History is Made in Support of Canadian Lyme Patients
As most of my readers know, I contracted Lyme Disease back in 2006 after being bitten by a tick. It took 5-years to get a diagnosis through a simple blood test, and a further 3-years of treatment to arrive, finally, at a place where I don’t feel so incapacitated.
Lyme Disease definitely took over my body and my life, and it left me severely sick and unable to work or function independently. The most hurtful aspect of having Lyme Disease as a Canadian citizen has been the fact that none of the 8 medical specialists I saw over the initial 5-years of my illness even thought to test for Lyme Disease — I had to discover the possibility for myself, and ask to be tested.
It also turns out that testing for Lyme Disease in Canada is woefully inadequate. We have a two-tiered testing protocol here in Canada, if you test negative on the first ELISA blood test, you are deemed Lyme Disease free. Multiple scientific studies, however, have shown how inaccurate the ELISA test is. More often than not, the ELISA test gives a false-negative result. Which means, you test negative for Lyme Disease when in fact you have it.
Without a positive ELISA test, Canadian patients are denied the second, more sophisticated, Western Blot blood test for Lyme Disease. Patients are left believing that they are Lyme free when, in fact, they have Lyme.
If you have Lyme disease, and you would like to receive my free 8-part email series on the best holistic strategies that I used to support my body during treatment, click the link…
Now, here’s an even more horrific hurdle…
Even if you test positive for Lyme Disease in Canada, you cannot receive more than 30-days of antibiotic therapy. Doctors in Canada are not allowed to exceed this treatment duration; if they do, they run the risk of losing their medical license. 30-days of antibiotic treatment is adequate for an acute Lyme infection — an infection that has been active no longer than a month or two. But, if you are a patient who has had Lyme Disease for years (in my case 5-years), a 30-day antibiotic protocol will not cure the infection.
So, what do Canadian Lyme patients have to do in order to receive more than 30-days of treatment? Well…we have to leave the country.
I am a Canadian citizen, but my Lyme Literate doctor is located in New York: a 7-hour drive from my place. I have to rely on family members to get me there. And, needless to say, I have paid for all of my medical care all by myself. I have gone into severe medical debt to regain my health. The Canadian healthcare system does not cover any of the expenses — not even medication. Canadian Lyme patients receiving medical treatment in the United States cannot even claim their medication on Canadian private health insurance, since their medical doctor is located in the U.S.
So far, I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on conventional, antibiotic treatment for Lyme Disease — treatment that I could easily obtain in Canada if Canadian doctors were allowed to treat Lyme Disease past 30-days.
Needless to say, being a Lyme Disease patient in Canada is incredibly difficult and financially ruinous.
However, I am not alone in this struggle
The sad thing about this situation is that I’m not alone in this struggle. There are thousands of Lyme Disease patients in Canada that have to leave the country for treatment. And, if they don’t seek treatment, they are left to languish on their own; with each passing month, they become sicker and sicker.
I’ve never met a Lyme Disease patient that didn’t lose the ability to work or go to school. It’s difficult to leave the house when you have Lyme Disease; the symptoms are very aggressive (to read more about Lyme Disease click here).
A historical change in support of Canadian Lyme patients
Canadian Lyme Disease patients have been fighting for decades to be recognized by the Canadian government. The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme), an advocacy group for Lyme patients, was founded back in 2003. There was a time when the Canadian healthcare system said that Lyme Disease didn’t exist in Canada. And, those sentiments still happen to this day.
But, now, times are changing. Scientific research is proving that the Canadian tick population is growing. And, ticks are being dispersed all throughout North America thanks to the song bird population. Ticks are hitching a ride on the backs of song birds, and they are getting dropped off in backyards and fields all across Canada and the United States.
Lyme Disease is now the fastest growing infectious disease, with an estimated 300,000 new cases in the United States each year. By 2020, the Canadian government estimates that 10,000 Canadians will contract Lyme Disease, annually.
It’s time to make a move. If caught early, Lyme Disease can be cured with a short course of antibiotic treatment. If left untreated, however, the bacterial infection turns chronic and becomes harder to treat.
How history was made…
On June 11th, 2014, something historical happened for the Canadian Lyme Disease community: Elizabeth May’s Private Member’s Bill C-442 passed third reading in the House of Commons. This bill asks for a federal strategy to address Lyme Disease in Canada.
Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party. Here in Canada, we have 4 major political parties: the Liberals, the New Democratic Party (NDP), the Progressive Conservatives, and the Green Party. Two years ago, Elizabeth May tabled a Private Member’s Bill entitled, C-442: An Act Respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy.
The passing of this bill through the House of Commons is historical because less than 2% of Private Member’s Bills get through at all. And, more importantly, bill C-442 passed with unanimous support. Not one member of the government opposed this bill, which is historical in and of itself. This is be the very first piece of Green Party legislation to be passed, and I want to take a moment here to congratulate Elizabeth May for this monumental achievement.
The next step in the process is for the bill to be presented to the Senate. The Senate will then determine if the bill becomes a law. History will be truly made if this bill is transferred into Royal Assent and made law. Stay tuned. Let’s see what happens next.
Bill C-442 is historical because…
- It is the first piece of Green Party legislation to pass the House of Commons.
- Less than 2% of Private Members Bills pass the House of Commons.
What this bill means for Canadian Lyme patients
In essence, this new law to help Canadian Lyme patients will not affect me, personally — I have already moved toward recovery by seeking treatment in the United States. But, I don’t want my experience to ever happen to another Canadian citizen. I don’t want anyone else to lose their health, career, or life from this disease.
All Canadians deserve to have proper and timely medical care for Lyme Disease. We deserve treatment in our own country. And, doctors willing to treat Lyme patients need the freedom to do so without the risk of losing their licenses and livelihood.
Chronically sick Lyme patients can get better on long term antibiotic therapy — I am proof of that. Canadians simply need access to this type of treatment if required.
I don’t want anyone else to become a Lyme Leper, forced to leave the country for treatment. We live in a wealthy, educated country, with the capability of producing a national Canadian Lyme strategy, on our own terms.
I hope that bill C-442 marks the beginning of serious change in Canada because Lyme Disease is not going away.
A heart felt surprise
When I received word that bill C-442 had passed the House of Commons, I also received a link to read the statements of various members of parliament (MPs), during the debate period for the bill. I was curious to know what my MP said in support of the bill — he had emailed me to confirm that he would be voting in support of C-442.
I opened up his statement, and I started to read. I quickly discovered that my MP, Craig Scott, read out an entire email that I sent to him the year before. I told him about my experience as a Canadian Lyme patient. I couldn’t believe that he took the time to read it out, in the House of Commons! For all of you Americans, reading this blog post, this is the equivalent to your government representative reading an email of yours out in the Senate.
I was really moved by that. For the very first time in 8-years, I feel like I was really heard. I was no longer an anonymous Lyme Disease patient being ignored by her country. My voice finally came out, and I’m so thankful for that.
To watch what my Member of Parliament, Craig Scott, said in the House of Commons in support of Lyme patients, click the video below. He reads out the email that I wrote to him at 6:04.