I never touched marijuana. That all changed at 34 years old when I was diagnosed with cancer. Cannabis helped me power through my aggressive chemotherapy regimen with as little side effects as possible, but it took some convincing to get me there. Now it’s my turn to do the convincing.
Let me start by saying I live in California where it’s legal and easily accessible (delivery services, dispensaries) so there were no legal issue for me. There are only 4 states where cannabis is still illegal - even for medical use – please be mindful of this.
When my treatment started, I was not open to cannabis. I knew I wasn’t going to be feeling my best, but chose to rely on the pain and anti-nausea medications prescribed to me. Unfortunately, those meds brought side effects that were just as harsh as the pain and discomfort (like constipation, drowsiness, and being on meds indefinitely - which I didn’t want to do). Instead of chasing pain or substituting one discomfort for another, I wanted to be prepared and at ease.
A friend who had been through cancer suggested tinctures to help ease the side effects of my treatment. Tinctures are concentrated liquid extract in a glass bottle administered by a dropper. I’ll admit I was a little afraid of using marijuana as I had never touched it before. But when my chemo nurse independently suggested I lean on cannabis for fast, natural relief I hesitantly went for it.
It was instant relief. And importantly, I never felt “high” or out of it. I kept my doses small and frequent and my nausea and pain was kept at bay during my year of chemo! Yes – I did one of the harshest chemotherapy regimens out there for a year and a half and I never vomited! With my nausea calmed, my appetite returned and I was able to maintain my weight and tolerate nutritious meals.
I also noticed that I was sleeping better. Sleep is so, so critical during cancer treatment- but sometimes the meds, or just feeling awful keeps us up at night. I learned about the benefits of a strain of cannabis called CBN and its powerful, natural effect on sleep. Again - not wanting to smoke anything, I got edibles which look like gummy candies. I bought some that helped sleep, and again started slow because I didn’t want to feel strange or hungover. To my surprise I felt neither. I soundly slept through the night for the first time in weeks. They worked like a charm. I’d wake rested, never feeling “high” - and I didn’t have to look to hardcore sleep meds like Ambien (something I had never tried) or even over-the-counter stuff which always made me feel groggy.
Tips for taking:
I have gifted some to friends in treatment (also non-marijuana users) and they could not believe the massive difference it made for them.
My favorite products are:
Note there are several strengths. The higher the CBD and the lower the THC the weaker it is. If you find yourself dosing often with 8:1 try moving to 4:1 less frequently. A bit of trial and error here.
Cannabis products were key in my treatment plan - they curbed my nausea, kept me sleeping, kept my weight stable and overall - feeling as good as I could.
There most common cancer treatment side effects that cannabis can alleviate are:
· Sleep issues
· Body aches and soreness
It’s important to note that cannabis is not wholly approved by the FDA for the treatment of cancer-related symptoms or side effects of cancer therapy - but two cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone) are approved by the FDA for the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in patients who have not responded to antiemetic therapy.
Cannabis is not for everyone, I never thought it would be for me - but I feel very passionately about the difference it made in my healing and ability to complete my treatment. It’s an inexpensive, natural, proven way to feel better. I’m so grateful I gave it a chance.
Always discuss anything you are thinking of what taking with your doctor.
Here’s information from the American Cancer Society on Marijuana and Cancer.