the dilemma


So I haven’t been around for a while. These little pills are the reason why. Or rather part of the reason. I’m also organizing the next Vida Vegan Con, about to launch Driftwood magazine, and planning the always-impressive Worldwide Vegan Bakesale: Portland Edition. But on top of that, these pretty little pills have put the whammy on me.

Why take them? Easy, I’m finally trying to treat the pesky Rheumatoid Arthritis that I’d failed to have diagnosed because I refused to see a doctor for around a decade. After dealing with a decade of medication and surgery for endometriosis and basically everything else that can go wrong with a reproductive system, I was burnt the burnt out of doctors in general. Then I didn’t have a job with insurance, and while I knew something was brewing in me, I couldn’t imagine affording the out-of-pocket costs of even knowing exactly what was behind that achy door. A high tolerance for pain and what I like to think is an endearing stubbbornness got me through my days just fine.

So thanks, Obama. I got insured again and went for my first physical in a decade. Good news: My first mammogram went aces, and my bloodwork was faboo—even my protein, B-12, and calcium numbers were right on. But my wacky, bumpy joints and lack of strength and motion were a huge red flag. X-rays and labs confirmed I wasn’t just getting old or not taking care of myself. I had an actual disease that needed to be treated pronto. Left unchecked, joint pain and weird nodules are the least of your worries. Lungs and hearts don’t fare too well when RA’s in town.

Failing health is not my vegan’s dilemma. Both Sayward Rebhal and Susan Voisin have more eloquently written about failing health and dealing with everything from being bullied by physicians against a vegan diet, to losing that “veganism is healthy” coat of armor. Luckily, both my primary and my rheumatologist are both very much in favor of my diet. Neither of them questioned my timing, as I’ve been completely vegan for about nine years now. And my bloodwork obviously backs up my claim that in general, I’m in pretty good shape. Also, I have always been an animal-rights vegan, so if my health shows signs of vulnerability, so be it. I’ve never sold my veganism as a get-out-of-jail card when it comes to health.

My dilemma is that I take these nasty low-dose chemo pills. Now, I know for certain these things have been tested on animals. I’d love it if they weren’t, but you know when you take a medication in this country, it’s been put through so many trials. Around the world, millions of animals are being used to create new medications and therapies for humans. By consuming medications, I am enabling this practice. I don’t use cosmetics that have been animal-tested, but I’m willing to for my health?

Soooo I’m a big jerk, right? I am weighing my well-being against these creatures’. Sure, I sign petitions against animal testing and I try to raise funds for sanctuaries, but that’s about it. That’s where my efforts stop, so I can’t find enough of a balance to make myself feel all right about taking these pills. I did say it was a dilemma—if I had a direction to go to find peace with my situation, I’d have used a different word.

I guaran-damn-tee you there are some out there who’d call the vegan police on me. And I get that. I’m well aware of the fact that I’m rationalizing my pharmaceutical therapy (which seems to be working, mind you) with a promise that if I’m mobile and relatively healthy, I can do more good for the animals and the rest of the world overall. Maybe that’s the only thing I can do, face the rationalization and transform the guilt into motivation to do more. To pay the debt without feeling complacent.

I don’t know. What do you think?

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