Life can at times seem to be plodding along and then change and alter so fast that when you manage to step back and see how the past few months have developed it is hard to imagine. So it has been for me since Winter began to disappear and Spring began to venture onto the horizon.
The last couple of years for me personally have been tough. Tough in the sense that I have been diagnosed as having an illness that has no known cause and no known cure. This illness is Crohn’s Disease. Similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There are different levels that this illness affects people with but either way it is a debilitating illness that alters your life—for good. Looking back, and now knowing the symptoms, you can begin to see and understand times where you know you did not feel well but put it down to overdoing it or just having a rough time. Now, knowing what the symptoms are, I can recognize when I need to rest, when I can be more active.
However, having obtained this illness, it has also brought with it new ethical dilemmas for me on a personal level too. Mainly because I have been vegan for many years. One of the reasons I became vegan was because of issues such as vivisection and scientific experiments on animals. Before I never even liked taking an aspirin or paracetamol or any pill that may even be coated in some gelatin. I have to admit to my knowledge regarding this subject has never been thorough but the pointless tests that waste the lives of so many animals has always been a focal point in my decision to take the stance that I have done and formed the beliefs that I hold. Veganism encapsulates so much in life. It is not, to me, just about avoiding the meat and dairy industry, but considering all aspects of your life, how you live and the choices that you make. Analyzing what levels of cruelty, pain and unnecessary suffering goes on too in the name of medical science, progress. It is something we can ignore, because, as pharmaceutical companies will advertise, it benefits the human race. I hold a different perspective to this opinion. However I know now that I am taking pills that enable me to lead a fairly normal life that if I wasn’t taking them I would not be able to.
This is because one aspect of the illness I have is that the immune system is damaged and working overtime so I become more susceptible to illnesses such as colds and influenza. I am advised to have a flu injection yearly to help avoid catching any cold or flu that I may find difficult to recover from. Yet the medicine I am given, or anyone is given, is kept in egg cells. Other medication I take is, I understand, kept in mouse cells. Not having any vegan alternative to medicine has been a difficult and ethical dilemma for me but one I feel as though I do not have much choice in. Economics too plays a part in this as well. I could go down the herbal/homeopathic route yet the cost of even a basic assessment is more money than I receive in financial benefits I receive from the government every week to live on compared to the free medication I can receive from the National Health Service we have here in the UK. Finding alternatives to pills and medication is, I have found, quite a difficult experience. It is something I am continuing to build up knowledge about but it is something that takes time too.
The whole debate for me though has been to take medication that I know has been experimented on with animals, or not, and so be in pain and struggle to function as a human being. What are the alternatives? Who knows? Only by contacting non-animal research companies and reading up on herbal on non-medicinal alternatives can information be found out to discover alternatives.
The illness I have has also made me more aware of our community, the friends we have, the network we have built and the fact that as a lot of us grow older, our bodies are deteriorating in different ways. I am hoping that for those of us still around who believe in what we do, how we live this life, support will come not only in health but in illness too. It is something to consider. Doing-It-Yourself is about finding alternatives to the system. Sometimes those alternatives are harder to find than others and require more work.
There is a lot more I would like to say and develop this topic on with regard to medication in our lives, animal testing, vivisection, finding alternatives, and supporting each other but for now that will have to wait for another column! If anyone wants to write or talk about any of this then feel free to contact me at: Steve, PO BOX 90, Leeds, LS8 9AJ, England. Or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.