The Fight Grows On

 

FemaleCannabisClusterThe buzz has not worn off.  Pennsylvania House of Republicans passed medical marijuana!!  This is really happening!!  So many people told me, “PA will be last.”  We proved them wrong!  We have won a great battle.  The war wages on.  There are many Pennsylvanians left out of Senate Bill 3.  Smoking is prohibited.  We can have oils and tinctures, liquids and edibles, but not grow our own plants.  It is not a perfect bill.  Some say it’s not as good as SB 1182, which was the first medical marijuana bill the Senate passed in 2014.  The House let that die.  I had serious doubts that the House would ever vote on SB 3.  I am happy to be proven wrong.  I am happy to have a new baseline to work from.  Things can only get better now!

Medical marijuana is one step closer to my ultimate goal of full legalization.  Chairman of the Health Committee Matt Baker argued against this bill in part because activists want a complete end to prohibition.  He would like to help the sick, but the risk that some people might want full legalization was too much.  Representative after representative got up and spoke about the heroin crisis our state is facing.  Matt Baker claimed that marijuana “primed the brain for heroin.”  He spoke over and over again attacking the bill from opposing sides.  He made me yell and cry and then laugh my butt off.  He told a dramatic story of a building collapse leading to the death of a man who was “diagnosed with marijuana.”

My blood boiled when he said that he had a letter from the “American Epilepsy Society” begging him not to pass SB 3.  I don’t know who the American Epilepsy Society is, but they sure as hell don’t speak for me.  They are not the voice of epilepsy.  The Epilepsy Foundation is.  They are all on board.  Anything that reduces one seizure, one second of one seizure, is a miracle.  A miracle!!

Matt Baker wanted you to believe that the epilepsy community is against medical marijuana.  He’s a liar.  I am active in the epilepsy community.  I know all the groups.  I never heard of the “American Epilepsy Society.”  They are not a real epilepsy advocacy group, just a name that sounds official.  Everybody who knows anything about seizures is 100% behind medical marijuana.  Anything that helps.  Anything.  I am so relieved to no longer be a criminal.  I’m just a patient who wants to feel better.

So what is next?  The bill is not perfect, no bill ever is.  The Senate has to agree to the changes.  The governor promises to sign.  Then the grass will start growing.  We can figure out things as we go. Currently SB 3 allows for treatment of HIV/AIDS, seizures, epilepsy, autism, sickle-cell anemia, Crohn’s disease, cancer, ALS, PTSD, MS, Parkinson’s Disease, inflammatory bowel disease, damage to the spine and nervous system, neuropathies, Huntington’s Disease, chronic pain and glaucoma.  I believe the list will eventually expand.

What does this mean for Erie County?  That depends on whether we want to be part of the party or not.  There will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of jobs created in growing, producing, and distributing marijuana oils.  I see no reason why we shouldn’t be at the forefront of this.  We have empty buildings just waiting for something to do.  We have fresh water and empty storefronts.  We have thousands of sick citizens of Erie County who will want medicine, as soon as possible.  It’s already too late.  We can’t wait any longer.  Permits will be given, licenses will sold.  Doctors will have to take a brief class on medical marijuana.  All this can start happening as soon as next week.  The movement isn’t over, it’s really getting started now.  All the years of hard work are finally paying off and the real work can begin.  Sow the fields and plant the hemp and marijuana that will grow our economy.

Now is the time to act.

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PA Goes to Pot!

 

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016 was a historic day for my Commonwealth!  Medical marijuana, which has been growing moldy in the House basement, was taken out and given the light of day!  Senate Bill 3, The Raymond Shafer Compassionate Use of Cannabis, was finally voted on in the House of Representatives.  It passed 149-43.  Medical marijuana IS coming to Pennsylvania!  The Senate has to concur with the changes the House made.  Then it’s on to Governor Wolf’s desk.  He promised to sign whatever time, day or night, that the bill hits his desk.  He was there for the vote and tweeted “Now is the time to act!”

Senate Bill 3 passed in the Senate with a vote of 40-7 in May 2015.  The House tried their best to kill it.  They sat on it and did nothing.  The head of the health committee was against it, so it didn’t have to get heard.  Rep. Matt Baker wanted to kill medical marijuana.  He failed.

I cried like a baby.  I bawled.  My cats gave me odd looks.  My kids didn’t quite know what to think.  Why was the boring political TV making Mom cry so much?  I felt relief like I have never known.  My state finally believes in me.  All these years, all I wanted were less seizures.  My state said no.  Yesterday, they said YES!  It has been such a long road, covered in seizures and bumps and bruises and blood.  So many activists died while waiting.  The end is finally in sight!  PA has been languishing in prohibition for far too long.  All of that is drawing to an close.  The light at the end of the tunnel is bright green!

A great pain rose off my chest when the vote came down.  The cloud lifted and the haze cleared.  I’m not a criminal!  I don’t have to  move to Colorado!  I can stay here and get the treatment I deserved.  I’ve cried about it so many times.  Now they are tears of joy and relief and happiness.  Treatment is within reach for me!  I am satisfied I will be able to get my precious medical card.  I’m an epileptic.  I can’t stay conscious!  We should all know this by now:  Marijuana reduces seizures.  This law is for me!  Of course, the fight is not over.  There are many people who are left out.  I promise you, I won’t stop fighting for you. Now we can be healthier while we fight.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Industrial Hemp Senate Bill 50 passed the Senate 49-0.  We are on our way to join only a few other states who allow hemp to be grown on large agricultural scale.  It is a legal crop.  Let’s grow some hemp!  It will be a lucrative crop for our state.  Hemp has a few more hoops to hop through.  They need to get a hearing in the House.  The House is a lot less friendly than the Senate.  They stonewalled medical marijuana for YEARS!

It may take years to get Pennsylvania’s programs running.  Not everyone is happy with SB3.  I’m giddy for the baby-step in the right direction.  Two steps forward and one step back is still one step ahead.  It has started.  It cannot be undone.  We are not a pioneer in this fight.  Pennsylvania is late to the game, but we’re here now~!

In the meantime, we need to educate our doctors.  We need to let them know they will be protected when they prescribe medical marijuana to their patients.  We need them to know why they should.

Today we celebrate!  The tides have turned.  They are green and foamy.  Pennsylvania will be growing marijuana and hemp.  Hemp was once our major crop.  (Why do you think there is a town named HEMPFIELD?!)

We are bringing hemp back to Hempfield!  

We are bringing compassion and cannabis to the sick and hurting!

Please remember who voted against compassion and vote accordingly.  Election Day is April 26th.  Many House seats are up.  You can check the vote here.

To all the Haters who said we couldn’t do it:  Put this in your pipe and smoke it!  Enjoy this picture of The Capitol Building lit up green in honor of SB3!

Th House goes GreenWe weren’t last!

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Will Today Be The Day?

PA4MMJ_Logo

Will today be the day that my life changes forever?  We usually don’t get that kind of head’s up.  The big life-changing stuff is often a surprise.  Boom.  You’re in the ER.  Your life has been altered forever by your diagnosis of Intractable Epilepsy.  That’s how it happened to me.  Today, I am holding my breath that my long, dark, night of my soul is almost over.  I have been promised that today is, finally, FINALLY, the day.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is poised to pass medical marijuana!  My group of advocates are gathering in the Capitol for the hopeful celebration.  I will celebrate alone, in my home.  I would have gone if I could drive, but my disease stole that away from me.  I have only the Sunshine Law, LIVE TV feed, and all my friends on the inside Tweeting in real time.

We have been promised so many times.  This time the final vote is so close we can taste is.  It tastes like a pot brownie, which was not stripped from the bill by my nemesis: Representative Matt Baker.  I have written about this man before: https://ktslagle.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/representative-baker-is-a-big-fat-faker/

The Head of the Health Committee is the darling of Big Pharma.  He has been stringently opposed to compassion for YEARS.  The Senate passed Senate Bill 3 almost a  year ago.  A similar bill passed a year  before that.  He and The Speaker of the House let that one die.

Mr. Baker introduced amendment after amendment trying to strip this bill.  He spoke again and again about the evils of “so-called marijuana.”  (His words!)  He lied over and over.  He claimed that more ER visits were due to marijuana than heroin.  Are you fucking kidding me?  In the middle of this heroin EPIDEMIC which is killing people everyday, he claims that marijuana is worse.  Ask anyone who works in the ER, more people come in for aspirin overdoses!  Marijuana has not killed anybody.

Later in the night, after more of his rambling diatribe, he said he opposed the bill because it taxes medical marijuana.  He said, “How can we tax the medicine for sick people?”  So it IS medicine then is it?  Mr. Baker’s campaign funds come from pharmaceutical companies.  There are opposed to anything that might get people off of any drug.  Something that grows for free is terrifying to these people.  Matt Baker is willing to fight for their right to medicate you as they see fit.

He claimed that a building collapsed in Philly and the one person died was “diagnosed with marijuana.”  I’m pretty sure the marijuana didn’t cause the building to fall over, which is what KILLED him.  Not pot.  Baker was just hoping to confuse someone over to his side.

Medical marijuana has strong support in the House for months now.  Our Governor promises to sign it as soon as he gets it.  I believe him.  I don’t believe the House.

We have been lied to so many times.  I was promised that the House would vote by this time LAST YEAR.  I am excited and ready for disappointment.

But what if??  I will watch LIVE.  And I will cry either way.

Deep breath.  Hold it…

I just want to have less seizures.  I hate waking up on the bathroom floor.

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Pandemic! The World Needs You

A Review of the Board Game
pandemic 2

  

Pandemic, by Z-Man Games, is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a cooperative board game, which makes it great for families with kids who like to win.  You all win together.  Or you all die together from a terrible disease that wipes out life on Earth.

Everybody plays a different role, which are dealt out, not chosen.  You need to plan your attack several moves in advance.  And pray that there won’t be an outbreak.

You must race against the spread of several viruses (red, yellow, black, and blue) across the world.  Each major city is linked to several others.  When the disease reaches outbreak status in any city, each linked city gets infected too.

The diseases spread quickly across the globe.  Things can get out of control in one turn.  Each virus starts in a different part of the world, but jumps from city to city.  You must build research stations to cure and eradicate all the viruses.

The game can vary in length from 15 minutes to over an hour.  It all depends on the draw of the cards and the rate of infection.  There are several way to lose.  If you run out of virus cubes in any color, you lose.  If you have eight outbreaks, you die.  It is an exciting, high intensity, game.

My family has lost to this game many times.  I can’t play it more that once at a time.  Pandemic is too heavy.  After you lose to the viruses, it can be pretty depressing.  That said, winning is amazing!  You have worked together to defeat death itself.  You saved the world and all of humanity!!  What a rush!

I give it Four out of Five Stars.  It’s very re-playable, but you may need a break in between games!

pandemicMap

 

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Driving Me Crazy

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I often find myself bursting at the seams to talk to someone.  It is an occupational hazard, a fact of life. I am a writer, so I need to spend time alone.  I am an epileptic, so I am confined to my home in ways that you can never understand unless you have been ill for a very, very, long time.

Losing my ability to drive has been one of the worst things in my life. I am at home and there’s no one to talk to.  When I do go out and run into the people I used to see, the people I used to know, they ask me, “When will you get your license back?”  It always seems like a polite question…  They don’t mean to be rude, but I want to scream the answer back at them, “NEVER!!” Never.  I will never drive again and if you want to see me you will have to come over here.  I am here alone with my family.

The next question I get is, “When was the last time you had a seizure?”  My answer always shocks them, “Last week, two weeks ago, I can’t remember.”  It was hopefully not sooner.  I try to stay home in the days after a seizure.  They cluster together.  I hate for people to see me seize.  It’s not a pretty thing.  And I hate to end up in the ER.  Strangers do that.  My family knows better.  I need to take my meds and go to bed.  It’s just my life.  And I will never drive again.  I gave up that hope years ago.

Occasionally my husband wants me to move the car from one side of the street to the other.  It was a Monday morning and if we didn’t move the car we would get ticketed.  I couldn’t.  I can’t.  It’s all or nothing: nothing is the only answer.  My husband agrees but every now and then he doesn’t want to get out of bed.  We both wish I could move the car.  I can physcally drive. I was an excellent driver.  But I can’t.  There are no rules to seizures.  It only takes one second and then I’ve crashed my car into the tree in front of my house.  Or a kid walking past the park….  No. I do not want to take that risk.  I cut that part out of me and burnt it when I turned in my driver’s license, the second time.

I don’t drive not because it’s the law, but because I love my family too much.  I don’t want to lose time and lose control of a ton of metal and flammable liquids.  I can’t.  I can’t. I want to.  Some days I want it so badly I can feel the wind in my hair and the smell of grapes in the air in September.  I tell myself it’s not the full moon, I’m not tired, I’m not whatever it is that might trigger a seizure today.  I see myself walking to the car, turning the key and driving away into the sunset.  It’s such a pretty dream. It will never be.

I’m never going to stop having seizures and even if I do, there is no amount of time that will pass that will guarantee that I will not have another one, at any given moment.  I know that in my bones, in my synapses that like to burst with energy and electricity.  Driving isn’t safe for me and it’s not safe for you either.  You should thank me that I value *your* life enough not to drive.

I beg you, please don’t text and drive. I gave up driving for safety’s sake.  You can give up your phone for safety’s sake.  You don’t even have to give up your phone.  Please, just put it down when you are in the car.  It only takes one second to crash a car.  My epilepsy is genetic, yours could be because of a traumatic brain injury you receive when you crash your car because you were texting while driving.

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My Land of Confusion

leelas not sure

 My brain has this evil trick it plays on me.  I know the pattern well enough by now.  We call it temporal lobe epilepsy.  People are always asking me questions about seizures.  I answer to the best of my ability.  Sometimes I physically can’t answer, “Hey, I’m an Epileptic.  This is no big deal  for me and I want to go to bed.”  My brain is wired so damn weird.  Give me a little time to find my way out of the land of seizures and confusion.  I’ll swim back to full consciousness soon with another story from the depths of semi-consciousness.

Most of the time I am not trapped in my body and I like to talk.  I am a Chatty Kathy, even though I hate it when people call me that.  Ask me anything; I will happily ask you anything.  I don’t want to talk to anyone after a seizure.

Ambulances and hospitals are terrifying when you don’t know where you are.  I have had that happen to me enough times.  I am happy to go to the ER if I have a real emergency.  But not because I cannot remember my middle name or even if I am unresponsive.  I slur my words and bump into things.  I vomit.  Eventually I rewind and I can talk.  Look how well I am writing now.  Ask me anything!

I have had epilepsy my whole life, I have known for nearly twenty years. The diagnosis has been the same since 1997.  We don’t know why you have seizures.  It just happens sometimes.  The first time I woke up in the ER was the last time an ER doctor gave me information I needed.

The post-seizure ER experience is always the same, flying down the hospital halls, the lights piercing my brain like an ice pick.  I’m not claustrophobic, except when I wake up screaming in pain from the noise and I have no idea why I am in the Hell-Hole of a CAT scan tube.

Every seizure CAN be an emergency, but every seizure is NOT an emergency.  Please don’t call 911.  It feels like a punishment to me.  The sound is too much.  Give me time to come out of it.  It might be an hour or more.  That’s my normal.   It is a long climb out of the abyss.  It’s The E Life.  It’s My Life.  Epilepsy is a weird disorder or disease, whichever you prefer to say.   I know there is a risk of more seizures due to every single seizure I have.  Seizures beget seizures.  I also have a 100% Seizure-Free Tolerance.  Sometimes works out to be more like 80% Seizure-Freedom.  I’ll take what I can get.  30% of epileptics never gain complete seizure control.

Even when I’m not fully conscious, I’m still in there somewhere, lost in my brain.  I’ll be back soon.  I will eventually know what year it is.  (The last time a paramedic asked me that question while I was still coming out of a seizure, I said it was 2007.)  Please wait, my confusion will clear and my brain will land back in reality.  I hope.

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Filed under Essays, Living w/ Epilepsy, Non-fiction, Uncategorized

I Write, Therefore I Am… An Epileptic

wheatfield with crows

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay  which will run from November 1 through November 30.  Follow along and add comments to posts that inspire you!

When I picked my date for the Epilepsy Blog Relay I had no idea it was Thanksgiving.  I didn’t know until I had already written most of my blog.  Thus, this is not a traditional Thanksgiving article; there are no Pilgrims or turkeys or lists of things I am thankful for.  As it turns out it is about the one thing (other than my family) I am most thankful for: my epileptic brain.  Without it I would not be alive and this article would not be written.  I have to appreciate the brain I have.

We cannot untangle the connections between epilepsy and creativity.  It all starts with the brain.  I write.  I create.  Sometimes I hit the floor.  Sometimes people tell me they envy my creativity and wish they were creative like me.  I wonder what is it they think I have that they do not.  The only extra thing I have is epilepsy.  I have to take my creativity as the flip side of my epilepsy.  I have to.  All that time spent out of my head, trapped away in my body that will not respond to appropriate stimuli.  When I can talk and control my body, I can write.  I can create.  I cherish that.  All that excess electricity buzzing around in my head must have some benefit.  Synapse snap, crackle and pop.  Ideas rush around like freight trains.  

I read about the authors and artists who have also experienced epilepsy.  Their presence in history gives me comfort.  At least Edgar Allen Poe and Vincent Van Gogh knew what I do: the omnipresent fear of the unknown moment of time snatched away.  One moment here, the next gone.  Who knows when or where we will wake up?  At least I can write about it later.  Emily Dickinson most likely was an epileptic, too.  It’s probably why she didn’t go out much.

It’s a trade off, this life of unpredictable brains.  It’s miserable when your brain and body betray you.  Sometimes, my brain works just fine.  My brain is many things: my mistress, my lover, my best friend, my worst enemy.  I am always afraid that my brain will kill me.  I will take a step and then fall onto something deadly this time.  I have to write it out.  The fear consumes me.  That is epilepsy.  It’s not just the lost time, the unknown bruises, and the fear of falling; seizures steal us away from our lives and our families.  I am a burden to my husband and children, I can’t help but be.  I may need them to make sure I don’t choke on my vomit.

When I write, I feel better.  The fear escapes and seems less scary on the page where it can be edited until it shines like a gold, instead of the late night paranoia of waking up once again in a hospital without knowing how I got there.

I need to write it out, tell my story, shine a light into the darkness so I can make sense of it.  I might collapse, but I might create something meaningful instead.  I have to try.  That’s all there is.  Consciousness and creativity or seizures and time lost.  I know what it is like to fall and to rise again.  I am a seizure phoenix.  I rise out of the ashes of confusion and write so I may fly away from my body and brain that betray me so brutally.  Do I write because I have epilepsy?   I believe so.  I can be thankful for that.  What choice do I have?  I have to pick myself up off the floor and write about it.

NEXT UP: Be sure to check out tomorrow’s post by Anthony Bartley for more on Epilepsy Awareness https://whatepilepsyisreallylike.wordpress.com For the full schedule of bloggers visit livingwellwithepilepsy.com/epilepsy-blog-relay.

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Filed under Essays, Living w/ Epilepsy, Non-fiction