By: Ellen Lenox Smith

Do you have an issue that you are concerned about? Do you see where change needs to be made? Are you frustrated with the unfairness you see or have experienced? Do you have suggestions? Then let’s see you learn to use your voice and share that passion to offer ways to make corrections.

There are so many issues you might feel passionate about. So, let’s look at some simple ways to begin to reach out to others:

  • Write a letter to the editor for your local paper or publish an op-ed.
  • If you would rather talk, leave a message at their office and consider a return number for them to call you if they have questions.
  • Send a letter to your town or even your state representative and senators about your concerns. Remember to keep it concise and clear so they will actually read it. If you whine, complain, or make it lengthy, chances are good it will be put to the side and ignored.
  • Watch upcoming legislation in your state and offer to testify about your concerns.
  • Sign up as a volunteer for U.S Pain to stay on top of call-to-action and advocacy alerts.

If you have doubts about advocating, I’d like to share some recent examples of my advocacy efforts.

I had traveled to PA during the Pandemic, before getting vaccinated, to attempt to get my gut reactivated by a neuro-chiropractor. The doctor worked with me for three days and sent me home to do simple exercises to reactivate the vagus nerve. Within twelve days, my gut reactivated and has remained that way since.

I immediately submitted my charge of $2,400 to my insurance. For months, they kept requesting the same information and shared they didn’t have all they needed to make a decision. I finally wised up and sent the entire packet of information to them via certified mail so they could no longer claim items were missing. Months later, I was finally told they would not reimburse the cost because he was a chiropractor.

I was so tempted to give up after six months of insurance insanity. But, I decided to do the last thing left and appeal their decision. In my letter, I reminded them that if I had requested surgery, they would have covered it, and yet this non-invasive treatment was being denied. Out of the blue, totally expecting the final rejection, a letter arrived sharing that this time only, they would cover the appointment.

They clearly seemed to hope that they would shut me down and I would give up. Let me tell you, I came close, but the battle of standing up for myself paid off in the end and taught me to continue advocating for myself and others.

Second, a dedicated passionate group met to try to figure out how we might use our concerns and voices about the medical marijuana program. Although it has been legal in Rhode Island since 2006, each year it has become apparent this is largely more of a state money maker than about providing a compassionate alternative for patients. Prices of medical cannabis have made this option impossible for so many.

We were fortunate to have the head of our ACLU attend and work with us to submit our requests to our senator and state representative. To our honor and amazement, our suggestions became a bill submitted by them both and are now being testified on. We don’t know if the bill will pass, but these are stepping stones to progress and the needed changes.

If you are not able to do everything, that’s ok, you can still make an impact. There are many ways to let your voice be heard. Unfortunately, things won’t always work out the way you had hoped, but it’s always better to try. Saying and doing nothing will keep issues stagnant. So join us and learn to advocate and support what you see needs to be changed. I believe if you take this on, you will find purpose and meaning added to your life.

About Ellen Lenox Smith

Ellen Lenox Smith has emerged as a leading voice for patients living with pain. Currently, Ellen serves as Co-Director of Medical Cannabis Advocacy for U.S. Pain Foundation and is a member of its Board of Directors. She is also active with the EDS RI support group. Prior to patient advocacy, Ellen was a longtime middle school social studies teacher. She has been married for 46 years and is the proud mother of four adult children and grandmother to five grandchildren. She also is the author of two books, an organic gardener, and was previously a master swimmer and high school swim teacher.