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My Story - From Hate to Compassion
with Medical Cannabis

By Laura Carden


I have been trying to think of a way to pass along my story to y’all for sometime now and it wasn’t until my drive home from the Sierra Foothills of California today that it came to me. Eric had planted the seed and Jay has watered it but it didn’t sprout until this very day. While it may seem that words come easy to me that is not so when the words are to be about me. This first part is the boring ‘background/history’ type information.

I believe that a brief history of my chronic pain, muscle spasms and unstable Lumbar vertebrae fusion, is in order:

I was diagnosed with Scoliosis as a child. I wore heavy body braces for nearly two years, then it was decided that it was time for surgery. During the 31 days I spent in the hospital; I was hung from the ceiling and fitted with a full body cast (chin to knee). A few days later they cut out a crescent shaped piece then squeezed the opening together to tighten the cast, then added new cast material to hold it tight. A few days later, in April 1960, I had my first of three major back surgeries. Nine (9) Thoracic vertebrae were fused using bone from my right shin ­ no direct problems with this ever.

In 1983, while working as a delivery driver I ruptured one lumbar disk and damaged another. These turned out to be L-4 and L-5, both were fused in 1986 and a piece of metal called a Knodt Rod was installed. By 1988 one of the fusion’s had failed and the Knodt Rod was moving around. This is very bad, so they went back in and took out the Knodt Rod but didn’t fix the instability. Now I ‘balance’ the upper Thoracic fusion on top of the lower, unstable Lumbar fusion and just move real slow. During those 3 years that I waited for surgery, permanent ‘compression’ damage had been done to my Sciatic nerve root, so I will have to live with muscle spasms and pain forever.

This is, of course, why I use Cannabis/marijuana as my medicine of choice. The prescription drugs the doctor had me on were awful and made into me a sleeping robotic type inhuman thing. I only use nature now. Four thousand milligrams of Parafon Forte will stop muscle spasms but it also stops semblance of normal life.

Following release from workman’s comp in 1990 I was given a list of local doctors, as I no longer needed a neurosurgeon. None on the list would take me as a patient, one even came right out and said I was just too ‘complicated’ a case. So I learned to ‘self medicate’ with something I had thought for decades was just relaxing and fun.

As an experienced recreational smoker I had no trouble finding medicine just affording it. The government’s prohibition and blind eye to the truth drove the price/profit out of the reach of the poor or disabled. However, when I have enough and can use whatever I need whenever I need it I can keep the spasms and pain to a level that I can live and function (slowly) with. An immense improvement over being in a pharmaceutical coma every day. Cannabis/marijuana is the only medicine I use for my back. Nature does it better and without dangerous side effects and no comas.

After being on SSDI for about 13 years without so much as a question from SSA, they ordered a review of my case in 1996. No problem for me ­ I have nothing to hide. Of course I expected to see real doctor, who would give an honest account of my back situation. Alas this is not what SSA provides so the bottom line is that this ‘contract’ doctor said that my back had improved so that now I could carry 25-50 lbs. up and down stairs all day. Hopefully she never got to be an actual doctor. She ‘examined’ me so poorly that she didn’t even know that I had a back brace on and made note of my ‘normal’ gait on the report. I have not moved in a normal gait since November 9, 1883, when I ruptured the disks.

I appealed and was sent to another contract doctor. The 2nd doctor said word for word what the 1st doctor had said so I began the whole process of trying to make the government understand the truth. Their inability to learn or even listen made me a very, very angry person ­ I went 16 months with no income at all and nearly lost my house. I spent every waking hour trying to find a way to make the government listen to me. Turns out it doesn’t matter how right you are if no one will listen. Then they sent me a bill for $14,190.20 for the two years I elected to be paid (or starve) during the appeals and hearings. The arrival of this bill presented me with my first and (so far) only panic attack.

I was consumed with hate ­ now step back, sit down and listen ­ I mean real hate. I awoke with it in the morning and slept with it at night. It was eating me from the inside out. I no longer spoke civilly nor made conversation - I just spit out reams of four letter beauties to any person who still dared come around me. Those distant bureaucratic bozos were going to cost me the roof over my head, even though they were completely wrong and I was completely right - nothing got through to them. I wrote to them without the colorful adjectives, to no avail. Hate is not good for any living thing but it was all I had.

After quite a bit of correspondence with CA. Rep. G. Miller and Sen. B. Boxer (forget DiFi), SSA called me and said I should come and apply for SSI, which involved yet another physician. This time I had a friend ready to call the newspapers because I wasn’t leaving that office until I received a proper examination from the doctor. I had pointed questions ready for him and my records and my x-rays and I was loaded for bear!

Turns out even though he is a contract doctor to SSA ­ he was too ethical to ignore the steady deteriorating condition of my spine and sciatic nerve root (at the unstable fusion) and he listened, asked questions and answered them. He even took a new x-ray, right in his office, without getting SSA permission to take such an x-ray. The condition of my lower spine is undeniable to anyone with eyesight ­ you don’t have to be a medical professional to see something terribly wrong ­ even a LEO could tell.

So 120 days later I once again I had enough income to make my house payment, pay utilities and eat most of the month. As an aside: The exact same criteria are used for SSDI and SSI in determining disability.

I had learned to navigate cyberspace, to locate others in similar SSA situations, through-out the internet and in various e-communities scattered across electronic space. Expanding on those searches I stumbled upon medical marijuana sites/lists/links, writing and patients and their supporters. Something inside me began to change. I had just read or heard someone say: Stay passionate about something. My only passion had been hate but here was something I truly identified with and deeply believed in and it allowed hate to become determination and I read as much as I could find to become as knowledgeable as I could.

I cannot say this clearly enough: finding this fight for Medical Cannabis/marijuana patients, for me , was if not life saving, then certainly soul saving. As I explored the various sites and read posts on many lists, I remained a ‘lurker’ ­ just reading and never posting.

Then they killed Peter McWilliams or at the very least caused his death and I was pissed to the molecular level of my existence. The depth of my anger completed the conversion to compassionate activist and I began to write, post and sign my name to everything I found in support of Medical Cannabis/marijuana patients. And learn, most of all learn. This is infinitely better than hate.

Laura Carden can be contacted via e-mail at grnchflg@pacbell.net


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