B.C. resident, RCMP veteran struggling with ‘suicide disease’

VANCOUVER — For as long as Ashley Anderson can remember, she has wanted to be a police officer. When she was a little girl, she would sing along to “Bad Boys” every time the Crime Stoppers ad would come on TV.

After graduating from high school, she got a certificate in Public Safety Communications from Kwantlen Polytechnic University and became a dispatcher for Surrey RCMP. Six years later, she became a full member of the force and was posted to Battleford, Saskatchewan.

One night, she was arresting a man involved in a domestic incident.

“As I was searching him prior to putting him into the truck he became agitated and physically aggressive,” Anderson told CTV News Vancouver. “From there I ended up with a fractured wrist and some torn cartilage as well.”

From this moment on, Anderson’s life would never be the same. She developed symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a rare condition sometimes referred to as the “suicide disease,” due to its intense nerve pain.

The 36-year-old describes it as a constant, burning pain, like severe pins and needles.

“It affects my whole right arm, up into my shoulder, down the right side of my back, the right side of my head and face and then both of my feet up to mid shin,” she said.

Her husband, Joel, is her full-time caregiver. He helps her shower, washes her hair, helps her get dressed and does all the cooking and cleaning.

The couple moved to B.C. in 2016 to access better healthcare. On good days, Anderson is only allowed to walk up to 600 steps and can stand for just 5-10 minutes at a time. On a bad pain day, she may not get out of bed.

With Anderson’s constant medical appointments, neither she nor her husband can hold a job. The couple is mainly supported by a monthly medical pension she receives through Veterans Affairs, but they also rely on donations through a GoFundMe page.

The priority right now is to raise enough money to buy a motorized wheelchair to give Anderson more independence and cover some dental work. But the ultimate goal is to get to the Spero Clinic in the United States.

The clinic claims to get people with CPRS into a form of remission, enough to allow the return of some everyday activities. But treatment costs at least $60,000.

It’s a dream the couple hopes to achieve, but they don’t want to get their hopes up.

“I try not to think about what life would be like in remission too often, but it would be great to be able to do simple things like cook a meal, have a shower by myself, do my own hair,” Anderson said. “It would be something that would hugely improve the quality of our lives.” 

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