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! – I’m Kimber Harris. I am a Stage IIIA Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and Ductal Carcinoma in-situ survivor. I was diagnosed 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 Patient Advisory Committee. I am an advocate for people and plant medicine. This is the beginning of Elephants and Tea’s “Cannabis Column with Kimber.” I will be sharing my own experiences with this glorious plant through a series of articles and more.
Like most 90’s D.A.R.E. kids, our town’s “Officer Friendly” taught me that “Marijuana is bad,” Mmmkay. I never wanted to get in trouble, so I stayed on the straight path until my teen years. I began to rebel against the conforming societal norms I was raised within. I became bored and curious, a typical teenage combo.
My mom and grandparents humbly raised me in a small town in Middle America. I spent most of my time with my lifelong bestie, Bubs, and we never had much supervision. The adults were usually working, or doing their own things, so we were often left to our own devices. We were latch-key kids and my house was the hub, the chill spot, the gathering place for the rest of our latch-key friends. Calm down, it was the 90s.
One July afternoon in 1990-something, a dear friend who has since entered the Spirit World got a dime bag from his older brother. He rode his Dyno GT nine miles to my house, where Bubs and I were. I had never smoked before. He made me a cozy pillow fort in my tub, in the bathroom connected to my room. I watched him pull out a baggie with two fat nugs of flower. He broke it up on the counter and packed a bowl made out of nuts and bolts and other hardware pieces. He passed it to Bubs, then me. He lit the lighter for me and I took a hit.
My first pull was smooth, warm and tasted sweet and piney. The smell was strong and lovely. We hotboxed my bathroom that afternoon. My friend was the most hilarious person. He had an innate, contagious sense of humor and constantly brought me to tears through laughter on any regular day. This time was different. It was magical. I laughed harder than I had ever laughed before. I had never experienced this level of euphoria. I was high.
Thinking about my first encounter with this glorious plant always brings me back to that carefree summer day. We rollerbladed and listened to the new Nas album. I remember feeling as if I’d never felt so free of all my anxieties and worries…everything looked more beautiful; regular foods were suddenly more delicious; song lyrics had deeper meanings. For a short while, instead of feeling the heaviness of adult-level responsibilities as a teenager, I was happy, lighter and wanted to stay in my newfound nirvana.
So I did. I’ve smoked or ingested cannabis, habitually and recreationally, ever since. Consider me a Stoner. However, I do not buy into the Hollywood cliché.
I am educated, accomplished, happy, and living my truth. Knowing how this plant and its medicinal properties have positively affected my own ailments, has led me to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with cannabis. What is wrong is the lies we’ve been taught about this valiant plant. Thankfully, there is ongoing research which continues to discredit the previous fake news we’ve been taught.
Currently, my relationship with cannabis is much different than it was as a teenager. In fact, it is much deeper. The use of cannabis has been pertinent to my overall well-being since I continue to suffer from post-chemo side effects, involving hunger cues.
I, like many other cancer survivors, struggle with feeling hungry. If I don’t consume cannabis at least three times a day, I cavalierly go long periods without eating before noticing. This is undoubtedly detrimental to my health. When I’m out of my plant medicine, I stumble into accidental anorexia. This has happened more times than I care to admit. I have forced myself to physically and painfully gag down food or chug a smoothie to combat my malnourishment. I have found that force-feeding myself when I’m absolutely not interested in food is torturous.
My PCP said that it’s preferable for me to use cannabis to stimulate my appetite than it would be to add another pharmaceutical medication to my routine. We both fully agree on this matter. I am very grateful that my state’s laws and my care team agree that cannabis is a helpful addition to my treatment plan.
As a long-time cannabis user, I’m no novice to its benefits. I love and appreciate this plant for so many reasons. I no longer ingest my medicine just to laugh, have fun, relax, or work on my art. I actually need it throughout the day. I use it to stimulate appetite, alleviate daily nausea, and treat headaches, GI issues, insomnia, and the horrible side effects I experience from my many medications. Every time, for all occasions, cannabis has worked for me.
In addition to coaxing an appetite, cannabis has given me the ability to walk and move about my home freely, not constrained to one spot due to joint stiffness and chronic pain. It calms my spirit and clears my mind. It helps redirect my focus. Cannabis decreases my agitation and grants me greater patience. It lessens the numb, buzzing pains in my hands caused by neuropathy as well as decreases inflammation throughout my body. Cannabis permits me to complete day-to-day tasks that are now challenging without its use. It is my body’s respite after physical exertion. Cannabis also helps me fall asleep, alleviates my night pains, and allows me to feel rested in the morning.
I still relish all the qualities that pulled me in, pre-cancer. The same characteristics that I fell in love with are still there: bliss, hilarity, freeness. Those lighthearted attributes along with its medicinal properties are what I need daily.
Recognizing this, I’ve incorporated stress-reducing rituals with cannabis into my meditation practices. This inclusion has proven extremely beneficial for my mental health. I strongly believe cannabis allows me to experience the most peace and serenity, which grants more space for trauma healing.
I love that boutique-style plant medicine is also becoming more accessible. We’ve come a long way from buying a bag of “shwag” from a slightly sketchy human who is often late, to purchasing professionally cultivated flower, edibles, and extracts in a clean, tech-savvy store with touchscreen menu kiosks and knowledgeable “budtenders,” a fun term for specially trained cannabis sales associates. Budtenders typically go through weeks of industry training, involving product knowledge, the human endocannabinoid system, terpene profiles, how to suggest the right product for the right person, and staying up-to-date with state laws.
Strictly for reference, my medical dispensary’s ambiance and technology resembles that of an Apple store with the scent of the Heavens. Like many of my fellow medicinal patients, I seek out strains that have terpene profiles that appeal to the symptoms I experience. I know which subtypes of CBD are helpful for me. I love a nice THC/CBD/CBG/CBN edible for nighttime since I have trouble sleeping, recurrent nightmares, and tend to wake from pain without it.
My favorite local dispensary, or “dispo” for short, carries all of the tools one would need to get started. A local artist blows beautiful glass pieces in varying forms: bowls, bubblers, bongs, sherlock pipes, hitters, rigs, and so much more.
My dispo is very philanthropic, which is also important to me, as I strongly believe that we vote with our wallets. They proudly promote local minority cultivators and women-owned businesses. My dispensary is a licensed vendor for a very well-known company that donates a percentage of its pink rolling papers and t-shirt sales to breast cancer research. As a breast cancer survivor and proud medical cannabis card holder, I love it, and I’m here for all of it!
I am delighted that industry leaders continue to represent a previously underground community in such a positive light. Philanthropy, the ideal of equity, and the stereotypical mantra to just “be cool” are fundamental to the cannabis industry’s suppliers and consumers, whether that person is a recreational user or medicinal patient. These are My People. Currently, I drive one town over to my medical dispensary. However, soon I won’t have to, as my town is looking into welcoming two shops. This is directly related to broader acceptance of cannabis and grassroots movements in my area, and across the United States.
Ubiquitous respect for my favorite plant continues to spread throughout our culture. Our zeitgeist has become inundated with the broadening of cannabis education. Accessible knowledge involving types of cultivation, strain-specific terpenes, varying methods of consumption and extraction, continual cannabinoids and our body’s endocannabinoid system research is ongoing and readily available. National colleges and universities have begun to offer programs in cannabis studies from the horticulture side to business and consumerism. I’ve looked into several programs for myself.
I enjoy following and supporting groups like MPP.org and Norml.org, since my beliefs and experiences align with their missions to break down misinformation and introduce pro-cannabis legislation bills into states that currently don’t have pro-cannabis laws.
I strongly and proudly believe that cannabis is beneficial to my overall health and quality of life. I will continue to follow the mantra of the wise Nathaniel Dwayne Hale, who once said, “Smoke weed every day.”
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Great article, Kimber! As a person who lives in a state where marijuana is still illegal, I really hope you and others like you can change the tides and get this product to be legal for both recreational and medicinal use. I totally agree with you that marijuana can help, like actual help, so many people. So many legislators don’t understand marijuana and give the drug a bad rap, but just like what you described, it truly benefits so many people.
Kimber, thank you for writing this important article. After witnessing the effect of chronic pain and other issues related to chemotherapy, surgeries, and radiation on my son – I have come to value the option of medical marijuana. I wish all folks had the right the choose and use. Is there some recommendations for caregivers (particularly those who are unfamiliar with medical marijuana), to help them understand the positive impact the drug has for cancer patients?
I also wish there was some way to get legislators to appreciate what people like you and others are going through, and why it is a useful alternative to dealing with the many excruciating cancer treatments on patients.