Showing posts with label acupuncture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label acupuncture. Show all posts

1.06.2013

updates: acupuncture, slow cooker, star trek

I decided to try acupuncture again. In October, I saw my nephew and niece-in-law who practice Traditional Chinese Medicine and other holistic healing methods. They encouraged me to use our small insurance benefit on more treatment, even though I can't afford to continue it past that.

I purposely started in December, so I could use the acupuncture allowance for 2012, then go straight into the benefit for the 2013 calendar year, for maximum bang for my insurance buck.

I definitely feel a change. I have more energy, my head is clearer (less fibro fog), and I am cooler. Like many women my age, I am always overheated. My face is usually flushed, and I have frequent and pronounced hot flashes. I always ran warm - always preferred winter to summer, rarely complain about the cold, and so on - so this age-heat thing has been pretty dreadful. And suddenly, it's 90% gone.

The doctor expected immediate results and seemed frustrated that it took five or six treatments to start working. He asked if I've had the pain and fatigue for a long time, and seems to indicate that that's why it takes several treatments to put right.

It's remarkable. But it's also frustrating. After our small insurance benefit is used, there's simply no way I can afford to continue.

As for the acupuncture experience itself, I enjoy it. The needles are completely painless, and once they're in, I lie there in a kind of floaty, meditative state. It's deeply relaxing. As the needles are removed, I feel a tiny, extremely brief sensation at each point, less than a pin-prick. I am also taking herbs, mixtures which the doctor changes weekly.

It's a bit difficult to enter into the concept of TCM. I'm accustomed to thinking along the lines of Western medicine: this helps with fatigue, this helps with pain, this helps with metabolism, and so on. TCM treats the body as a whole, so when energies are aligned, when the body is harmonious, pain will decrease, energy will increase, unpleasant sensations will stop. I don't pretend to understand it, but it's not as if I understand the chemistry behind the Western medicine I take, either. The results, however, are unmistakable.

[If you are interested in treatments and strategies that I use for fibromyalgia, you may want to read my fibromyalgia information site.]

* * * *

I'm really enjoying my slow cooker. I'm using it about once a week, and I'm going to try to continue that during the school term. It's especially useful for making food in batches to take to work.

As I collect slow-cooker ideas, recipes, and websites, I've noticed two things. One, many people have difficulty explaining how they cook. Or perhaps they are embarrassed to share their methods? People say things like, "You just throw anything in," or "You just do whatever, put stuff in the pot and turn it on." But what do you put in? "Just anything. You know, chicken, whatever." Huh?

Also, many actual slow-cooker recipes use processed food. I see many recipes calling for canned soup, bottled barbecue sauce, powdered taco seasoning, and the like. All that adds massive amounts of salt, sugar, corn syrup, and various unpronounceable ingredients to your diet. I'm a little bit shocked that people still cook that way.

What's more, so many people seem completely unaware of what they're doing. One recipe called for packaged taco seasoning, bottled barbecue sauce, and canned soup. A commenter noted that it tasted kind of salty, so she's looking into salt-free beans.

I do use shortcuts. I don't make my own stock, as some of my friends do (some are reading this post, right?), and I use canned beans. But canned beans, when rinsed and drained, have the same nutritional content as dry beans, and I buy low-sodium stock. Canned soup is loaded with unnecessary sodium, and how difficult would it be to substitute whole ingredients that would give you the same effect?

* * * *

As I mentioned last week, I'm watching "Star Trek TOS" - the original Star Trek series - in order, from the beginning, on US Netflix. I've already seen my favourite episode - silicon-based life! - and two or three episodes that were totally new to me.

I'm enjoying it so much that I'm tempted to follow Allan's Stephen King example and write about each episode. Last term, in my children's culture course, I did some media analysis, and really enjoyed it. (I am occasionally forced to admit I like some aspect of my Master's program.) Star Trek is so ripe for review: racism, sexism, xenophobia, colonization, war and peace, capitalism... Stop me before I blog again!

I'm sure Star Trek has been analyzed to death. And I have no shortage of things to write about. And I have a distinct shortage of time. It's tempting. But I think I can resist.

2.21.2010

swimming through pudding

While combing through old posts for a "best of wmtc 2009," I came upon my reports on my acupuncture experience.

The first time I tried acupuncture, it was with a physiotherapist who was using it for deep-muscle trigger-point stimulation. The effects were good, but they were very localized - it only effected the one trigger point she stimulated. The treatment was very time-consuming and painful, and turned out to be too impractical for something as generalized as fibromyalgia.

But my second experience with acupuncture was very different. I saw a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, right in my own neighbourhood. Treatments were quick, painless - and very helpful.

Reading these old posts reminded me what excellent results I had. I didn't have a reduction in pain or tenderness, although the doctor thought I would eventually. But I did experience a huge increase in mental clarity and ability to concentrate. It was like having my old brain back again. (It also reminded me how much fibro effects my mental functioning.)

Now that I'm in school, I could really use those positive effects. I can get my work done, but it takes so much more effort to arrive at the same place. It feels like my brain is always fighting through fog. Like I'm mentally swimming through pudding, or walking through thick, wet clay.

Sometimes it's bad enough that I think about talking to my professors about a disability accommodation. I haven't done that, and probably won't... but that's how it feels. (Whine, whine, whine.)

Now with the start of a new calendar year, my supplement health coverage through Allan's job starts over. I could go for $400 worth of acupuncture treatments. If my experience is the same, just as the treatment begins to take effect, my coverage will run out. Or my school term will be ending. There's no way we can afford the treatments on our own. I get discouraged and think, why bother.

But perhaps it would take effect more quickly this time. Or perhaps... I don't know, something else. A bag of money falls on my head.

3.19.2009

acupuncture update

First I was away for a week, then my Chinese Medicine doctor is away for two weeks, then when he's back, I'm away for my annual early-April trip to New York and New Jersey. I took home extra herbs, but I won't have the full treatment with needles for a month. So I'm unintentionally conducting an experiment on the effects of my recent acupuncture therapy.

Lo and behold, my symptoms are increasing. I'm experiencing a sharp increase in pain and a marked decrease in energy level. My brain is fuzzy - enough so I realize how clear it had been. It's not the worst I've ever been, but it's not great.

Coincidence? It's possible, but I don't think so. Perhaps I shouldn't still be amazed by this, but I am.

Now I have a new problem. When I first started these treatments, I was going weekly, using Allan's supplemental health coverage. When I ran out of coverage, I cut back to every-other week, still a stretch financially, but theoretically doable. Now, after not having treatments for one month, will every-other week be enough to make a difference? Or do I need weekly treatments for a while to get back to a previous level, then cut back to every-other week? My student-acupuncturist nephew says twice a week would be best. But I can't afford to go even every week. What to do, what to do.

Looks like I have to start an acupuncture category, for easy access to the whole series.

2.17.2009

acupuncture update, plus more thoughts on privilege (updated)

I am extremely happy (and somewhat amazed) to report that the Chinese medicine treatments are having a positive effect on my fibromyalgia symptoms. I have more energy, better concentration and more mental clarity, less of the "brain fog" that characterizes this condition.

It's a subtle change, but noticeable. At first I thought I might be having a good day, then a good week. But the changes have lasted. It's been three weeks since I noticed the difference, and it's still here. I'm really encouraged.

Now comes the tricky part. Thanks to Allan having a job with benefits (USians and others: this is extra health coverage not covered by our provincial insurance), $400 worth of treatments was reimbursed. The doctor I've been seeing has very reasonable rates, much lower than many practitioners, so for that $400, I was able to give it a decent try.

Now that I've used the entire acupuncture benefit, I can't afford to go for weekly treatments, unless my employment situation changes. My nephew who is in acupuncture school advised that if I have to scale back on the acupuncture itself, to keep up with the herbs. I think I can afford to get the herbs every week and the herbs plus needles every-other week. Whether that will be enough to retain this change... there's no way to know.

I often remember that if I were still employed at my old job, or had the kind of position I need, I'd also have benefits, and I'd have $800 of coverage instead of $400.

Then I reflect on that thought, and I admonish myself.

When we first moved to Canada, and for a long time after, we were completely amazed and thrilled at being able to see a doctor and take care of routine health care at no cost. Our taxes here are about the same as we paid in New York. But here, we don't have enormous (and ever-increasing) insurance premiums deducted from our paycheques, we don't pay significant (and ever-increasing) co-pays, and we don't have to fight for coverage for routine care. Yay Canada. Yay normal, modern civilization.

Then when Allan first got his job, and we saw what was covered under his company's insurance plan, we were completely knocked out. Dental and prescription coverage, wow! Plus some coverage for massage, acupuncture, podiatry, chiropracty, and other related treatments, double wow! This was better than anything we had had before. We were both so pleased.

Eventually I went back to a day-job and very quickly found good employment. With Allan and I both having benefits, all our coverage was doubled. Our prescriptions were covered 100%, our coverage for glasses doubled, and we had a full $800 worth of each of the professional treatments. Not that we used them, but it was incredible to have the option.

Then the firm I worked for tanked, and I haven't had benefits since. And ever since then, I've thought, damn, if only I had benefits...

When I got my orthotics, I thought, damn, this would have cost me $200 less out-of-pocket if we both had coverage. When I ordered new glasses, I thought, boy, I could really use an extra $200 towards these expensive lenses. Whenever I pick up our prescriptions, I think, damn, this would be free. And so on.

It's wrong. It's ridiculous. I'm very fortunate to have any benefits; plenty of people don't. And often the people who do have benefits are often those that can best afford the services without those benefits. If you have a job good enough to offer benefits, you're more likely to be able to afford extra expenses for glasses, massage, chiropracty or other similar needs. I know it's wrong... yet I keep thinking this way.

This is what happens when you are exposed to privilege. You get accustomed to it. You think you deserve it. You think you need it.

I'm not suggested health care should be a privilege, as it is in the United States. And surely we should all have prescription coverage and dental insurance. I mean only to reflect on the process through which want becomes need, through which isn't this amazing becomes where's mine.

When I first moved to Canada, I chuckled at many Canadians' reluctance to pay for any health care costs out-of-pocket. My co-workers, for example, will get massage therapy up to the maximum benefit from their insurance, and not a penny more. If they spend a week in Florida, they'll buy travel health insurance rather than risk out-of-pocket medical costs. They complain about any minor prescription charges that aren't covered by their insurance. To me it seemed silly, even a bit spoiled.

But now that I've lived here for a few years - and now that I've enjoyed supplemental health coverage - I'm heading more in that direction. I will pay for the acupuncture myself, to the extent I can, but I keep thinking of how nice it would be not to - thoughts I never would have had three years ago.

Twenty years ago, Allan and I lived on half the income we have now. And we had fun. We had a good life. Over time, our income grew quite a bit. We've never been well-off, but we had more breathing room, and some discretionary income. But in 2007, our income decreased by a third, and it's been a difficult adjustment.

It's very easy to adjust to more comfort. It's hard to go back.

These thoughts reminded me of a piece from "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," the title story of the great collection by the late great (and so missed) David Foster Wallace.

Wallace is on a cruise, an experience that he's writing about for Harper's magazine, at the magazine's expense. When he arrives, and for several days after, he is goggle-eyed at the sheer excess of food, amenities and attention lavished on the guests. It sometimes repulses him, sometimes embarrasses him, always amazes him.

But Wallace quickly adjusts. Before long, he notices that the same amenities that originally left him awestruck now seem downright paltry. When another cruise ship docks next to the ship Wallace is on, he notices it looks a bit nicer than his...
Because the Dreamward is lined up right next to us, almost porthole to porthole, with its Deck 12's port rail right up flush against our Deck 12's starboard rail, the Dreamward's semi-agoraphobic shore-shunners and I can stand at the rails and sort of check each other out in the sideways way of two muscle cars lined up at a stop light. . . . The Dreamward has more pools on Deck 11 than we do, plus what looks like a whole other additional pool behind glass on Deck 6; and their pools' blue is that distinctive chlorine-blue - the Nadir's [Wallace's fake name for his cruise ship] two small pools are both seawater and kind of icky, even though the pools in the Celebrity brochure had sneakily had that electric-blue look of good old chlorine.

On all its decks, all the way down, the Dreamward's cabins have little white balconies for private open-air sea-gazing. Its Deck 12 has a full-court basketball set-up with color-coordinated nets and backboards as white as communion wafers. I notice that each of the myriad towel carts on the Dreamward's Deck 12 is manned by its very own Towel Guy, and that their Towel Guys are ruddily Nordic and nonspectral and have nothing resembling withering neutrality or boredom about their mien.

The point is that, standing here next to Captain Video, looking, I start to feel a covetous and almost prurient envy of the Dreamward. I imagine its interior to be cleaner than ours, larger, more lavishly appointed. I imagine the Dreamward's food being even more varied and punctiliously prepared, the ship's Gift Shop less expensive and its casino less depressing and its stage entertainment less cheesy and its pillow mints bigger. The little private balconies outside the Dreamward's cabins, in particular, seem just way superior to a porthole of bank-teller glass, and suddenly private balconies seem absolutely crucial to the whole 7NC Megaexperience I'm expected to try to convey.

I spend several minutes fantasizing about what the bathrooms might be like on the good old Dreamward. . . . I experience a sudden rush of grievance against Harper's magazine for booking me on the m.v. Nadir instead of the Dreamward. . . .

I am suffering here from a delusion, and I know it's a delusion, this envy of another ship, and still it's painful. It's also representative of a psychological syndrome that I notice has gotten steadily worse as the Cruise wears on, a mental list of dissatisfactions and grievances that started picayune but has quickly become near despair-grade. I know that the syndrome's cause is not simply the contempt bred of a week's familiarity with the poor old Nadir, and that the source of all the dissatisfactions isn't the Nadir at all but rather plain old humanly conscious me, or, more precisely, that ur-American part of me that craves and responds to pampering and passive pleasure: the Dissatisfied Infant part of me, the part that always and indiscriminately WANTS. Hence this syndrome by which, for example, just four days ago I experienced such embarrassment over the perceived self-indulgence of ordering even more gratis food from Cabin Service that I littered the bed with fake evidence of hard work and missed meals, whereas by last night I find myself looking at my watch in real annoyance after 15 minutes and wondering where the fuck is that Cabin Service guy with the tray already. And by now I notice how the trays sandwiches are kind of small, and how the wedge of dill pickle always soaks into the starboard crust of the bread, and how the damn Port hallway is too narrow to really let me put the used Cabin Service tray outside 1009's door at night when I'm done eating, so that the tray sits in the cabin all night and in the a.m. adulterates the olfactory sterility of 1009 with the smell of rancid horseradish, and how this seems, by the Luxury Cruise's fifth day, deeply dissatisfying.

But the Infantile part of me is insatiable - in fact its whole essence or dasein or whatever lies in its a priori insatiability. In response to any environment of extraordinary gratification and pampering, the Insatiable Infant part of me will simply its desires upwards until it once again levels out at a homeostasis of terrible dissatisfaction. And sure enough, on the Nadir itself, after a few days of delight and then adjustment, the Pamper-swaddled part of me that WANTS is now back, and with a vengeance. By Ides Wednesday I'm acutely conscious of the fact that the AC vent in my cabin hisses (loudly) . . . [read on for about 20 more examples] . . . and it's impossible to get really numbingly cold water out of 1009's bathroom tap.

If you haven't read this, I can't recommend it highly enough, along with one of the book's other masterpieces, "Ticket to the Fair", a report on attending the State Fair in Wallace's home state of Illinois.

Update. I was so busy beating myself up for wanting more than I have that I missed the larger context. It's healthy to be grateful for what we have and not always craving more, more, more. But that shouldn't apply to health care, including the health care that we Canadians or our employers pay for privately. For more on this, please read comments. Thanks to my wmtc friends for seeing this from a different point of view.

But I still hope everyone reads "A Supposedly Fun Thing...".

1.16.2009

acupuncture experience take two

Last year, I wrote about my experience trying acupuncture to treat my fibromyalgia.

This was not traditional acupuncture by a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) doctor. It was done by a physiotherapist who is also trained in some acupuncture. She used a method to release the fibro "trigger points". The treatments did provide me with great symptom relief for a few days after each session.

However, the treatments were quite painful and I'd be out of commission all day from the after-effects. In addition, the treatment was very localized. It only worked on the trigger points the needles touched. We did as many as I could tolerate, but I have these painful trigger points all over my body. It would be way too painful - plus enormously expensive and time-consuming - to hit each one. And, as I said, the relief was only for a few days. It wasn't practical as ongoing treatment.

I tried this for a few sessions, then gave up. The supplemental health insurance we get through Allan's work covered it. (In Canada, that's always called "having benefits," but I'm reluctant to use that expression since it means something very different to US readers.)

This year my fibromyalgia got worse. I might be doing too much - that is, I might have fewer symptoms if I cut back on activities more - but I haven't been willing to do that yet. So I decided to try traditional acupuncture from an actual TCM practitioner.

There are a zillion TCM doctors, acupuncture clinics and holistic or naturopathic centres in Mississauga. They are everywhere. How to choose one? I was reluctant to just choose any clinic off the street,and that held me back for quite a while.

Over our US Thanksgiving trip, I spoke to my nephew D and his partner. They are massage therapists, she is a herbalist, and they are both studying acupuncture and TCM now. Nephew D suggested finding someone also practiced with herbs, saying that TCM is a combination of herbal medicine and acupuncture, and a good TCM should do both. (Forgive me if I'm stating the ultra obvious - this is new to me.)

My wonderful nephew also spoke to some of his teachers about me, and was prepared to do an evaluation by phone. But long-distance isn't the best way to do medicine, so I decided to use his advice to find someone here.

Even so, I still didn't know how to find a doctor. I have a Chinese co-worker who goes for acupuncture treatments, but I don't like to talk about my health issues at work. So what to do? Sometimes the meaningless universe of random chance provides.

I was having my hair done a few weeks back - you know, becoming blond again and reading The Shock Doctrine. It was a new stylist; she asked where I live, and said, "My acupuncturist is right near there." She's been getting great relief from headaches from acupuncture; she said her TCM doctor is very experienced and has reasonable rates in order to be more accessible.

I took his card, and looked him up online. He is indeed highly experienced, the director of the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Association of Canada, degrees from both China and the University of Toronto, 20 years of experience, and two busy clinics. Plus, he's right around the corner from me, and his rates are reasonable. Also, unlike many practitioners who have high fees for an initial consultation, Dr. Wang will evaluate you for free. What have I got to lose.

Dr. Wang understood fibromyalgia perfectly. I also told him about my inability to lose excess weight, which I have long suspected is related to the pain, low energy, sleep disorder, and so on, of fibromyalgia.

So I had my first treatment. It was relaxing and painless, and I brought home a week's work of herbal meds. I'm definitely going back next week.

Dr. Wang cautioned me that although acupuncture will work immediately on some conditions, such as allergies or headaches, fibromyalgia would be more complicated. If there will be results, it will take longer to see them. I'm not surprised!

My attitude about this could be called open-minded neutrality. I neither mock TCM as nonsense nor am expecting a miracle cure. I'm open to change, and I'll recognize it if it happens, but I won't be crushed if it doesn't.

I'll be sure to report back as things move along.

3.26.2008

a little about my acupuncture experience (updated)

Several people asked to hear about my recent experience with acupuncture. I was delaying, because I couldn't figure out how to write about it without going into my whole medical history, my fibromyalgia, my years of mis-diagnosis, what medications and treatments I use, and so on.

I don't mind sharing any of that information, but on the other hand, I don't feel a need to write about it, either. There's a lot of health and wellness blogging, and that's great if it helps you, but it's not for me.

My approach to my health is to do what I need to do, and not focus on it any more than I have to. This is not to minimize my own issues or anyone else's. I just don't want my health issues to define me. Through my writing, I've known so many people with significant, permanent disabilities who don't let their limitations define their lives. They are models for me; I strive to do the same.

So here's the quickie version. I have fibromyalgia, which causes, among other things, tenderness, sensitivity and pain at "pressure points" or "trigger points" all over the body. It can be thought of as a cross between arthritis (which I also have in many joints) and chronic fatigue syndrome, although it's not quite either of those.

A physiotherapist (physical therapist for US readers) suggested acupuncture to "release" the trigger points. Trigger points are spots that are not receiving oxygen or blood circulation, so the muscle is shortening up, kind of like a permanent cramp. It's like a thumb-sized dead zone. The acupuncture needle would stimulate the muscle, blood would flow to the area, and the body could begin to heal that spot.

Some people get a lot of relief from this, some do not. I thought it was worth a try, especially since I have some limited insurance reimbursement for acupuncture.

I'm open to various treatments. I neither accept nor reject a potential treatment because it's called alternative or because it's called Western. I've used a variety of both Western and alternative treatments, and I'll go with whatever works. Acupuncture certainly can't hurt you, so why not try it.

I've had four sessions so far. The treatment is not always easy. Having these trigger points stimulated is... uncomfortable. I wouldn't call it painful, but it's not nothing. The needles cause involuntary movement, like twitches, but deep in the muscle. It's a strange feeling, and unpleasant.

The process is time consuming, too. You know how that goes. You have to go there, then wait, then have the treatment, then drive home. Then I need a hot epsom-salt bath for the after-effects of the treatment. So it's a big chunk of day gone.

After the bath, voila! The tenderness and pain is gone.

Then in a few days, it returns.

The therapist says that because this is a chronic condition, which I have had for many, many years, it could take a lot of intensive treatment to get long-term results. For example, if I could commit to two or three treatments a week for a few weeks, I might then be able to cut back to weekly, then monthly, then a few times a year.

But I can't afford that, and I'm not willing to commit the time. If I was really debilitated by the fibro, I would be more apt to consider it. But I've had the condition under control for many years, and in this case the treatment would seem worse than the symptoms themselves.

So that's that. I hope it's useful information for some readers. If you have or think you have fibromyalgia, I urge you to not just suck it up and live with it. Proper medication, supplements, and lifestyle changes can make an enormous difference. They have for me. And acupuncture might be worth trying.

Update. Judging from comments, I was unclear about something important. The uncomfortable part of the acupuncture is from the fibromyalgia, not the acupuncture itself.

Fibro trigger points are hyper-sensitive; the slightest pressure on them causes pain. So a direct touch by a needle is going to hurt. But the acupuncture itself wouldn't usually be painful. You don't feel the needle being inserted, and if I didn't have these trigger points, I wouldn't feel it at all.

3.11.2008

follow-up: shoes in the house

I mentioned here that a podiatrist said I should start wearing shoes in the house. That is, I should go back to what I did before I moved to Canada.

In comments, some readers had useful suggestions about picking up a pair of cheap shoes at Payless or the like, to be worn exclusively inside. Alas, that won't work.

On a follow-up visit, Ms Podiatrist explained that shoes are 50% of the treatment, and my feet should be in good, supportive running shoes, as often as possible. She showed me the x-rays and explained why - and explained what gruesome things will happen if I don't take this pain seriously.

I then realized that, because I work from home five days a week, I am in slippers more often than not. (Nice, eh?) That's a lot of time of non-support.

So I have to buy another pair of good running shoes, and keep them for inside the house. At least they will last a long time. Ms Podiatrist gave me a tip on a place in Mississauga that sells close-outs and last season's models, so I'll follow up on that.

Orthotics are in my future. Right now I'm wishing both Allan and I had supplemental health insurance, which would double my reimbursement. Also very Canadian of me. I must get in touch with my inner American, who is grateful to have any insurance reimbursement at all.

I also remind myself that I have no choice! I have to get through the second half of this good life on the same pair of feet. I love to walk and hike, and right now I can't do much of either; untreated, it will only get worse. It's astonishing how much more maintenance the body requires as one ages.

I've also been going for acupuncture treatments, my first time trying that, with good results so far. I can't decide whether or not to blog about it. Too personal? Or potentially useful information? I don't know. So if anyone wants to make the decision for me, and would like to hear about my acupuncture experience, let me know.

12.11.2007

extras on sicko, basics in canada

I had an interesting coincidence of events yesterday.

Last night we watched the DVD extras on Michael Moore's "Sicko". There's a lot of good stuff: an extended interview with the great Tony Benn; interviews with Dr. Aleida Guevara from Cuba and Dr. Marcia Angell in New York; information on HR 676, John Conyers's and Dennis Kucinich's bill for universal health insurance; Elizabeth Warren explains how even people who pay enormous sums for health insurance and think of themselves as well protected, find themselves bankrupt when they get seriously ill. And of course, there are more heartbreaking stories of Americans who have died because they are not rich.

In discussing these pieces, Allan and I agreed that real health care reform - single-payer, non-profit, universal insurance - would first require an entire overhaul of the election system.

In order to take on the insurance companies, candidates would have to be free of corporate influence, but still able to get their message to the public. It would take more than just limiting campaign donations, although that's important. A lot of it goes back to air time. If all candidates received free and equal time on television - on the publicly owned airwaves - they wouldn't need so much money to get elected in the first place. Free air time, and no ads. Only factual information on where they stand on issues.

Back in the real world, it happens that I had a doctor's appointment yesterday morning.

In Canada, amid all the talk of wait-times for procedures like hip replacements, an important fact is often overlooked. Canadians can see a doctor for routine, preventative care, and so maintain better overall health, without ever asking themselves, "Can I afford this?"

I've blogged about this before, in what turned out to be a very popular post. But it still amazes me. So I want to tell you what happened to me yesterday.

I had an appointment to see my doctor. For one of my prescriptions, she doesn't write refills, because she wants to check my blood pressure and find out if I'm having any side effects first. So this is a routine appointment. I waited less than 5 minutes, and went in.

She asked me the usual questions, checked my blood pressure (still normal!), and asked me if I've had a flu shot yet. I've never had a flu shot in my life. She explained why she thinks it's a good idea, why Ontario Health recommends it, and I agreed to get one. She gave me the shot.

I also wanted to ask her if she knows any acupuncturists that she refers to, as I've been thinking about trying it. (More on that coming soon.) We chatted about acupuncture, and how I might find a reputable practitioner, and she gave me her opinion.

She wished me well, we said goodbye and I left.

It was free. Or, it feels free because I pay for it with my taxes. The same amount of taxes I paid in the US.

As corny as this sounds, I left her office thinking, "Oh my god, I love Canada. I am so lucky to be here." I hope I always value Canada as much as I do today.

Then at night, we watched those DVD extras.

Why should I have access to this excellent system because I was lucky enough to be able to move to Canada? Why shouldn't everyone, everywhere, have the same access I do? And why shouldn't Americans, who supposedly live in the most prosperous and powerful nation on earth, have this basic need met?

In "Who Would Jesus Deny?", activist priest Mike Seifert calls health care in the US "a sin". Sin, crime, insanity. Call it what you will.