Joe | Reiki Master / Cancer Patient / Husband & Father
I grew up in the 80s, immersed in the “war on drugs” culture. I remember that egg in the frying pan, and I internalized the messages of the evils of cannabis.
When I started using cannabis recreationally, I felt conflicted. Here I was, a married father of three with a stable, corporate job, and I was “that guy” smoking “weed” on the side of the house. The part of me that grew up immersed in stigma was afraid of being labeled as “stoner” and “pothead,” yet cannabis helped ground me, allowing me to go inward with my emotions and better know myself.
However, it wasn’t until my 2019 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis that I truly awakened to the danger of the cannabis stigma, and fully embraced the healing benefits of cannabis.
The pressure to “get clean”.
Before my diagnosis, I was experiencing random bouts of nausea, followed by fainting spells. These episodes, though infrequent, were scary for both my family and me. My wife and mother concluded that it was my marijuana use that was causing the issues. They held an intervention and urged me to go to an inpatient rehabilitation center.
My family loves me, and I love them. I know they wanted what was best for me. Having already gone through the steps to quit alcohol, I understood what was involved. I didn’t think that my cannabis use was the same. Deep down, I knew that there was something more going on with my body, but in the end, I relented and attended a 45-day program.
The doctors on staff conducted several rounds of medical tests throughout my stay, one of which was for tuberculosis. I refused the standard skin testing and insisted instead on a chest X-ray. It was then that they found the tumor in my chest.
Cancer diagnosis and the role of cannabis in the healing process.
After 28 days, I left the inpatient program against the wishes of my mother and the counsel of the program facilitators. The stigma remained, even though I’d learned I did have an underlying medical condition. The program directors even went so far as to warn me that cannabis was a “gateway drug.”
Two nights before my appointment with a pulmonologist, I had another fainting episode, though I hadn’t used cannabis for several weeks. I was admitted for a battery of tests that took me from one nightmare to the next and ultimately led to my cancer diagnosis.
Thankfully, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is treatable, and my oncologist understood the medical benefits of cannabis. I told him about my previous use, and he wrote me a prescription for a medical marijuana card. I was exceedingly grateful, because after just one round of chemotherapy and not sleeping for what seemed like weeks. I got some RSO and nightcaps that were a game-changer on my journey. I felt my body vibrating at a higher level, finally felt comfortable, and was even dancing in my kitchen.
Cannabis for healing and self-care.
Now that I’m on the other side of my cancer treatments, and my family and I have moved beyond the stigma, I have a much healthier relationship with cannabis. As a self-care tool and part of my daily routine, high-quality, cleanly produced cannabis helps me in a variety of ways.
I use CBD cream and tinctures for aches and pains, focus, and clarity, and I’ve found that 1:1 capsules help manage anxiety. RSO cranks up my endocannabinoid system, and a nightcap allows me to get a good night’s rest. Medical marijuana also helped me maintain a healthy weight throughout my chemotherapy treatments.
Reflections on how to overcome the cannabis stigma.
I believe that no matter where I am in life, and no matter what is happening, it’s where I’m supposed to be – for better or for worse. I’m led to where I need to be by the choices I’ve made. The inpatient program I attended felt more like punishment than treatment, and I missed my family terribly. I also found out that the program has a 90% relapse rate.
Still, I stayed, and I made the most of the opportunity to understand myself on a deeper level. And because I stayed, I received the X-ray that led me to my diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately, to my fuller, deeper relationship with myself and my family.
Looking back on my own life’s experiences, it’s apparent we need more education to erase the stigmas and the lingering damage done by the War on Drugs. Cannabis is a valuable resource for the medical community to treat a variety of conditions and ease many symptoms, yet we’ve only scratched the surface. With better information to destigmatize cannabis, more extensive studies into medical and psychological benefits, and legalized consumer access, people everywhere will have the resources they need for healing and wellness.
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