Lead, Follow, or Just Get Out of the Way
A letter to our Prime Minister
“Of course it was Canada” the headline read, way back in August of 2020. That’s when the news hit: four Canadians facing end-of-life anxiety had just been granted legal access to use psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, as part of therapy. I was ecstatic, because I was one of those four people and I had been advocating for its use for months alongside Thomas Hartle and two other patients, and Therapsil, the non-profit group helping us. I was so proud that day to be a Canadian and to live in a country whose government was progressive and open to new ideas, willing to look outside the box to help patients who are suffering.
The truth is I had already had my first psilocybin experience and it had made such a huge difference in my cancer journey the second time around that I wanted everyone else like me to have access to it as well. Plus, and this may be more true than the previous statement - I was bored and I love a good scrap. There’s only so much tv you can watch, I had come to the end of Netflix and needed something to do.
That momentous day was a year and a half ago now, and a lot has changed. My cancer is under control, finally being managed. I wouldn’t call it remission at this point, but who knows? The “maybes” and “what ifs” are turning into “Why nots” and I am starting to believe that I’m going to make it. In fact, I know that I’m going to be ok, because I already am. I still have cancer but I find myself in a place now where I can see and understand that whether I live or die isn’t even the point. What’s important is how I choose to live in the here-and-now, today. We’re all dying, there’s no way around that, it’s just more of a reality for me right now. So how am I going to live while I’m here? That’s the question now.
Cancer is horrible, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. What I can say now though, after walking this road for four years, is that yes, it’s horrible and awful, but it also brings some gifts with it. And the mushroom is what started it all.
In my trip I kept seeing myself in the ocean in Maui and I was being beaten by the waves crashing over me. At the time I understood the waves to be a metaphor for the grief and pain I was feeling. I’d start to get up and another wave would crash over me and knock me down. Now I look back at that and see that it was also a picture of what my cancer journey was going to look like, because each time my treatments have ended and I’m just about ready to get myself up off that beach, another wave comes and drags me out again.
I look back at the friends and family that I saw in my trip and realise that those are the people that have walked this road with both my husband and I, and have been there for us the whole time. I think about that and feel such a deep love and connection with my friends that I didn’t have before. My relationships are better and deeper because I was forced to be vulnerable and ask for help once in a while. I had to talk about my pain and anguish, to get it all out, so I went to therapy and also learned to be more open and vulnerable within my circle of friends. I am very clear now on who I am and who my people are. I can say today without any hesitation that I am happier and feel more fulfilled now than I ever did before cancer.
I’m so happy now that sometimes I can barely stand it! And it’s all because of the mushroom. It opened my mind and my heart and started to do its work two and a half years ago, and it’s like a light shining under the door, allowing a little bit of light in. It’s amazing how that little ray of light, that ray of hope, moves in and takes over, shining into the dark corners that need some attention. Now, my mind is clear of the clutter and my heart is full of hope, peace, joy, and love. How many cancer patients can say that?
So, Mr Trudeau and Health Ministers Mr Duclos and Ms Bennet, where do we go from here? You have essentially taken away the Section 56 process by ignoring and denying patients and replaced it with another system that really doesn’t work for the majority of patients. You tell us that we can now go to our Doctor and request psilocybin, but that’s not really the case, is it? How many doctors know anything about psilocybin, and what Doctor is going to prescribe something they don’t understand? And even if we manage to find a Doctor who will support our SAP request, how do we know the criteria the bureaucrats at Health Canada are using to decide if they will approve our requests? How are most doctors supposed to know which suppliers have psilocybin, and how many of these doctors are going to take full legal liability for treatment outcomes? This new SAP system, while beneficial for a few, just doesn't work for most patients and doctors. I know it wouldn't work for me, and that is coming from someone who has already had 2 successful mushroom trips.
The research is there, it’s already been done. Johns Hopkins and other universities around the world have studies showing the benefits of psilocybin therapy, and they also show that this type of therapy is safe, effective, and the mushrooms are not addictive.
What’s the problem? Could it be that pharmaceutical companies are realising there’s no money in this and are putting pressure on the government? It’s hard to make a profit on a drug that a patient only needs to take once, maybe twice at most? My mushroom trips were a year apart, almost to the day, and I don’t feel the need to have another, at least not yet. I hate to think that that’s what it is, that our progressive government that’s open to new ideas, is being swayed by money and corporate greed, but I really am having a hard time coming up with another reason.
Just like my life with cancer has changed, our government seems to have changed their minds as well. They seem to be more committed to their policies than to actually helping real humans who are suffering. Please don’t patronise us by saying you’re just concerned with our welfare. All of us can apply for medical assistance in dying and be dead within two weeks. We know we’re dying, so why are you denying us the right to live our final days, weeks or months free of anxiety and full of gratitude?
Here’s the thing - you were elected by normal, every day Canadians like me, not by corporations and lobbyists. Your job, your responsibility, is to work for us. It’s to make sure that we have access to the things we need in order to live our lives in peace, and you are failing us on this front We are people who are suffering because of a terminal disease, or PTSD, or depression. We are normal, responsible adults who need their government to step up and do the right thing. We’re begging you.
© Lauriesplace 2022