Having MS means I need to be prepared for anything. Here’s what I keep with me when I’m out and about.
Living well with multiple sclerosis (MS) means planning ahead and making sure I have a bag full of the tools I need to help my day go smoothly, every time I leave the house. But before I even think about what goes in my bag, I have to think about what kind of bag I’m going to carry.
Just as foot drop has forced me to ditch high heels and reconsider other footwear choices, using mobility aids means not every bag is going to work for me — a dilemma I choose to see as a “shopportunity.”
Let’s face it: We are living in the golden age of bags. There have never been more stylish and versatile options to schlep your stuff.
Most days, I rely on a rollator (a type of walker with wheels and a seat) to get around, which means I need my hands free to grasp the “handlebars,” and a bag that won’t interfere with my movements.
Not every bag is going to work for me — a dilemma I choose to see as a ‘shopportunity.’
If MS is making you think about the kind of bag you carry, it’s good to know that suitable options are available at every price point. I like a cross-body bag, because the strap won’t slip off my shoulder or bump into my mobility aid when I’m walking.
FFORA makes beautiful bags in all kinds of colors that can be worn cross-body or attached to a wheelchair. Another good option is a fanny pack (now back in style!), but instead of wearing mine around my waist, I wear it hip to shoulder. These bags get extra points from me if they’re waterproof, an important feature when carrying an umbrella isn’t an option.
Almost as important as what’s in my bag, is what isn’t. Conserving energy means streamlining and packing only the necessities so that my bag is never too big or too heavy. The following are my essentials.
I don’t need to remind you to pack your phone; most of us can’t go about our day without one.
Taking advantage of a smartphone’s potential means I can minimize what I have to carry. Using my digital wallet means I no longer have to lug cash, heavy coins, credit cards, or the many rewards and loyalty cards I’ve accumulated.
My phone’s camera doubles as a compact mirror when I need to make sure I don’t have lipstick on my teeth, and submitting my regular lab requisitions electronically means I don’t have to cart around bulky paperwork.
If your bag gets crammed up with receipts, business cards, or the phone number of the hottie you met in line at Starbucks, get in the habit of using your phone to snap a pic of these space-invaders and send hard copies straight to recycling.
MS means I take a number of medications throughout the day. Prescription pill bottles aren’t pretty and they’re bulky. There are many stylish cases you can tuck in your bag to make pill-popping feel a little less medical.
Etsy has a huge variety of beautiful boxes to suit every style and mood.
I use intermittent catheters to manage my neurogenic bladder. I love SpeediCath Compact Eve. They are tiny and pre-lubricated so I don’t have to pack additional supplies. I make sure to stash a couple in all my bags and jackets so that I’m never stuck without one.
Be sure to check your jacket pockets between seasons for that random $5 bill and any forgotten caths. You don’t want to find out, like I did, that pre-lubricated catheters can, and do, expire.
Speaking of high maintenance bladders, I’m a fan of keeping a supply of dark chocolate-covered espresso beans handy for when I need a jolt of caffeine but don’t want the extra fluid of a venti Americano.
This is not medical advice. It’s probably not even good advice; after all, caffeine is a bladder irritant. But every now and then, when I have an early morning appointment with no guaranteed place to pee, chewable caffeine feels like a pretty solid life hack.
When colds and flu can double your risk of an MS relapse, hand sanitizer is a must.
I’m not a full-time wheelchair user, but I always get wheelchair assistance when I travel by plane because airports are spoon-sucking energy vortexes.
Phoenix Instinct is on my dream bag wish list, because this innovative company makes some very cool wheelchair-compatible luggage that can provide ease and independence for wheelchair travelers.
I use a bigger pill carrier for anything longer than a day trip. I also keep my caths and supplies in one of the many cute, high quality gift-with-purchase makeup bags I’ve collected over the years.
It’s super important to pack extra days’ worth of medication and medical supplies in your carry-on bag in case you get delayed. Keep photos of prescriptions, if you’re packing your pills outside their labeled packaging.
It’s also a good idea to have an online account with your pharmacy, so you can make an easy connection in case of emergency.
Many people with MS have a hard time sleeping, and I am no exception. When I’m away from home I try to replicate my regular sleep environment as much as possible, which means packing high quality earplugs, a sleep mask, and even my boot that stabilizes my MS related foot inversion while I sleep.
If you can’t trust your bladder, it can be extra stressful to spend the night away from home. A waterproof bed mat that folds and packs easily can be a discreet option.
MS makes my feet icy cold. I regularly use air-activated toe warmers to deal with my dysesthesia. But when I went to Paris in September 2019, I didn’t pack enough of them. Zut alors! I spent a couple of uncomfortable days before I ordered a box from Amazon to my hotel.
Whether you’re out for the day or on an overnight trip, wherever you go, MS is coming with you. But many products can help you manage your MS symptoms.
The fun part is finding the perfect statement bag to tote your tools. Happy shopping!
Medically reviewed on May 19, 2022
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