A Patients Case for Medical Marijuana

Over eight million Brits suffer from disabling chronic pain and rely on opiates to get through the day. Most aren’t addicted – they don’t abuse their medication – but are technology dependent. Their neurons have adapted to the only function normally in the presence of the given drug.

‘Opioid epidemic’ is a phrase the media throws around like confetti. They vilify the doctors for overprescribing; patients for abuse; and drugs dealers for exacerbating the problem. But what about the substantial segment of patients who aren’t addicted, don’t abuse their drugs, but do rely on them to survive? Why are we seemingly exempt from the opioid epidemic? Simply put, because there is no alternative. We must live our lives on prescription opiates stronger than heroin, hold down jobs, drive cars, have families and function because for us this is the only reality on offer from the government.

When you search for ‘opioid statistics’ on google, you’ll find a wealth of reports about the abuse of these drugs but nothing related to the “approved” use of these drugs. To understand the epidemic is to understand opiates. They are designed to decrease the perception of pain but don’t fix or remove it. Many are also known to produce a sense of well-being and warmth. If you are presenting with chronic pain and you have exceeded the likes of paracetamol and ibuprofen, you will typically begin on the low-level Hydrocodone derivatives. Depending on your conditions the doctor might throw in an anti-seizure medication like Gabapentin or Pregabalin for good measure. As you inevitably become tolerant to the opioids – for some people it takes weeks, others years – you are slowly stepped up the opiate ladder until you reach the dizzying heights of fentanyl (the drug that is famously said to have killed Michael Jackson) and morphine. But what happens when you reach the top?

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way. After 10 years using codeine, tramadol and morphine to manage my increasing pain, they just stopped working. I saw a consultant who deemed that I had opioid-induced hyperalgesia. Despite being on these drugs for many years (a number of them as a teenager) this was the first time I had ever heard that word. I learned that it was ‘opioid-induced hypersensitivity to painful and non-painful stimulus’. The opiates that I was using to hold down a job, sleep at night, maintain a ‘normal’ life, had turned against me. They were actually making me worse.

I was fortunate in the scheme of things. I avoided other serious side effects of long-term opiate use like gastroparesis, hormonal dysfunction, liver damage, immunosuppression and more. I spent two weeks detoxing from the medication: I vomited, had hot and cold sweats, tremors and, rather strangely, I sneezed a lot. But when I came out the other side, my pain was less than it had been in years. I still had significant pain, particularly when I had a dislocation, but I was desperate not to take any opiates again. After some research, I found CBD oil. I ordered some and after the first dose, the effects were almost instantaneous. Within an hour my base level of pain had all but dissipated. It was roughly 5 hours later before I needed to take another dose. I had the first hours of pain-free life that I had known for many years.

There are a handful of alternative therapies, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and mindfulness, that can offer great relief to some people living in chronic pain. But it isn’t a ‘fix-all’ and should not be presented as such. I have personally found these very helpful but they do not actually ease the pain, they just allow me to cope with it better.  I have found CBD oil more beneficial to my pain levels than my prescriptions ever were. It has have allowed me to stay off opiates almost entirely (the perfect record was broken by a dislocated hip).

Cannabis has been proven time and time again to be medicinally beneficial. From Multiple Sclerosis and cancer to HIV/Aids and chronic pain; there are thousands of reports and government-sponsored reviews that outline the legitimate uses and benefits of cannabis. Yet still, my only legal form of pain-relief is one that is also making me sicker.

Today, MP Paul Flynn will read the Medical Cannabis bill in parliament. I’ll be there along with the United Patients Alliance to stand up for a better life for people suffering from chronic pain. Join us and you will see that we are patients, not criminals.

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My PCOS Story: My Ovaries Tried to Kill Me

When I was 17, I almost died. My ovaries tried to kill me (though I didn’t know that at the time). It was midday on Sunday and I had just finished up a lovely lunch with my grandmother. I popped the ladies room and that’s about the last thing I remember clearly. The next thing I remember is waking up on the bathroom floor and my boyfriend helping me up. Moving was agony. I remember my grandmother called an ambulance but they were on strike and couldn’t promise anyone would come. They told me to wait outside just in case, so my boyfriend helped me outside. I remember laying on the pavement because I couldn’t stand. It started to rain but I couldn’t move. My grandmother, who was 86 at the time, called a friend with a car who rushed over to take me to the hospital. I don’t remember any of the journey. I remember next waking up in A&E as the nurses were trying to get an intravenous line into my arm. It was only at that point that I saw how distended my stomach was. I looked like I was 9 months pregnant. The doctors said they thought it was appendicitis and had scheduled me for surgery the next morning. I drifted off again.

I remember a lovely Jamaican nurse waking me up gently, telling me my blood pressure was extremely low and that the blood tests were back showing my white blood cells were through the roof. They needed to operate immediately, so she had me sign a consent form. I remember she very carefully put some surgical socks on my feet, then held my hand and kept telling me I was going to be absolutely fine.

Then I went into surgery for the planned, 45-minute appendectomy, but I overstayed my welcome by almost 3 hours. When I finally came to the following morning, I was on the ward. A nurse came by and told me the surgeons were coming around shortly to explain what happened. Three surgeons came by not log later and explained to me what had happened the day before. They had opened me up to do a simple appendix removal as planned, but when got inside the were welcomed by infection throughout my abdomen. My other organs were not coping well with it. They rushed to find the source, which they realised was no longer my appendix. Then they found it: a mass of ovarian cysts the size of a grapefruit that had ruptured. An extra surgeon who was a gynecological specialist was called in and the three men spent the next several hours cleaning out my abdomen, removing the cysts and repairing the damage. I had lost about 20% of my left ovary as a result. And they took out my appendix, just for good measure.


This incident and the aftermath really rocked my world. Fertility, much like good health, is something you entirely take for granted until you’re told you might not have it. Last year, on top of my PCOS, I found out that I had the added complication of endometriosis. Having a family, when I am ready, is not a decision my partner and I can make alone. We will need support from doctors start to finish, and even then, it will be difficult.

Unfortunately, I am not alone in my journey with PCOS. Worldwide PCOS affects between 6-10% of women, about 1 in 5.. It is caused by a hormone imbalance and is the most common cause of female infertility. Many women will have symptoms such irregular but heavy periods, acne, excess body and facial hair, balding, sleep disorders, unplanned weight gain to name a few. And the pregnancy complications that come with PCOS are significant. If they can become pregnant, women with PCOS will have a higher rate of gestational diabetes, miscarriages, preterm deliveries, and stillbirths. Past childbearing years, you aren’t free, age 40, 50% of women with PCOS will develop diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Although there is no cure for polycystic ovarian syndrome, there is a range of treatments to ease the impact of the condition. They can range from taking particular birth control pills to weight loss and exercise can all help symptoms for some women. There is a shocking lack of awareness about PCOS which can be a big problem for women diagnosed with the condition. When I was diagnosed at 17, I had no one my age that could talk to about it and understand the impact it was having on me. If you have or know someone that has, PCOS do your part to educate and understand the condition. Taking the time to understand the condition and being able to talk about it with your loved one can show them they aren’t alone.

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6 Tips for Moving Home with a Disability

I’ve spent my life moving around the world. Initially because of my dad’s work, then after the divorce to find care for my sister’s complex needs. On average, the longest we ever spent in one property was about one year. From early on, I learned that you have to travel light. You have to be ruthless when you’re packing. You also have to be prepared to roll-up your sleeves and expect to put in a lot of hard hours before you can collapse at the new property.

This most recent move was different though. Not only because I’m moving back in with my mother after living on my own for last 7 years. But also because this was the first move where I really had to think about my disability. I was incredibly aware through the whole process that I needed to pace myself, sit down at every opportunity and make sure I don’t overdo it (and end up horizontal for a week!) I am lucky that my 25 years of moving experience meant I knew exactly what to expect and could plan accordingly and save my spoons. Thanks to that, by the time the van was gone, I still had the energy to unpack a few boxes! So I thought I would share some of tips and tricks with you!

Cull Something Every Day

I am quite a sentimental person, so I find it quite difficult to get rid of anything with ‘meaning’. But when it comes time for me to move, I put on my sensible hat and try to be as pragmatic as possible. If I can’t use it, display it or store it away neatly, it has to go. That includes clothes that will fit me “in the future”, shoes that I haven’t worn in a year, and any impulse purchases that are sat gathering dust. I try to cull 5 or more items each day in the run up to the move, which normally leaves me at least a few boxes lighter ahead of the move!

Get Packing Early

You would be shocked at the amount of your stuff that you can live without for a month or two. I always try to start packing at least a month prior to moving. It means I can do a little at a time without having to steal many spoons from my day-to-day activities. I start with all non-essential items first; decorations, wall hangings, photo frames, out-of-season clothes and similar. Depending on how big your house is, try to pack a box or two each day that you have the energy.

Pack books & heavy items in suitcases

I’m a book hoarder. I have shelves and shelves that I just can’t seem to get rid of. It’s only when it comes time to move that it really becomes a tricky situation. Thankfully, I found this helpful trick years ago and haven’t looked back since! Whether you have family or friends moving you or professional movers, this helpful trick will save everyone’s backs and energy.

 Be clever with your clothes

If you’re anything like me and have a *lot* of clothes, then packing them all can seem like quite a mission. But If you’re smart, they can become a very helpful tool in your packing arsenal. Try roll up your jewellery in clothes to stop them getting tangled. From saving bubble wrap and paper by using clothes to wrap your breakables, to placing (clean) bin bags around the hanging clothes to save boxes; there are lots of ways to think outside the box when packing your clothes!

 Have Your Grab Bag

I have a pretty set routine in the morning and evening. When it comes to moving or travelling, I try desperately to keep to it as much as is possible. Enter my grab bag. I keep all my sleep routine essentials easily accessible in one bag. Facewash, bite guard, eye mask, pillow spray, laptop, makeup basics, face wipes, shampoo, a book, socks and clean knickers – everything that I need to feel like a human whilst I’m living out of boxes. At the end of a long moving day, knowing I have all my creature comforts to hand helps keep my anxiety in check and my sanity intact.

 Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Whether you get a professional mover or you’re trying to rope in your friends, asking for help is an absolute necessity when moving home for anyone but particularly for those of us with a disability. When hiring movers, don’t be afraid to tell them you’re on a budget and ask for a discount. Often professional movers will be more than happy to work within your budget, so long as you can be flexible on the date or time of your move. And when asking you’re friends, I try to sweeten the deal with a takeaway at the new property after the move. In my experience, food is the way to everyone’s heart!

I hope these little tips help you with your next move. I would love to hear any tips and tricks for moving so make sure to comment below.

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What Happens When Depression Changes Your Personality?

It’s mental health awareness week and I wanted to open up about something that I tend to keep to myself. I find it quite difficult to talk about. In part, because I’m still actively working on it. But mostly because there is a huge amount of stigma around mental health and I feel that fear of judgement. But I’m going to step outside my comfort zone and share this with you, my lovely readers. Sometimes, I am mean. I’m irritable. I say hurtful things and I do just about everything I can to push people away.

Quite honestly, I can be a total asshole.

Continue reading What Happens When Depression Changes Your Personality?

5 Tips For Using TFL ‘Please Offer Me A Seat’ Badge

After a few months wait, Transport for London opened applications for their ‘Please offer me a seat’ blue badge last week. This badge was created for disabled people, in particular, those who invisible conditions and it is a big step towards a fully inclusive London for everyone!

I was fortunate to be one of 1000 participants involved in the trial of the badge. As someone who previously would have rather passed out than ask for a seat, I can say that the badge genuinely changed my life. I’m a very extroverted person, but I personally found it difficult wearing the badge for the first few journeys. After a number of trips, I figured some things out and changed my approach. Since then I have used my badge with total confidence and I thought I would share some of the things I learned: Continue reading 5 Tips For Using TFL ‘Please Offer Me A Seat’ Badge

How To Stay Motivated When You’re Housebound

I’ve mentioned in some previous posts that I’ve spent the last few months largely stuck indoors due to health problems leaving me unable to walk. When it first started, I thought it would just be a short-term problem, so I didn’t focus much of my energy on keeping structure to my days. I enjoyed the respite and really focused on the recovery. As the time went on, I would wake up every day expecting to be ‘better’ and able to go back to my normal life. I became caught in a vicious cycle; constantly holding out for the day I would wake up and feel better, and being absolutely devastated every morning when it hadn’t happened. I began to feel myself falling into a rut and needed to take action. Continue reading How To Stay Motivated When You’re Housebound

I Spoke To Guardian About Disability Benefit Cuts

A little while ago I began speaking with the Guadian about the difficulties I was facing due to the government cuts to PIP. Along with my journey, I learned that the benefits system is set up like a house of cards; If you don’t get PIP, you are locked out of other benefits like income support and universal credit. But with the surge in DWP decisions being overturned (some quote as high as 70% of decisions are being overturned) it’s leaving disabled students, like me, unable to access the support needed to continue our education.

Read here: Disabled Students fear for their future as independence payments cut

Continue reading I Spoke To Guardian About Disability Benefit Cuts