to long-held fears about myself. Maybe in reality I look ridiculous poling around as I have. Maybe people have been wondering. ''Why doesn't the poor guy take load off - what is he trying to prove?

The honor and serving of this great writing continues. The World Students Society thanks author, Todd Balf, and wishes him the very best.


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