A couple of months ago, a neighbour told me her 86 year-old mother who suffered chronic back pain was now on medical marijuana. Intrigued, I asked, “Is it helping?” “Well, it may not do anything about the pain, but I don't think she cares about it any more.”
TNot exactly encouraging. I have always felt that if I lose my zest for life and clarity of thought, I would have lost the whole purpose of life. No way do I want to wander in a soma-like buzz. Brave New World, my foot – or rather back. But, what the hell, I could at least give it a try.
Marijuana has been so fringe and medical marijuana is so new here in Canada, that I had no idea what to expect. I started, nervously, with my family doctor. To my surprise, she didn't turn a hair – but she had no idea how to go about it.
Bill, in an inspired moment, had googled marijuana and veterans. Up came Marijuana for Trauma, a centre run for veterans for veterans. Not only do they also take civilians, but they were in the next office to my doctor!
They shepherded me through the process. I needed a written diagnosis from my GP and a copy of my prescriptions, so the prescribing physician could check me out. Two weeks later, I was back in their office for a skype-type interview with their doctor.
He was discouraging. “I don't think it will help you.” His manner was brusque and he never made eye contact. It felt like the pain clinic version of a back street abortion.
How would I take it? Nervously, because by now I felt illicit, I said I didn't want to smoke it.
“Why not? What's wrong with your lungs?”
“Nothing. And I don't want there to be.” Surely he didn't want me to smoke?
“What you want is neither here nor there!” But he did concede there was CDB oil, which doesn't get you high and does help pain. I was to start at .25 ml twice a day and titrate up every three days.
I took my first sublingual dose of .25 ml at 3.00 on a Tuesday afternoon. By 4.00, I could still feel the pain, boring away, but it seem detached; I didn't seem to mind. By 4.30, it was gone. I was pain-free for the first time in years. And it didn't wear off till Wednesday afternoon! Much longer than expected. I went over to help Bill set up for a talk he was giving and stood for a long time chatting as people arrived, something I could never normally do.
Thursday, I was active all day, sitting and shopping. Way more than I could normally do. Friday, unfortunately, it affected my stomach and I was doubled up with cramps. These continued through the weekend, starting like clockwork three hours after taking a dose. I carried on trying just one low dose a day. It was heartbreaking to have glimpsed freedom only to see it vanish.
A week later, I stopped taking any marijuana and was surprised that the pain didn't return for three days! My stomach slowly settled. For any of you who are thinking of trying marijuana, don't be put off. My stomach is badly damaged from 25 years of undiagnosed celiac disease and it gets thrown very easily.
Serendipity: my chiropractor put me in touch with a friend who had successfully navigated colon cancer, three surgeries and chemo without painkillers, only medical marijuana. Amy explained that she made up suppositories. That way, she bypassed the liver and had no psychoactive effects. There was a good chance I could bypass the gastric effects.
Now I am on a very low dose .4 ml suppository once a day, which keeps me largely pain-free. The temptation is to do too much! For breakthrough pain, I use a canbabis cream that one of the vets kindly made up for me. It is messy, so I cover it with a non-absorbent pad – I want the canbabis soaking into me, not a gauze pad. The best ones I find, are Equate Non-stick Gauze Pads from Wal-Mart.
The next step, when I have been stable on this dose for a month, will be to reduce my meds.