A Fork in The Road

It was Thursday morning a week into nursing school, the sun was shining, and I got up bright and early to go study before class started. As I go through my notes my phone lights up with an email. It is from the director of nursing at STCC. The email is telling me she wants me to meet with her and the Dean of the Health Department to discuss my “situation” right now. Right off the bat this didn’t give me a very good feeling. I had contacted her earlier about any further steps I needed to take regarding my vaccinations. I am on medications for my Crohn’s that prevent me to receive live vaccines (which I’m sure many of you Crohnies are familiar with). Unfortunately when I got my titers done I had not converted over with almost all of my immunizations. I think the only thing I was immune to was Measles.

When I found out this information over the summer I contacted to school immediately and provided documentation for everything. They told me all I needed was a doctor’s note stating I cannot receive these immunizations. After I did this I didn’t hear from them so I assumed everything was fine. Well, needless to say they are now trying to kick me out of the program due to medications I’m on and not being able to receive my immunizations. They told me I am not health cleared because I have not received these shots. I do understand this is important and that they have to hold up to the contracts… Buttttt, what baffles me is anyone can refuse any vaccinations for religious reasons (they have forms for that to fill out) and still participate in the program and clinical. Discrimination? I think so.

When I was sat down with the Dean and director I was told I need to withdraw immediately to prevent losing money (by the way, this was the last day of the semester to withdraw without penalty, coincidence?). They did tell me I would have automatic readmission to the program but if I were to go back on all of these immune suppressing medications (I am on methotrexate, prednisone, and Uceris) I would then have to withdraw again. She proceeded to tell me, “I should really consider a new profession”. Rude. If this wasn’t a knife to my stomach I don’t know what would be. And also, am I the only sick person who wants to become a nurse? Like come on, let’s be realistic here this can’t be the first time this has happened.

I have worked so hard to get into this program, I lost it when they told me this. They let me sit there and cry in front of them while they just stared at me with blank faces. After leaving I thought about it more and was absolutely not withdrawing. This was not right and something about the whole situation had to be illegal. I called my mom and doctor and they were on it like flies on shit. They clearly did not know who they were messing with. To me it sounds like they just don’t want to be bothered filling out extra paper work and/or make special arrangements for me (find a place I can clinical at). Oh, and I didn’t even let them tell me I can’t attend lecture and labs. I was not going to fall behind while this gets figured out.

The past five years of my life I have struggled to stay in school due to health issues. I have had to withdraw twice due to hospitalizations and I’ve taken multiple semesters off because of it. When I finally am feeling good and am ready to go to school full time they just have to knock me down. I’m not an easy one to knock down though. My family and doctor have both worked really hard to keep my psyche in check because this disease is so wearing on the mind. When you’re not able to go to school or work you feel useless and like you’re not going anywhere in life. I’ve had this feeling many times during my life but it vanished when I got accepted into nursing school. I could finally see my future and what I was meant to do. This isn’t just school to me, this is the rest of my life. It is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Even if in the end I am not able to attend nursing school, they’re not going to get out of this one without a very big fight.

Life isn’t always fair, but in my head I keep saying over and over again: everything happens for a reason. And I truly believe that. Don’t just be a fighter against your disease, be a fighter in life.

-xoMichelle

Medical Marijuana: Take a Toke in Our Shoes

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Medical Marijuana is finally becoming a hot topic right now in the United States. Although it is still illegal according to the federal government, several states have gone through with legalizing it for either every one over a certain age or for people with certain qualifications. I myself have gained the benefits of pot for my disease. I was asked to write on this topic, which I jumped at the chance because I am so strongly opinionated on it and I believe some people need to open their eyes. There are people out there so sick, who cannot function in their daily lives, and we are focusing on the abuse and recreational use of this drug. Yes, those topics are important and I know there aren’t enough “clinical” trials out there to prove that weed helps Crohn’s patients but everyone out there who disapproves: start listening to OUR stories.

I live in Massachusetts, and as some of you may know (to my relief) medical marijuana has very recently been legalized by 65% of the vote. To give you a background I researched the laws. Right now the rules and regulations are still being set, so no dispensaries or anything are opened yet. Mass can only have 35 dispensaries state-wide and only 5 in each county, so companies are fighting to win the battle to open their dispensary since this is going to be such a massive industry. (www.masslive.com). First, to even be able to carry marijuana or use it you have to be a qualifying patient with medical records to back this up. I have Crohn’s Disease and an extensive Harry Potter novel-length file of medical records (to think someone would even read through those is insane to me). During this period of the law being implemented you are not able to get a legal “Medical Marijuana ID Registration Card” but all you need is a doctors written permission that you are a qualifying patient. I’ve looked into this and it comes at a cost. To receive one of these you have to fill out a sort of application, get copies of your medical records, and pay a yearly $200 fee (roughly… varies from doctor to doctor). And, it is very hard to find a doctor who writes these. I have found one in Northampton, MA who does them. They haven’t released a date when you will actually be able to register in the state to get your ID card but for now this doctor letter will prevent you from getting in trouble if you are using for medical purposes. This letter allows you to legally possess a 60-day supply of medical marijuana which is roughly 10 oz. Even though marijuana is legalized for medical use, health insurances and/or federal agencies are not responsible for covering the expenses. (www.mass.gov).

So far, in Massachusetts there are twenty towns/cities eligible for dispensaries. These include: Framingham, Lowell, Cambridge, Worcester, Shrewsbury, Fitchburg, Leominster, Milford, Holyoke, Springfield, Chicopee, Northampton, Easthampton, Montague, South Deerfield, Greenfield, Pittsfield, Lee, Great Barrington, and North Adams.

Now, enough of the legal stuff. So many trials and experiments are starting now the evidence is growing. My doctor in Boston is actually doing research right now on this controversial topic. Although they say that marijuana isn’t proven to help the huge problem in Crohn’s Disease of inflammation, it can help a lot of the symptoms drastically. Since Crohn’s Disease has no cure, we are forced to only treat the symptoms it causes. People don’t realize how much medicine us Crohnies have taken and how much toxic stuff we have put in our bodies just in an effort to control our symptoms. It’s insane. In fact, side affects from all these medicines I personally have been on have ruled my life at points. Medications I was on years ago still affect how I live my life to this day. I’ve been on so much prednisone I have bone degeneration in my spine and hips at age 21. I have nerve damage in my feet from certain meds I’ve been on. People don’t understand how far we go to feel even a little bit better. I was on one drug not too long ago (Natalizumab) that was still in trial. My doctor warned me multiple times and made me sign my life away because a rare side affect from this was a rare brain disorder that was irreversible and fatal. Yes it was rare, but to think a drug could even do this to me was terrifying. These medicines are poisoning us and marijuana can be the next huge thing if we let it. Experimental evidence actually compares cannabinoids, a molecule in marijuana, and endocannabinoids, which are produced in our gut. These control the barrier in our intestine lining and using plant forms could be helpful in repairing this. (www.sciencedaily.com).Image

I have smoked marijuana myself to control my disease. I unfortunately have such a hard case that right now nothing really is helping me, but if it weren’t for pot I would be in the hospital at times. It some days is the reason I get out of bed and am able to eat. I am not an avid user but I picked my brother, Greg’s, brain for his experiences with it. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease last year and treats himself by smoking weed. He invested in a vaporizer because it is a much healthier alternative to smoking and still cost effective. My brother has similar symptoms to most Crohn’s patients including reduced appetite, upset stomach, diarrhea, painful bowel movements, a “sweaty butt”, weight loss, and energy loss. To control these symptoms completely he has to use his vaporizer once a day and when he doesn’t take his “medicine” aka marijuana his symptoms do come back. When I asked him about eating his response was, “It helps me regulate the food I take in because it triggers my appetite. Without it, it is hard for me to eat anything at all.” I know first hand that statement is true because days I cannot eat my mom is at me to smoke. And believe me she is against all of that, but as a mom she sees her sick kids and will find anything that might remotely help. With me, at 92 lbs, every pound on me is crucial. If I go below 90 lbs my doctor admits me to the hospital and/or starts me on a large, frustrating dose of prednisone. One question a lot of people might wonder is overtime do you have to smoke more and more? Or in other words do you build up a tolerance. Greg’s answer to this was no. He has been controlling his symptoms with cannabis since the day he was diagnosed (a little over a year ago). He said “As long as you control the amount you use in each session as well as the amount of sessions you have per day, you will not have to increase dosage.” This is very true. He went on to explain that abuse is the only way to build a tolerance and to control his disease heavy use is not necessary, and he reams more benefits from limited uses per day along with a controlled amount of weed. Greg’s good quality of living is because of his marijuana use. He is on no medicine besides cannabis and feels great. Yeah, we all have our days, but he works 40-60 hours a week as a demanding store manager and still has the energy to go out with his friends. In other words, he is able to live a normal life without putting toxic chemicals (medications) into his body. He says he tries to make it through the day before using because he says he functions better with a clear mind without the “high” weed generates, as any other medication could cause including pain medications a lot of Crohn’s patients have to take. On the controversial topic he ended our conversation with: “In a perfect world it would be accepted to do to relieve symptoms but in the professional business world it hasn’t reached that point yet, so priorities prevail and health comes second. Kind of sad but it is what is it.”

So, take a second to think about this. Why are we treating marijuana as such a horrible illegal drug? Yes it can be abused. But as a college student I see more drugs being abused than I can even fathom. Adderall, pain medication, alcohol, everything. It is actually disgusting to me. I think about it and I’m putting all of these awful medications prescribed for me in my body which you all think is okay, but when I try to smoke a little bit of weed to feel better I get judged and looked down upon as some “druggie”. And if you are a parent with a child who has Crohn’s disease, he or she is around drug abuse everyday in this world you can’t deny that or shelter your child from it, but provide them with the tools and information to make good decisions about it in a controlled environment. I definitely am not condoning using weed, but it is on the edge of being a medical miracle. Don’t judge someone on their medical decisions because if it were you and your health it would be a different story. Walk a day in our shoes and there would be no more controversy.Image