Multiple Sclerosis by Michael Miles
I am a 23-year-old college student who has multiple sclerosis. I was diagnosed with MS a little over two years ago, at the age of 20. During that time I have gone through many problems ranging from mild symptoms to complete (albeit temporary) paralysis. I have tried many of the prescription medications to treat my disease. None of them helped and many of them made me feel worse than ever before. Several of the drugs, specifically the painkillers, caused me to have intense hallucinations and frightening side effects that occasionally sent me to the hospital.
The only thing that has proven over and over again to help me has been cannabis. With cannabis I can be a full time activist working on making medical cannabis legal in the state of Ohio and the nation as a whole. With cannabis I am able to be a full time college student with a 3.74 GPA. With cannabis I am able to enjoy and experience some sort of normal life for someone my age.
It is frustrating that this plant isn’t legal. My life is completely different when I have access to this medicine versus when I don’t. I have found that when I go any length of time without it, I start to suffer from the more severe symptoms of MS. Although I walk with a cane much of the time, when I go without cannabis for a week or longer, I am unable to walk at all. The last time I went two weeks without it, I was stuck in my bed, screaming from the pain, unable to eat, and unable to move. I owe my life to this plant.
Some people say that it is simply because I am getting high that I feel this way, I assure you, and nothing could be further from the truth. While I do experience some sort of “high” from smoking cannabis, it is not how many people envision it.
Imaging living in the middle floor of a three-story apartment building. You have neighbors all around you, in every direction, and they are constantly making noise. They make so much noise that you can’t sleep, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get them to be quiet. You call the police, the landlord, everyone you can think of, but they are unable to quiet them either. Imagine that you cannot leave your apartment, imagine you are stuck in this situation with no way out. As the days and weeks pass by without sleep, you start to lose your mind. Finally, a friend brings you a set of earplugs, and while this doesn’t make the noise go away, it blocks it enough for you to sleep, for you do go about your life. Cannabis is like those earplugs, the noise is a metaphor for the MS, and the landlord/police are the doctors. This is what cannabis does for me.
However, because of it’s illegality here in the US and Ohio, I am always at risk for losing everything I have. If I were to be caught using cannabis, I risk losing any chance of receiving federal funds to help pay for my tuition costs, which would leave sick and disabled, with no chance at all to get the education I will need to survive in this world. I risk losing my home, my car, everything that my family and I have struggled to get in this life. I risk losing my freedom; the jail cell is always one unlucky bust away.
I know that I am not the sickest person in the world, or the most disabled, and this makes me fight even harder. I have witnessed many friends spend the last years, months of their lives fighting to make this medicine available, so that no one else would have to struggle for the only thing that brings them relief. These people gave the last of their lives to this cause instead of spending it with loved ones and family. This makes me fight harder, and the struggle all the more important.
Since I have taken my stand, I have lost many things in my life. Many doctors will not see me any more; I no longer have a neurologist to help me manage my disease. When I go to see them I bring hundreds of pages of research with me about cannabis and MS, and the effects on the body as a whole, they refuse to even look at it. I enter their offices and all I see is “freebies” from drug companies, the “informational” brochures on pain management have been supplied by the makers of Vioxx, the pen the doctor uses to write the report has the word Celebrex on it. Everywhere I look I see some drug or drug manufacturer’s name. There is almost nothing that isn’t touched by it. I no longer receive the basic care I need, including MRIs, blood work, and other diagnostics to see how my disease is progressing. All of this because I use cannabis, I admit it, I try to talk to them about it, and I refuse to stop using it. I have been told by all FOUR of the neurologists who have diagnosed me with MS that unless if I stopped using cannabis and started using one of the $1,300 dollar a month (or more) injection therapies, they will not treat me. So here I am, fighting for my life, fighting for my medicine, and paying the price.