I’ve long admired Senator Elizabeth Warren, and I was very excited to be able to meet her at her town hall meeting on Friday. I’ve been recovering since then, hence the delayed post (still recovering now). I was also fortunate enough to be able to ask a question I had prepared, about the struggles chronic pain patients are facing as a result of recent public pressure and reactionary legislation.
Senator Warren was received like a rock star, with cheers, clapping and a standing ovation from a crowd of over 200. It was a fun mood. The town hall was great; my husband and I really enjoyed hearing the senator and congresswoman speak and answer questions about education, student debt, unions, health care, and more. After a short speech, the senator took questions via a lottery system. My husband and I had both taken numbers, and we were lucky enough that my husband’s number was picked! I had prepared a question, and waited for my turn with my heart pounding in my chest. I enjoy public speaking, but still always get a rush of adrenaline beforehand.
Here’s the text of my question: “I, and other patients like me, really need your help. I have a rare genetic disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which, among other things, causes severe chronic pain. I am having trouble obtaining my pain medication due to reactionary legislation in response to the opioid crisis, and so are other chronic pain patients. Because of the laws and public pressure, many doctors have decided to just not prescribe opioids at all, due to fear or just not wanting to deal with the hassle – for instance, Mass General’s pain clinic won’t prescribe them unless you have cancer. Although legal, in practice opioids have basically become illegal. I can’t adequately explain what it’s like to be in so much pain and have the one thing that helps me be threatened. Chronic pain patients desperately need protection and access to proper treatment. If there is anything you can do to help, I would greatly appreciate it.”
I liked the senator’s response (which you can view in the video below), which was mainly to say she knew that patients like me were being unfairly caught up in the process of dealing with the epidemic, and that she has and is going to support research into alternative methods of pain management, which I support. She also asked me to hang around after so she could put me in touch with someone from her office, which she did. Congresswoman Katherine Clark also gave a good answer that unfortunately isn’t on the video, but she emphasized that there needs to be a better balance in fighting the opioid crisis. I agreed with most of what was said, but I’d like to add that right now there is no balance at all, that the rights and well-being of chronic pain patients do not seem as if they are being considered), and that reactionary legislation is not the answer. For more on the defense of opioids in pain management, please read The Case for Opioid Pain Medication.
Of course I knew the senator wouldn’t be able to resolve this issue right then – it’s so complex. My goal was to bring the issue to her attention and increase awareness in general, and I accomplished that. I firmly believe that awareness is the first step on the way to change. An added bonus was that everyone in the room also heard me, and now they’re aware of the issue as well. I’m sure most of them had never thought of the people getting hurt by the response to the opioid epidemic, and I was able to tell them about it, which is exactly what I’m trying to do. A few people came up and talked to me after as well.
I was so excited that Senator Warren took the time to come down from the stage afterwards and talk to me personally. I felt like she really cared and heard what I was saying. She told me that she was sorry to hear about the difficulties I was experiencing, and that they would do better. She also took pictures with me, which I loved, and spoke with Jarret as well. I got to tell her how much we liked hearing her confront the Wells Fargo CEO, which made her laugh. And she really liked my Nevertheless She Persisted shirt!
If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be excited to meet a politician, I would have laughed. 10 years ago, I would have fangirled over meeting Trent Reznor or Sarah Michelle Gellar, (okay, I still would!). But on Friday I got to meet someone who is standing up for my rights against an administration that is counter to everything I believe, and what’s cooler than that?