I USED to Walk the Line

Multiple Sclerosis NO balance issues

Because you’re mine, I walk the line     Johnny Cash

Don’t worry friends, this blog isn’t another lame MS parody of a common song. This blog IS about sorrow. And heartbreak. And the realization that sometimes the life skills you learned before MS are just shot with the onset of MS.

And by shot I don’t mean injections. I mean shot as in the slang use of the word. As in destroyed, demolished, gone away…

I mean shot as in alcohol. And not alcohol swabs. Alcohol like Jagermeister or Goldslager (“do I have any gold specs in my teeth?”) or Jack Daniel’s or some other type of alcohol.


Yikes, I am feeling nauseous and hung over just remembering those days.

What I am talking about is the fact that I totally failed when my neurologist had me walk a straight heel to toe line in his office. How could that possibly happen? I have been practicing that test as a precautionary matter since I was 16. I was the master of the heel to toe test!

My friends and I thought it was a crucial skill to acquire before we turned 21, lest we get stopped for drunk driving. We practiced sober. We practiced buzzed. We practiced drunk. We were heel to toe ninjas!


That was not necessarily a good skill to have or a skill to be proud of. I know that now. And I’m not advocating practicing to pass field sobriety tests. It is more important to do everything in your power NOT to drink and drive. That is the real skill to master.

Luckily, while my friends and I were practicing, we were too stupid to appreciate that we didn’t need that skill. Where we lived, you could walk everywhere. And if you were too drunk to walk, everybody knew everybody else and someone would pick you up off the sidewalk and bring you home.

One time I was definitely too drunk to walk home by myself. A more sober guy walked me home and was a perfect gentleman about it. Yet, for fear of my mom who had a reputation of being tough, he stopped at the bottom of my quiet street.

“Ok Yvonne, I can see your front door from here and there is no traffic. I’ll watch you walk into your house. You’ll be fine right?”

And he did watch. He watched me walk into our patio furniture and tumble right over it. The effects of a few Kamikaze shots, maybe?


But never once did I find myself in a situation where I actually had to perform the test I was sure to ace; until this month at my neuro’s office. And the failure was a shock.

I didn’t take more than one step before I fell off the line. I tried again. Hands up in the air to steady myself and one and half steps later, off the line I went.

This, more than the constant bladder, the constantly being spacey, the constantly being cold, the constantly being hot, the constantly being too tired to even put on makeup, let alone go out with it on, reminded me that those foolishly fun days were over.

I did my best to adjust to this latest MS distress. So much for the years and years of practicing the heel to toe test. All those hours are just, well, shot.


Then I got very scared. What happens if I am innocently driving to my neurologist or church with no alcohol in me, aside from the alcohol ON me after doing my latest shot (shot as in injection here,) and I get stopped by the police? I now know I will fail the heel to toe test!

This concerned me so much that I looked up how the actual field sobriety test works.

Seems when they make you walk the line, the police are looking to see if you can do eight things: keep your balance at the start, follow directions, keep your balance during the test, actual touch heel to toe, keep from stepping off the line, keep from using your arms to balance yourself, turn correctly at the end of the test, and take the number of steps they tell you to.

If you fail more than two of the above, you are probably legally drunk. I would miss all of them! That would make me super, duper drunk in their eyes!

And when I would try to explain that I am not drunk, I have MS and cognitive issues, I would likely not be able to explain to it to them!

And I would be so nervous I would start slurring my words!

By that time, the bladder would be screaming and I would start dancing around!

If I get stopped for any reason, I am headed to jail for sure! And there is no way they will let me have shots of any kind in there…

As if multiple sclerosis wasn’t scary on its own, we now need to factor in the police. What’s an MS’er who has practiced and practiced and practiced the heel to toe test to do?

I’ve pondered this and pondered this, rested and pondered this some more. The only thing I came up with- get lots and lots of “I love the police” bumper stickers.


And right next to your driver’s license, carry your National MS Society membership card and your neurologist’s phone number just in case.

And most important, MS or no MS, don’t drink and drive!

Even if you can pass the heel to toe test.



36 thoughts on “I USED to Walk the Line

    • Check out Susan’s advice above. Maybe we should all get letters from our neurologist to keep us out of the slammer! On Facebook another reader mentioned ID bracelets. There is hope for avoiding OUI sentences! And if the above don’t work, there’s always that whole reasonable doubt thing!!

      • I was told by a friend whose husband is in law enforcement to get a sticker from the office where you renew your driver’s license that says “Medical Alert” and it is typed on it “Multiple Sclerosis”. You place it on your windshield. It’s about the size of a credit card. This way the police know you have a problem:) It also comes with a small red sticker that also says “Medical Alert” that you can place on the back of your driver’s license. They are free in KY.

  1. Good one Yvonne! I have thought about this same scenario, knowing I couldn’t pass it either. One lady I know got her Neuro to write a brief sentence or two stating she has MS, including balance issues, dizziness/vertigo, increased fall risk & cognitive issues (slurred speech, memory & such).

  2. This is awesome lol…but I kept thinking if you have to walk the line at any age you were going to hear about Dad being a cop and all. But on another note <y friend had 1 beer and lost control of car on black ice last year she has MS and immediately asked fr a breath test or blood test. She got off but had to pay for the pole she hit! I love you in hot or cold, slurring or listing makeup or no make up. (it's not like we havent seen any of this BEFORE MS) hope you are smiling cuz some thats the only thing it doesnt hurt to do! (((HUGS)))

    • Thank you so much for checking out the blog Cheryl! So glad it made you laugh! It’s true, without God and my God given sense of humor I would be beyond insane on this bizarre journey. And on the dad thing, I’m not sure there is enough blog space on the internet to write about being the daughter of Freddie, the crazy Elvis impersonating Portuguese cop! I’m sorry to hear about your friend though. I hope she gets a chance to check out my blog and it gives her a bit of a smile. I’m glad they didn’t try to charge her with OUI. Luckily, I am still driving ok as long as I am not driving when I am too tired and don’t drive in the city-too much coming at me-major sensory overload and my brain can’t take it.

      I miss you and hope you are doing great! Hugs back at you!!

  3. Oh god Yvonne you are too much I was giggling thinking about some of our adventures… You are right when we were younger everyone knew everyone so you always knew that you would make it home>>> AHUM and thanks to a certain pain in the butt friend who slammed you up against the wall and yelled at you that you weren’t getting a ride home with whats him name that you pain in the butt friend was driving you home you had one less drunk story to tell 😀 .. We got into mischief but never any real trouble and even in our bar hopping days we always took turns being designated … good some of the crazy times we had

  4. Yes, I am always amazed at how the brain will go right for the worse case scenerio (?) and then guide us (after the big freak out) to a rational conclusion. Nice post. Be well today, Yvonne. Stay warm. Janis

    ps. I was with a friend yesterday who has a mild neuropathy from chemo. When we were putting on her socks, she put on two pair. The second pair she sprinkled cayenne pepper into the bottoms before putting them over the first pair. She said it keeps her feet warm, and helps keep her whole body warm, too. Worth a try.

  5. Never gave any thought to carry my MS membership card for that purpose. I usually pitch my card in the trash as it seemed like a bid from the society to send them a donation.
    Great idea Yvonne–I’ll keep it next time.

  6. It was a lot of fun when we were say 16-23 lots of laughs, some embarrassing stories(I was usually the one that did the embarrassing, but it was all in fun).. we went through heartbreaks, new loves, drunken adventures etc and we are still here today.

  7. Your outlook and comedic way of looking at MS is so refreshing.

    I have to say that the way you phrased this (as if something as simple as walking in a straight line we take for granted) was perfect. My mom just passed from cancer in December and towards the end of her battle she couldn’t even walk two feet to the bathroom. Walking from point A to point B is such a mindless task for most of us that we don’t even consider it being so difficult for some people. It made me realize how many little complaints I spit out on a daily basis and lucky I am.

    I learned so much from your guest lecture for BU HP320, and you truly are an amazing person for keeping the attitude you have. God bless.

    • Hi Meaghan Thank you so much for your kind words- they are deeply appreciated. I’m sorry to hear of your mom’s passing and am sending you prayers and well wishes. Was your mom’s illness part of the reason that you chose the healthcare field? I very thankful to have a sense of humor to help me along this chronic illness journey. I swear, I would have lost my sanity without it! I was also grateful for the opportunity to speak to you and your fellow students about my journey. I enjoyed meeting you and loved the reactions to my talk, (always get pumped up when people laugh,) and the great questions that were asked. May God bless you too and help you to giggle whenever possible….

  8. As someone who is almost at the legal age of drinking, I am glad to have read your post as I can see how being safe and knowing your limits wouldn’t hurt, (especially when the situation that calls to do so does arise). Thank you, Yvonne, for sharing your life experiences with MS! Your wit and sense of humor does not cease to fascinate me to read more about your stories!

    • Thank you so much Laura!!! Visiting your class reminded me of my own college days a bazillion years ago! Humor aside, as you turn 21 remember that drinking and driving is always very, very bad!!! Don’t do it. And if you do get stopped for any reason while driving, don’t try t play the MS card- we have a secret code that we only share with other MS’ers after their third MRI! Just kidding on the last part but not on the first… I really appreciate you checking out my blog and your very kind words!

  9. I really enjoyed your sense of humor and how real you were with describing the details of what you exactly experienced from being diagnosed with MS. It allowed me to understand how MS became a reality in your life. Your stories brought back memories of when I used to practice the heel to toe test with my friends with laughter when I was younger. It really hit me that some things I take for granted do not always apply for everyone else as well. Thank you for sharing your experience in such a personal way. It truly gave me new insight with a couple giggles along the way.

    • Thank you so much Grace!! I really appreciate you checking out my blog and taking the time to comment, especially with such kind words. Great to know my friends and I weren’t the only ones who practiced the heel to toe test in advance of turning 21! And I am so glad this post made you giggle!

  10. Hi Yvonne,

    I love reading your blog and the way you describe the outcomes of your experience with MS is so encouraging and inspiring. From your story that you told us at BU and your writing, I can say that I love the way you bring light into your challenges and is able to carry on such a great and positive sense of humor! I honestly admire you for that. It is very intriguing to see how people who encounter any type of challenge are able to become just as successful or even more ambitious than those who do not have such difficulties. It makes be more aware of the fact that we may often take our health and other capabilities for granted.

    Your description of how you had already practiced walking in a straight line since you were 16 made me giggle. And when you further explained how you were shocked by how you were unable to do so, somehow helped me to better imagine what that must have felt like. Although I wouldn’t be able to relate, I can see how not being able to do a “simple” test due to what you found later on as a result of MS can be very hard to accept. However, you are able to turn it into something that is manageable and you are just so cheerful! Your blog made me become very inspired by you and I hope for you all the best! (I’m sure your lovely humor and bright attitude has already done you and every one around you great things and there will be more to come!)


    • Hi Kristy- thank you so much for your super kind words- I really appreciate them! I learned quickly on my journey that if I didn’t have a sense of humor about the insanity that was MS I would go insane. So far it’s working- I think. I’m not actually insane as far as I can tell- not yet anyway! I really enjoyed speaking to your class and I am grateful that you and so many of your classmates have taken the time to check out my blog. You guys rock! My best to you in your future studies…. May all your classes be as interesting as the one I was in- hahaha!!!

  11. Yvonne, great article! I was just wondering if you have ever tried physical therapy or any sort of workout regiment in order to help with your balance problems?

    • Hi Carlos- thank you for your great comment and great question! The balance issue is relatively new, or at least, I have only recently discovered it. I have a WiiFit system and am using that to help with my balance issues. The problem with that is the same problem with everything in my life, making sure I balance out my energy and my time to include regular workouts with the Wii. I do enjoy it though but not sure it has helped yet. Don’t know of any particular PT exercises that would helpand honestly, thinking about dealing with the insurance required makes me want to pull my hair out!

  12. Yvonne,
    You are such a kind soul and an excellent writer! I didn’t know as much about MS until you visited our HP320 class. I’m glad that you’re sharing your story with the world. I don’t think I could be as strong as you are. I love the style of your blog and how you incorporate daily challenges. I always wondered what would happen in this scenario. Would the police officer believe you?

    • I sure hope so Clarissa but nothing would surprise me!! Thank you so much for following up with my blog and for commenting. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed speaking to your class and how much all the feedback I have received has helped me on my journey. The comments I read on my blog mean so much to me. But to receive comments from future healthcare professionals really encourages me on the kindness and sincerity of the future medical field. My very best to you on your journey and a great big thank you to you!

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