Disclaimer: This article is not meant to diagnose or treat cancer-related pain. Always consult your medical provider for medical advice or when considering taking any medications or controlled substances to treat the short and long-term side effects of treatment. Always adhere to state laws.
High! – Welcome to Elephants and Tea’s, “Cannabis Column with Kimber.” I am a Stage IIIA Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and Ductal Carcinoma in-situ Survivor. I received my breast cancer diagnosis in December of 2019. I support adult recreational and medicinal cannabis use. I am a regular contributor to Elephants and Tea magazine and serve on the Steven G. Cancer Foundation Patient Advisory Committee. I am a passionate advocate for people and plant medicine. Finally, while the addition of cannabis use to my own care plan has proven necessary to my overall well-being, it is not for everyone. Please, always consult with your physician care teams, before making any medication changes. Always adhere to your state’s laws and only purchase legalized cannabis products from a reputable, licensed dispensary. Finally, terms in bold will denote a glossary term, to be defined at the end of this article for further clarification. I wish you all peace and light and I hope you enjoy reading about my personal experiences with this valiant plant.
Cannabis is commonly known by one of its aliases: Weed, Marijuana, Pot, Mary Jane, Ganja, Chronic, Loud, among many others. However, I like to refer to Reefer as my Plant Medicine.
To me, it is undeniable that cannabis is the most heroic plant on earth. I use it for its magnificent healing, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties. I love its perfume – a heavenly, aromatic bouquet, with slight, yet noticeable, variations between strains. It is my most treasured plant.
Cannabis plants produce beautiful, trichome-sparkling, resin-filled colas of fragrant flowers. Inside of these flowers are little pockets of resin, holding the most cannabinoids in relation to the rest of the plant. Deep inside of the trichome-crystaled buds is where the highest concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is found.
I prefer a nice combination of THC and CBD to conquer my days. I like that edibles allow me to calculate my cannabinoid dosage. My evenings differ from my mornings, so I gravitate toward a THC, CBD, CBN, CBG infused gummy to help me fall and stay asleep.
Out of all my medications, my plant medicine is my favorite. As a cancer patient, it is not abnormal to have a scroll-length list of prescriptions cataloged in MyChart. Just days after being diagnosed with stage IIIA breast cancer, my active medication list took a drastic upward curve.
I went from “prenatal multivitamin, taken once, daily” to a seemingly endless inventory of antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, antidiarrheals, antispasticity medications, aromatase inhibitors, local anesthetic creams, immunostimulants, immunosuppressants, steroids, stool softeners, vitamin supplements, benzodiazepines, and opioids, all with different dosages and times to be taken. It was a lot and I hated every second of it. I have knocked many medications off of my MyChart prescription list since diagnosis, but I am now indebted to several “lifers,” or life-long medications.
I take three colorful handfuls of tablets and capsules each day, meant to fight innumerable physical side effects and mental traumas from my cancer treatments.
While Western medicines did and continue to do their jobs, they also wreaked havoc throughout my body. Unfortunately, “destroy everything” is listed on some vital medications’ job descriptions. I am barely forty and I already have osteoporosis, bone and joint degeneration, and was forced into menopause by way of chemo, then ultimately: surgically. My body has endured more surgeries than a “normie” has in a lifetime. In our AYA space, this is not uncommon to hear, though to a muggle this could be jarring.
Sore and moody? Seshie-time!
I drink a lot of water. I try to ingest extra protein, with 75% of my days being fully plant-based. I try to work light exercise into my day, but I often run out of hours in the day. I walk, ride my recumbent bicycle, and practice vinyasa yoga. I take care of our home. I’m a wife and mom. I chase three very active kids around, constantly. I meditate daily and nightly. Ritualistically, I infuse cannabis into my daily life, in nearly every capacity.
Some days I need to remind myself that nobody knows my body better than me. If I’m hurting, I do what I know to resolve it. Just as I would troubleshoot any other issue that could, and probably will, arise. I fix things.
Sometimes, a girl just needs a joint.
As a seasoned stoner, palliative effects of cannabis were not a new concept to me. I already knew that once my treatments became too daunting for my man-made medications to combat alone, I was going to integrate cannabis. When I started changing the ways I used and my ingestion became purposeful, I found that cannabis helped immensely. I knew conversations with my oncological and primary care teams were necessary. I was ready to discuss the potential addition of cannabis to my care plan.
I was strangely nervous, probably due to years of living in the stoner subculture, always weary of The Man. I hoped my care teams would listen and support my notion to incorporate cannabis and not take a misinformed or incorrigible stance.
I needed signatures on the state-required paperwork from my dispensary, in order to obtain my medical cannabis card. I presented my opinion and it felt great to be heard. I had regained some of my own autonomy. My physicians not only approved my use but—like me—preferred it over the addition of more pills. The signatures were complete and I was off to mail my paperwork.
Today, as a medicinal cannabis user in the post-treatment phase, I rely on my plant medicine. For over two years, I leaned into my pharmaceutical pain cocktail to numb ever-present aches. Sure, I had cannabis in various forms and concentrations, too. But, alas, the cocktail…
My cocktail consisted of a lovely, relieving, and colorful mix of oxycodone, gabapentin, and flexeril. This combo alleviated my overall baseline pains that will never go away. These annoyances are direct results of cancer’s destruction: too much poison, radiation, and too many surgeries. The brilliance of this cocktail is that my muscle, bone, joint, nerve, and phantom residual pains are quickly dissolved. And they tend to stay at bay for several hours.
I recently made a choice to discontinue my pain medication use. I no longer have that pain cocktail in my arsenal, yet I still suffer the pains. I chose to wean myself off of my pain medications, specifically, the oxy. I knew I should taper off and reduce my use over time. I even talked about it with my primary care physician, but that’s just not the way I roll. I tend to dive in head-first.
As much as I need opioids, I try to remind myself that I can live without them. One morning, I decided they weren’t helping me, anyway. I was partially convinced they were placebo sugar pills, posing as oxy. I was still in pain and was handling it…how much worse could it be? I was sure I could take it. And I knew I could turn to medicinal cannabis.
Withdrawals from an opioid, controlled or not, is definitely not a good time. Like millions of other opioid users, I suffered days filled with vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, chills, and an all-over feeling that was reminiscent of that time I was septic. And anxious, moody, sad, lethargic…I hated every second of withdrawals, until I was able to smoke cannabis. The second I hit my bowl, I felt immediate repose.
My arms felt weak. Thankfully, my non-cannabis-using husband has seen me do it enough, over our twenty-five years together. He was a fantastic Cannabis-Cabana-Boy! – My Cannabi-Boy…
Finally, I was able to have my plant medicine. I could exist without feeling on the verge of vomiting bile and rage in every direction. The pains in my stomach subsided and I was no longer nauseated. I will never forget those first few hours of relief…It was eerily similar to how I felt once the sickness from my chemotherapy infusions lifted. I didn’t feel great, but I felt good.
I felt good enough to be able to peel myself off the cold travertine in my bathroom and get into the shower.
It’s difficult to explain the level of solace and serenity I felt that first day as I smoked a joint while taking a shower. I sat on my shower’s bench and let the steam and smoke fill the room. It was my version of hanging eucalyptus on the shower wall, but better.
I continued through the withdrawal process, for a number of days with the help of cannabis. The nausea and discomfort were comparable to my post-Round 3 Chemo, when that poison was really flowing throughout my system. I chose not to ask my PCP to renew my prescription.
I’ve been thriving for several months now, without traditional pharmaceutical pain medications. I am currently on zero opioids. Instead of those medicines, I rely on my favorite alternative medicine. I know cannabis was, and is, responsible for my lessened discomfort.
It would be untrue of me to say I do not have days that are much worse than others. I usually go heavier with cannabis on those days. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t miss the relief of my pain cocktail. However, my plant medicine remains a constant source of respite for me. And, I get to eat fewer pills. Do I “Smoke Weed Everyday?” – Yes, yes I do. Will I continue on, even after my ten-year sentence with Letrozole? – Yes, yes I will. I strongly stand behind adult recreational and medicinal use of cannabis. I know how it has helped me in my own life and feel that the least I can do for our community is to share my experience, my own findings. I will forever advocate for cannabis. I’m a product of the nineties and I follow the mantra given by Sublime, “I smoke two joints, before I smoke two joints, and then I smoke two more.”
In order of appearance
Trichome: A small hair-like, mushroom-shaped outgrowth from the plant’s epidermis; seen well under a loupe; medicinal quality cannabis plant’s usually contain ripened trichomes, starting as clear and harvesting once mostly cloudy with a bit of amber-color; the majority of the plant’s cannabinoids are found in it’s trichomes
Resin: The sticky substance produced inside trichomes, as well as inside little pockets, at the innermost point of the flower; a natural plant secretion containing much of the cannabinoid count
Cannabinoids: Chemicals that cause anti-inflammatory, analgesic, psychoactive, relieving effects; connect to the many endocannabinoid receptors within the human body anatomy
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): The primary psychoactive cannabinoid compound extracted
CBD: Cannabidol, a cannabinoid compound known to treat seizure disorders, alleviate pain and anxieties, and creates a relaxing effect
CBN: Cannabinol, a cannabinoid compound commonly used for sedation; binds itself to CB1 endocannabinoid receptors, like THC, but at a much lower strength
CBG: Cannabigerol, a cannabinoid compound often referred to as “The Mother of All Cannabinoids,” because all cannabinoids are derived from its acidic form: cannabigerolic acid (CBGA)
Seshie: Short for “session,” the communal act of smoking cannabis
The Man: Slang term used to describe figures of authority, including members of government; “he ruined the ozone, he’s burning down the Amazon, and he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank,” see also: Ms. Mullins
Medical Cannabis Card: A state-issued identification card that allows a patient to obtain medicinal cannabis, under physician agreeance
National Cancer Institute. “Dictionary of Cancer Terms.” National Cancer Institute of Health, 2023, https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/cannabinoidAccessed 16 04 2023.
National Institute of Health. “Cannabinoid Content in Cannabis Flowers.” National Library of Medicine, 8 2 2023, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33998894/. Accessed 16 4 2023.
“NCBI Bookshelf.” National Institute of Health (.gov), 2023, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK563174/#:~:text=Delta%2D9%2Dtetrahydrocannabinol%20(THC,in%20exploring%20its%20medical%20utility Accessed 16 04 2023.
Quotes.net. “Dewey Finn Quote.” Quotes, https://www.quotes.net/mquote/83023.