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
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org