Ottawa

Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wynne: Legalize Patients

To the Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to the Honourable Premier Kathleen Wynne:

My name is Ania Bula, I am a citizen of Canada living in Ottawa, and currently a recipient of Ontario Disability Support Payments (ODSP). I am also a registered medical marijuana patient.

I receive this prescription to help me manage the symptoms of moderate-severe Crohn’s disease. As a quick background: Crohn’s Disease is an autoimmune condition that affects my digestive system. Symptoms can take place anywhere from the mouth down to the anus. This condition causes my digestive system to become inflamed and swollen, which in turn causes it to be very delicate. During flares, the inflammation can be so bad that the lightest pressure causes the membranes to tear and ulcerate, causing blood loss. The inflammation can also cause blockages in my intestines that need to be operated, a loss of digestive ability leading to malnutrition, as well as causing severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Needless to say, it is not a pleasant condition to have.

I have been treated for Crohn’s, in addition to other conditions, for close to a decade. The primary medication I receive is an immune suppressant by IV once every 6 weeks.

The prescription marijuana serves two purposes. The first is symptom management. Marijuana helps with pain and nausea control. Without it, many days are too painful for me to function appropriately. I cannot get out of bed, I cannot keep food down, I become malnourished and have to be admitted to hospital. Once there I am usually prescribe harsh steroids which, while helping minimize the flare, also causes damage to bones and joints already ravaged by this and other conditions.

Because I can take marijuana in ways other than through oral ingestion, it makes the pain treatment more effective. Frequently, the swelling in my intestines prevents more severe oral medications like dilaudid, Percocet, morphine, and others, not to work effectively. Moreover, the side effects of opiates can often mirror some of the same symptoms I am already dealing with like nausea.

I take small doses of marijuana throughout the day, which helps me get work done: either paid work like writing, or even just domestic chores like making dinner. For me, marijuana has been the thing that has helped the most when it comes to regaining some semblance of normalcy when it comes to quality of life. It has kept me out of the hospital on more than one occasion. It has helped me feel human again, when many of my conditions conspire to do the opposite.

In addition to symptom management however, marijuana also helps actually treat my condition. Studies have shown promising results when it comes to difficult cases such as mine. Many patients who have not responded to conventional therapies alone, have managed to go into remission when given the added treatment of marijuana.

Why am I telling you all this.

Recently, under the direction of Prime Minister Trudeau, the Canadian government has started the process towards legalization of cannabis. While this news makes me happy, there is a much more pressing issue facing patients that I believe could be addresses even before legalization can officially happen.

Medical Marijuana, ever since the new rules put forth by the Harper Government, is not covered by insurance. Not even that provided by ODSP.

The cost of marijuana is high. The standard dose of 1 gram per day can run you about $10 per day. For those of us with larger prescriptions, the associated cost is even higher. Often patients are forced to choose worse or less helpful strains in order to deal with the cost. My prescription can cost me up to $600 a month. As someone who lives on a fixed income from ODSP, that number is far beyond what I can reasonably afford. As a result I have had to go into debt to get my medication, borrow money from friends, ask strangers on the internet for monetary help, and sometimes make the decisions between groceries or my meds.

This is not a decision that should ever have to be faced by patients. Even if the mmj was only for symptom management, it would still be an essential part of my treatment. The increased stress surrounding the ability to get my medication also has negative side effects on my conditions itself, which are sensitive to anxiety and stress.

I am asking you to please help patients like me. To work to make our medicine a help and not an additional burden. Healthcare is, I believe, an integral Canadian value. We’ve built a national identity out of being the country that cares for its sick, and I am asking you to please continue that tradition. Help us get our meds covered. Help us not have to struggle to get treatment when already living on an extremely fixed income.

Sincerely,

Ania Bula

Writer of Young, Sick, and Invisible

Alexandania.com

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Don’t Make Me Pee In Your Fruitloops

It’s happening again.

Someone came up with a brilliant idea. Hey, why don’t we charge money for public toilets?

The reasoning is that by charging for bathrooms, the only people who will use them are people who actually have to go. Cut down on public sex, drug use, and raise money for the city all in one go!

Except?

Except this is just another example of how often the rights of the disabled are trampled over in the interest of “the greater good”.

What’s the big deal? It’s just a bathroom? If you can’t afford to use it, just wait till you get home?

Bathroom use is one of those interesting issues. On the surface we know that it effects everyone. One of the most recognized books in toilet training is literally called Everybody Poops. We don’t need to be socially convinced that people need access to washrooms. Where we make mistakes is in taking bathroom access for granted.

For the average person, if you need to use the bathroom, it is just a matter of finding one. You are able to devote a bit of time to looking for one, and if it takes a little while to find it, you are able to hold it in until you do. Chances are you have a restroom in your home and/or at work.

But some of us are not the average person. Some people are like me. (more…)

They’re Taking Your Money and Giving it to Your Boss’s Boss

The marketing campaign that made everyone fear deficits was a brilliant one. Politicians have been using that fear to fake economic policies ever since then, to the detriment of everyone. One of the favorite comparisons out there regarding the budget of any country is the one to the household budget. Different candidates wax poetic about the importance of living within one’s means and how the same rules must apply to a country and so forth and so on.

The idea of living within one’s means is one that often gets trotted out to “teach” poor people not to be poor, under the mistaken belief that the poverty is the fault of the people living within it.

Like any person actually living in poverty will tell you, it’s not really about not spending money you don’t have, but making sure that such expenses pay dividends. No one lives within their means, except for the very poor. For everyone else, there are credit cards, mortgages, financing, and so forth. All of which are examples of spending more than you make.

It’s the very poor, who don’t qualify for those loans, people on disability, on welfare, homeless people, who live entirely within their means because they don’t have the privilege of not doing that. Where the problem arises is that “within their means” does not equate to “while having the basic necessities needed for survival”.

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The Totally Biased Guide to Canadian Politics for my American, UK, and Aussie Friends

How it works:

Each city is divided into ridings based on populations, so smaller cities might make one riding, sparse rural territories might only have 1 MP, and each of the territories only has 1 (which is fucked up and is a slap of Native People). Each riding votes for a Member of Parliament (MP) who becomes the riding’s representative in the House of Commons. The party with the most MPs in the House of Commons has their party leader become the Prime Minister of Canada (get it, first minister). The party with the second highest number of MPs becomes the Official Opposition. If there are more opposition MPs than there are leadership party MPs then it is a minority government, if they have more than half the MPs in the House, then it is a majority government.

The Parties:

The Conservative Party of Canada:
Leader:
Stephen Harper (Douche King of Douche Mountain) aka Canada’s Bush.

For comparisons sake, this party is akin to the Republicans in America, and the Tories in the UK (in fact, we call them Tories here too), and from what I understand the Liberals in Australia. Just to make this extra confusing.

A little bit of history: The Conservative Party of Canada is actually a relatively new party made up of former right wing parties including the Canadian Alliance, the Reform Party, and the Progressive Conservatives. There has been a “Conservative” Party of Canada since the British were here so they kept the name for branding sake.

The current leader of the conservatives has been Prime Minister now for a decade and his tenure has been one of shifting the whole country into a recession, taking away people’s rights, and generally putting this country in the shitter. Oh and he committed election fraud. Multiple times.

The Liberal Party of Canada:
Leader:
Justin Trudeau (Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s Son, is overly fond of reminding people of that.)

Justin Trudeau wearing Buck Dewey's glasses and hear from Steven Universe, with the Caption I'm Trudeau's son.

Akin to the Democratic Party in the US, though I would compare them to Hillary Clinton Democrats shifted more right of late. Possibly similar to the Labor Party for Australia. He voted in favour of the controversial and messed up Bill C-51, which is akin to the US’s Patriot Act. He’s young and considered by some to be handsome. Basically high school Jock Legacy running for Daddy’s seat, and ironically he’s not the one who’s Bush… that would be Harper. This party used to be the left’s primary party of choice however in the last several years they’ve shifted to the right in an effort to go after the conservative’s base. The irony being that in doing so, they lost a lot of their support on the left.

There was some hope with Trudeau since his father was the Prime Minister responsible for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is akin to the Bill of Rights. But his vote for C-51 helps strip Canadians of a lot of those very same rights, no matter how much he might bring up his father in conversation.

The New Democratic Party of Canada
Leader:
Tom Mulcair

The NDP used to be considered the fringe left party, kind of like the kind of people who would want Bernie Sanders to run. During the last election, they replaced the Liberals as the official opposition which was kind of a coup. This year, they have a real chance of winning the election if the left can get adequately mobilized, kind of like how Bernie Sanders seems to have a chance now that people understand how much we need to shift towards better social policies.

Tom Mulcair lacks the charisma of the former NDP leader Jack Layton, but the NDP is also offering the only real alternative to Conservative Party policies, especially now that the liberals are catering to the conservative base by supporting scary bills like this one. The NDP does have a strong history on a lot of these issues.

The Green Party of Canada
Leader:
Elizabeth May

The Green Party in Canada is like the green party everywhere. Consistently the party that has the best environmental policies and seems to align well with most social policies. Invariably though they also seem to be more connected to woo policies including those like anti-vax movements which is seriously scary for immunosuppressed people like me.

Elizabeth May however is often discriminated against and not allowed to participate in any of the leadership debates. In the Maclean’s one, where she was, she came off a lot better than any of the other politicians, probably because as a woman she is used to being cut off by men and so knows how to be succinct. A lesson more politicians would do well to learn, perhaps by not talking for a while. Her history includes failing radically on issues relating to victim blaming, see also the Jian Ghomeshi Rape Case.

The Bloq Quebecois
Leader:
Gilles Ducceppe

Conceptually closest to the Scottish National Party. Their aim is essentially for Quebec to separate from Canada to become its own country. The support for this movement gains and recedes depending on what is going on at the time. Although they really only exist in Quebec, they have been the official opposition before since Quebec is a major population center in Canada. When that happened, Lucien Bouchard, who also was famous for losing his leg to Flesh-Eating Disease, made it party policy to only speak French in the House of Commons: a policy which is in place till this day.

They are relevant enough to mention.

The election is to be held on October 19, 2015. If Harper wins, I’m moving to New Zealand.

Art and the Robot

A few years ago, I attended an art museum with Ania and one of her friends from her hometown.  There was friction between the three of us.  Ania hadn’t been in much contact with this friend for years at this time, and importantly, had come into her atheism and become involved with me in that gap.  Her friend, in turn, was still religious.  I earned some of her friend’s future antipathy to me by being a little too insistently flirtatious, which is not a good thing for a perceived cis straight man in a relationship to be toward a woman who is clearly uninterested, but most of it preceded that unfortunate buildup.  A lot of it coalesced into a rather unfortunate turn of phrase she used during that art museum trip:

“[S]he’s not one of those atheists, is [s]he?”

(more…)

Sun and Skin

I spent most of the day in a padded bikini lying on a towel over sand at a river beach, collecting overcast sun and reading a collection of transgender-themed fiction.

I got a few stares as I walked to and from the bathroom and a few other times. I looked down at myself and kept spotting the hairs in my erstwhile cleavage that I missed on my last 20-minute tweezing session, and frowning at myself.

But then I looked down at my long, hairless legs finally getting some sun, such as it was on this cloudy day; and the fuchsia-and-teal of my finger- and toenail polish; and the accent of my navel ring; and the increasingly adept gaffing behind my bikini bottom; and the gentle curvature of my testosterone-addled breasts behind this triangle top. And I felt the breeze over my bare skin and the warmth radiating up from the sand and down from the sky, and watched a mom introduce two little girls to dip-netting for minnows nearby after a duck with ducklings came to visit us and wandered off when we didn’t feed them.

(more…)

Medical Marijuana is an Accessibility Issue: An Open Letter to Mayor Jim Watson

Dear Mayor Jim Watson,

My name is Anna “Ania” Bula, and I am a medical marijuana patient. I use mmj to treat the symptoms of severe Crohn’s disease.

I was diagnosed in 2008, after having lost nearly 60 pounds in the space of 2 months. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system. It causes inflammation of parts of the digestive tract which results in tears and ulcers. Among its symptoms are severe and frequent pain, exhaustion, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea. The inflammation can get so bad, that it causes blockages which can lead to bowel death that require surgery. At times it feels like my body is trying to digest itself. Imagine, being able to feel your own intestines, simply because they are so inflamed that the pain outlines them for you.

Since my diagnosis I have been hospitalized several times as a result. I’ve had countless medical procedures. The severity of my pain and frequency of my symptoms makes it difficult for me to work. On more than one occasion I have lost employment or positions at work because of interference from this disability.

I have had to miss classes, and my grades which were always very good, dropped because I was simply unable to maintain the energy required to go to class.

There is no cure for Crohn’s disease. I will have to live with this for the rest of my life and I am only 27 years old.

(more…)