What Selma Blair’s Oscar Appearance Meant to Me as Someone With a Chronic Illness

Like many people around the globe, I watched the Oscars yesterday night. Some of the movies really moved me, and I truly enjoyed watching them and seeing some amazing performances.

As someone with fibromyalgia and arthritis, I was incredibly moved by Lady Gaga’s performance, since she’s been so open about her chronic pain struggles and how her life was stopped more than once in order to get better. Of course, as someone who wakes up every single day with pain in her body, I was somehow proud of Gaga, as she represents that pain can’t define who you truly are.

After that, I checked Instagram on my phone, which immediately gave the night perfect closure: Selma Blair. Walking the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Looking absolutely breathtaking. With a gorgeous dress and fierce eyes. And most importantly for me: with a cane. In my eyes, the whole picture looked like a painting worthy of a museum. In that moment, a sentence I’ve head for a long time came alive: Representation matters.

I’ve been using canes for a long time after fibromyalgia, and later arthritis, made it inevitable. Canes are a big deal for me. But I’m young, I’m 24. None of my friends use canes. Not a single guy I’ve been romantically involved with has used a cane. I’m the only person my age I know who lives my life (from mass to Friday night plans) with a cane.

Of course, I feel weird, left out and certainly not as attractive or as powerful as the people who surround me. In an effort to compensate for that, I have a fairly new cane collection which includes canes in a variety of colors and styles so I can match my cane with that day’s mood, weather and my clothes. It may seem silly, but for me it’s a big deal. In my mind, canes don’t define me, but they are an extension of my body, an accessory I need in order to live my life to its fullest. Still, I get evil eyes and whispers when people see me with one.

So when I saw Selma looking powerful, sexy, gorgeous and victorious, it was a huge deal. I can only imagine her pain, her struggle, her thoughts about taking that step and going out into pretty much the most fashionable night of the entertainment industry living her truth. 

This sends an important message to anyone who uses mobility aids — that we are entitled to live our lives in the most magnificent way we can. We are worth it, even if at times it doesn’t feel like it. I know now that I can look magnificent and powerful with my cane and deformed joints. I know that I’m not a weirdo for giving my body the help it needs. I know I can be a beautiful, empowered woman thanks to this representation.

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