I’ve often felt like a burden on my country. I know it’s taken thousands upon thousands of dollars of public money to keep me healthy as ulcerative colitis gained the upper hand on control of my body. From covering a medication that costs $30,000 a year, to covering the cost of a complete colectomy, to covering the cost of a month-long hospital stay, I simply could not have survived and found a better state of health without Canada’s healthcare system. While not without its flaws, it has benefitted me, and countless others in significant ways. And that public healthcare system is but one of the elements that triggers gratitude in me.
I feel thankful for this nationality of mine when I ride on a subway packed with people of differing backgrounds and differing ideas who manage to not start killing each other over those differences. I feel it when I recall memories of the Cape Breton highlands and the mountains in Gros Morne National Park, two of the most awe-inspiring places you’ll ever see. I feel it when I think of the Canadian flags that hang off overpasses on the 401 to welcome home a Canadian Forces member killed on duty. I feel it at volunteer meetings where my neighbours have become my friends, and together we put in hours and hours of work to help others affected by inflammatory bowel disease. I feel it when I walk up the tree-lined roadway to my apartment building which sits in a safe and beautiful neighbourhood in the wonderful city of Mississauga, Ontario.
I’ve only ever seen myself as Canadian. Not Indian-Canadian (India being the birthplace of my parents), not Persian-Canadian (Persia being the nation of my family’s ancestors), not Canadian-born-something else. Canadian. Full stop. Because it’s this country above all others that has shaped me, that has offered help when I’ve needed it most, and that I want to offer my all to.
It took many years of living with copious amounts of guilt, and seeking counselling to deal with it, before I came to recognize the fact that I wasn’t the burden; my illness was, and still is. But ever since my diagnosis in 2008, I’ve been lucky enough to meet plenty of people who are dedicated to lifting the weight off patients as individuals, and our country as a whole.
Today, armed with a mostly-functional body and a job with a Canadian health charity that supports others with IBD, I feel like I’m finally contributing something of value back to the nation that’s given me more than I deserve. Thank you, Canada. I love you more than any blog post could ever express.