DLTBGYD…Know what that stands for? Well, my sister and I sure do. This is our family mantra, passed down through
the generations. It was engraved
and immortalized in supreme simplicity and understated elegance on
a brass plate on our grandfather’s bookcase, periods delicately placed
between each letter. Brenda
and I grew up looking at this strange array of letters, puzzling for
our early years over what they meant, impressed nonetheless by their
prominent display and seeming to understand that those seven letters
were irreverent, and when the time was right…the secret of their wisdom
would be shared with us. Patience is its own reward.
Passed onto our children, muttered softly into their sleeping
ears and spoken to our loved ones as the ultimate words of comfort
when the world and everyone in it is hell-bent on upsetting life’s
apple carts, these letters stand for seven precious, strength-instilling
LET THE BASTARDS GRIND YOU DOWN
As I strive to objectively “interview” my sister, for purposes
of writing this bio intended to voice her support of medicinal marijuana,
and her gratitude to those who have made it possible (as well as some
frustration with those people and/or processes that make it difficult…),
I am struck by the ferociousness of the grip that this Multiple Sclerosis
holds her in. Sometimes, from
her description of its progress, I know that it more than held her…there
have been times when it, and life in general, beat her.
But I also know that Brenda’s inimitable sense of humour almost
always prevails and her inner voice, little though it sometimes may
be, reminds her to kick the hell out of the crap of life, including
the bastard monsters that inhabit Multiple Sclerosis.
Brenda experienced her first symptoms of MS in winter, 1988,
as a frozen and numb left derriere cheek and hamstring. This climaxed in her entire left leg completely
freezing on her, during a cold, northern Alberta horseback
ride. Scared, but thinking
it was the result of a previous horseriding accident, Brenda went
to the chiropractor. On the
orders of her mother, Brenda consulted her doctor, who booked her
into the hospital for tests. Within
three days Brenda received a diagnosis of Relapsing-Remitting MS.
As a 32-year-old mother of 4-year-old and 2-year-old sons,
the diagnosis was a huge blow to Brenda and her family.
Although initially her symptoms went away after diagnosis,
within six months they returned, in the form of double vision in both
eyes. This lasted three days. Lucky for quite awhile, Brenda went the next
seven years with basically no symptoms, other than being heat-intolerant. Hobby farming in northern Alberta, raising
two young boys and running her own book-keeping business was almost
enough to keep Brenda from remembering she had MS.
But the stress of marital breakdown in 1997 opened the door
once again to MS. An extremely
trying couple of years, beginning with a solo move to Qualicum Beach (sans ex-husband
and sons, who had moved to Winnipeg) and culminating
with the unexpected death of her mother from cancer in 1998, sent
Brenda into an MS tailspin. With
her left leg completely immobilized, Brenda managed only with the
aid of a cane. The treatments of Solumedrol that had worked
in the past to relieve her symptoms no longer seemed to have the same
effect. In October, 2001 Brenda’s condition was re-classified
as Secondary Progressive, another significant blow.
Having been an occasional MJ user for several years, Brenda
had smoked through the course of her MS, finding from the beginning
that MJ helped relieve her fatigue symptoms.
She also has never experienced outright pain with her MS, attributing
this appreciated ‘plus’ to her consistent use of MJ.
When the possibility of medicated MJ became known, Brenda
began the process of applying. Visits
to doctors and neurologists, form completion and more filling out
of forms…close to two years later Brenda has been approved to receive
medicinal MJ, and matched up with grower Eric Nash, the first certified
organic MJ grower in Canada. Having recently completed her application renewal
process, Nash was approved to grow 15 plants for Brenda.
“I believe MJ is a God-send,” says Brenda. “And Eric Nash and his wife are angels, supplying
without being paid.”
Since suffering an MS crisis in 2001, Brenda has been mainly
wheelchair-bound within her home, though still able to drive short
distances to go to the gym and attend Tai Chi classes, aided by a
walker. 15 years of living with the disease has taken
its toll on Brenda. But her
“day-at-a-time” approach to life, the saving grace of medicinal MJ
and the occasional application of capital ‘A-attitude’ in the form
of “DLTBGYD”…keeps Brenda enjoying life and ready for whatever challenges
it may bring.