Put a Price On Your Pain

If you could put a price tag on your pain, what would it be? How much would you say your experience has cost you since diagnosis to the present time? $500? $1000? Are goats and chickens involved? Could you buy a small country and overthrow its current benevolent dictator, bring peace, and then lose your sanity as the corruption swelled your head with the price tag you put on your pain? I could, but only when I'm feeling extraordinarily dramatic.

Ignoring the emotional costs, both positives and negatives, physical and mental scars, all of it, and what is left? Let me tell you. At least $2000 bucks, baybee! Not to get overly excited seeing as how I'm about to talk about another government related experience, but I'm feeling pretty perky (possibly due to the fact that for once I'm not fighting the medical system.)

You see, in the fall I'll be moving away from home and attending Lethbridge College, just north of the Montana boarder (so if any of you Stateside Scoliotics are up and about, come visit!) I'll be getting my psychology and sociology diploma. As we all know, school costs money, and moola isn't exactly flowing down the river, especially when your back is too mucked up to allow you to work full time. So where do you turn when your parents don't have the income, and half your pay check goes towards meds? Who else but your friendly neighborhood government office. Student loans are the bread and butter of post-secondary education. They're what keep professors and those folks at the academic counseling offices alive. What other option did I have than to join the mass exodus to the local college funding office and begin to process of begging for money.

Now I'm not going to pretend that I understand how they decide who gets the cash (I am told a large Dungeons and Dragons dice is involved, as well as several Pro's and Con's lists that are assigned to each student applying for the cash.) I simply fill out the form as directed. In my vast 21 years of knowledge I have come to the following conclusion about government forms and their level of complication:

From Easiest to Most Difficult:

1. Social Insurance Number Application
2. Reprinting of a Birth Certificate
3. Student Loan Application
4. Reprinting of a Birth Certificate that is not actually yours
5. Online Complaint Form
6. Do-It-Yourself Tax Forms
7. And finally, all across the board, ensuring you have actually signed all the proper spots on the above said forms.

Thank goodness I did my own taxes this year, it made the filling out of a student loan application much easier. I breezed right through it, even the section that required my parents information was easy! Then I saw it, like a glorious beam of light at the end of the dark, dark tunnel.

Schedule 4. Application for permanent disability funding.

Woa, woa, woa! You mean I can get funding? For pain? Seriously?!
I'd try to explain the next four hours of my life after discovering that but for the most part it involves naked-happy-dancing and the following vowels and consonants combined together in a variety of ways: W-W-W-W-W-O-O-O-O-O-A-A-A-A-A-E-E-E-E-H-Y-Y-Y-Y

I was all over that like a worm in a dirt hole, I made my appointment for the counselor to help fill it out and sign off, I calculated my medication costs for the eight months of school ($2164, apprx), I did some more dancing, mostly of the non-naked kind, and I fell asleep content that finally I was getting paid for being in pain.

Don't get me wrong, scoliosis still sucks, as do five back surgeries and chronic pain for the rest of my life, but somewhere deep down in my solid titanium core I have realized there is a little joy in it, that we pain sufferers have not been completely forgotten, and while we may not be 'disabled' to the eyes of everyone around us, it's the definition provided by the government that says we are.

Personally I've tried to avoid having to use my scoliosis to any sort of advantage, monetary or otherwise, but doing the calculations and realizing what two years of education is going to cost me on top of my medical bills has made me realize that for the most part the world isn't built for people like us. We don't always get the help we need because to a solid percentage of people 'Disabled' is only applicable if you've lost three of your four limbs and sustain life through hugs. It's a vast board game really, and we're all playing as best we can. I'll have a full course load, five classes per semester, which means not only will I be exhausted and in pain from sitting in a horrible plastic chair all day, but I won't have the energy to get the part time job I'll need to fund my schooling. It's a slippery slope down to living in a refridgerator box on someones front porch, and I am personally pleased that the Government of Canada is at least attempting to ensure that doesn't happen (though I would pretend my box was a spaceship and my teddy bear would be my second in command and we'd battle martians on Venus and... and I'm not really acting like a 21 year-old now am I?)

So what is your pain worth? Mine is hopefully worth $2000, which should be enough to cover almost all my medication, although I may have to raid my roommates med-cabinet for the Tylenol every so often. In the end if the funding is granted it will be a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. If it isn't... Well, I suppose a fridge box could also be a pirate ship now couldn't it? Yarr!

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