When I was in high school I hung out with a group of people that, let’s just say, didn't shy away from smoking some weed. I, however, didn't want anything to do with it. I didn't like the smell or the idea of getting high. There is no real reason why I thought that but I just felt like it was not for me. As the years went by, specifically in the last five years, more and more information has surfaced regarding how it can help medical conditions which opened my mind, and lightened my view on marijuana.
When I was given a stage 4 cancer diagnosis I felt completely out of control. I frantically started seeking out alternative and complimentary things I could do to help heal. Improving my diet was the first thing to come to mind, even though for the most part I eat pretty well. The information about the types of alternative therapies is very overwhelming! There are so many different options. A friend brought to my attention marijuana to help with the side effects from the treatments I would be getting; nausea, lack of appetite, troubles sleeping and even the anxiety that goes along with a cancer diagnosis. There was also a possibility of using it as a treatment as well, as there are some beginning studies that show the promise of the oil acting to reduce tumours. As soon as I started reading more about it I deeply felt this was the option for me. Again, and I am sure I will say this a million times, I have a great support team and as soon as I said the word that I wanted to try cannabis my girls jumped into action and helped me get information. They found out what paper work I needed and helped me fill out a ton of forms. I don't think my friend Megan will ever let me live down that I asked her to help me fill out 10 pages of information and it turned out to be 10 pdf’s that equaled about 30 pages! Really though, as if she didn't want to spend the afternoon with and find out way too much personal information about me! We contacted Medi-Green in Perth, they helped with every step, getting me information and setting up appointments.
I want to be very clear that the rest of this post is how it helped me, my experience and in no way am I giving medical advice.
During one of my first oncology appointments I brought up that, in combination with my "traditional" treatment of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery I would also like to take cannabis as well. Even though my oncologist does not prescribe cannabis he was very open to me taking it. He openly said that he has not researched it himself and really didn't have an opinion on how it works but assured me that it would not poorly interact with what he planned unlike some alternative therapies. He also felt that having me feel in control of a part of my treatment would, on its own, be beneficial. In consultation with my Dr. I agreed completely with the treatment plan he laid out for me and also trusted that he had my best interest in the forefront of his mind. He also assured me that he would be honest every step of the way, and if there was ever a time that my treatment changed from curing me, to maintaining my quality of life he would clearly let me know. The following week I started a very aggressive chemotherapy. My doctor asked if I could do one round without the cannabis. Then he would have a bench mark of how I handled the treatment on my own. I was so nauseous within a half an hour of starting the 4 plus hour outpatient chemotherapy. I was given a steroid to help settle the nausea but it didn't touch it. I came home with a low dose chemo pump on for an additional 48 hours. That first night I was so sick. I was up multiple times throwing up. I couldn't eat and could barely drink even water. The next day I called my doctor and he had me come back into the hospital for hydration so I didn't get too depleted. The rest of the week, even after the pump was removed, the side effects were still a lot to deal with. Fatigue, nausea and a complete brain fog made it hard to even think. Worst hangover ever! Round two I had the vaporizer and my oil was on order. I couldn't believe the difference! I had two different strains of cannabis, a THC strain to help with nausea and sleeping and a CBD strain that helped with pain and ease my sore muscles. You can't use the vaporizer in the hospital but as soon as I got home I used it and it calmed everything immediately. I was so thankful because throwing up is the absolute worst thing to me and the fact that, if I had a wave of queasiness, I could take a couple puffs of the vaporizer and it took it away was amazing.
My oil came a day or two later and I started it orally in a very small amount. Now l had no tolerance what so ever! I did have a day where felt high but compared to the brain fog the chemo gave me I would much rather be high. I think it was day two of taking the oil where it hit me a little more and I just had a day where everything was so funny for no reason. I remember having dinner with the kids and Daryn was telling me about his day and I couldn't help but laugh, a lot, and then I couldn't stop. It was the typical power laughing stereotype. The more I tried to stop the harder I would laugh, then the kids started laughing at me. Daryn blurted out "wow mom I didn't realized you thought I was so funny!" I mean, I do find Daryn hilarious, but in this instance I think it was more the oil then his funny story. When I went in for my follow up from my second round I did tell my doctor how much it had help with the side effects. The only nagging issue was cramping in my stomach. He wanted to give me a CT to see what was going on. He made sure to tell me that even though they would be able to see the spots of cancer they had found, after two rounds of chemo it was way too early to see any effect it would have. The CT showed that I had colitis which was inflammation of my bowel. This is a side effect of the type of chemo I had. He decided to give me extra time to heal before doing another round. His face lite up after that and he said "I also see on the scan that there is noticeable shrinkage to the tumors"!! I couldn't believe it, the usual number of chemo treatments it takes to see a result is 4-6. My friend Tamara had been with me all day and we were both just so so happy. My nurses were coming in and giving me hugs which just confirmed to me how awesome this was. After having a bit of a break, treatment day for round three came and I had been taking the cannabis oil for 3 full weeks. I had switch my way of taking it to suppository for a couple reasons, first it totally stops any head high I was getting, even though I was a source of humour for family and friends it was not practical, and secondly, by giving it as a suppository it was exactly where my main tumor was so it would be a topical application as well. They altered the dose of chemo round three a little because of how hard it was on my system but the difference with me taking the oil was unbelievable! Even though I still had the motion sick feeling the whole time I was getting chemo as soon it was done the nausea was gone, I ate on the way home and I slept through the night. One of the other side effect I had, whether from chemo or the steroids I had to take, was a raised heart rate and a difficult time sleeping while I had the pump on. Because I slept so well after my third round of chemo with the oil, the fatigue I experienced with the other rounds was considerable less and the fogginess was hardly there.
I did a 3 month cycle of a high dose cannabis oil as an alternative therapy and used the leaf form to vaporize for side effect relief. I also use the cannabis oil in the hospitals after my surgeries as well for pain relief and vaporized the CBD strain for pain control when I got home. My first surgery was my liver resection and I had morphine for pain relief and it made me so sick that I couldn't keep anything down. I switch to my cannabis oil and when I was release from the hospital was not on any other pain medications. The second surgery was my colon resection and I opted out of taking any pain medication but took my cannabis orally for pain control and to help me sleep. I tapered off taking it after that surgery because I could not take the suppositories until my colon healed. I still took a very low dose at night to help sleep because I was so uncomfortable. The last surgery was on my left lung. I bounced back very well even though this was supposed to be a very painful surgery. I left the hospital after 2 days and was grateful that I could be home where I was more comfortable and can sleep. I was getting stiff muscles and some muscle cramping about 5 days after surgery because most of my muscles had been cut through. I used the CBD in my vaporizer to calm and relax them and it worked great.
I have one more surgery to go for my right lung and hopefully flip my ileostomy back. Every surgery has been so different so I go in with an open mind and I don’t assume it will be easy. I know they all have their own challenges but I will have my cannabis along with me.
At this point, and after reading some others criticise KGH, I have to say the hospital has never had a problem with me using my cannabis oil! I brought the bottle with all the information on it to my pre-surgical screening. They charted how much I took and what times. I self administered it in the hospital making sure I told the nurse what times I took it so they could keep track. I even had the head of the pain management department spend a few hours talking to me about my experiences with it. She was very interested in learning more about it. I will be doing a lower dose of chemotherapy after my last surgery. I'm not completely sure at this point for how long. My plan is to do another high dose 3 month cycle of the cannabis oil in combination with my chemo. There is no medical testing that has been done on me to see what the cannabis is or isn't doing but all I know is that I am not on any other medication and my doctors are very happy with how fast I have healed and how well I am dealing with all of the major steps that have been taken. I am grateful everyday with how well this journey has been going so far and I do believe that for me the cannabis leaf and oil have helped every step of the way.
* please note my stoma and ileostomy pics included
My treatment for my colorectal cancer has been many steps but the one step that gave me the most anxiety is being told that I would have to have an ostomy. The location of the tumor was very low in my system and the possibility of not being able to reattach my colon was very real. My doctor, who is top in his field, reassured me he would do everything he could to put me "back together". Let me back track a bit to what an ostomy is. Depending on where the colon has to be resected depends if there is a need for a temporary or permanent ostomy. The two options that were considered for me was a temporary loop ileostomy which is a small amount of the small intestine pushed through an opening in the abdominal muscles on the right side near my belly button or a colostomy which is pushing the end of the colon through the abdominal muscles on the left side near my belly button. (Hot and sexy right???) Where the majority of my anxiety came from was not knowing until I woke up from surgery what it would be. This was because of many factors, how low my tumor was, if there was too much scar tissue from the radiation treatments I had, the amount the tumor shrunk because of the radiation and if they would have to cut into any of the muscles. Facing a complete life change that I could have forever was overwhelming. I had no control or choice about it and had to completely trust in my doctors and their abilities. I prayed and meditated that I could handle what was going to be given to me and also warned everyone around me that a complete breakdown was a possibility! I had an appointment with my stoma (a stoma is the small part of the intestine that pokes through) nurse a week before my surgery where she mapped out where the incisions would be for my ostomy. One X on the right and one X on the left depending on what was found during surgery. I had to look at the marks for a week knowing it would be one or the other, talk about a friggin' mind trip!!! "Just tell me which one it is going to be so I can wrap my head around it" constantly rolled around in my head! I tried to learn as much as possible without Googling too much and scare the crap out of myself. I found a great blog and YouTuber's that had great advise to live with and deal with an ostomy. Surgery day came and I nervously walked into the OR with that ridiculous gown they make you wear. The door opened and Lady Gaga was being played in the operating room. I asked one of the nurses who the Lady Gaga fan was. My doctor wasn't in the room yet but she said it was him. Seriously?? I thought, I actually thought she was kidding but when he came in I asked him and he loved her! He wanted to know what music I listen to and I told him I am an alternative 90's girl all the way. Then he had me pick a song to play so that when I went under I could hear it. I asked for Foo Fighters - Best Of You and he had one of the nurses pull it up right away. This guy is a little odd and I love it!! He made me feel completely at ease and I am sure I was smiling when I went out. This was such a relief after a very stressful couple of weeks. As I woke up and reality set in, I nervously realized "holy shit this is it!" Before anyone came in to see me I slowly felt over my stomach and it was on the right!! It was temporary! My doctor did what he promised and even took into consideration that my incision look as neat and tidy as possible. I was so happy and felt a huge weight taken off my shoulders. I felt like this was where my cancer started and it was now gone. This was the big one and I could turn a corner to the up swing hopefully to this battle. Having an ileostomy bag for the first couple weeks was definitely a learning curve and I had days where I was so frustrated and thought I couldn't deal with it but it has become very manageable and something I don't often have too much concern over. I lovingly refer to my stoma as Nubbins and even though she can be a little bitchy sometimes when getting her bag changed she is usually pretty good and I am learning more and more how to deal with her. It's amazing medically what they can do and crazy how something so different can very quickly become normal. I might be saying good bye to Nubbins in a couple weeks and have to relearn a new "normal" but I am really glad I had her. She saved my life really :) In the midst of my stress my friend Sarah reminded me "At the start of this journey when you were diagnosed and things seemed very grim if someone in that moment said "I can save your life but you will have to have this bag" what would you do?" I stopped in that moment of self pity and thought perspective!!! " I would take it in a second".
F bombs included!
There have been stretches of time over the last 8 months that I haven't felt good and boredom quickly sets in. YouTube and funny videos have been an easy past time. My friend Paul will come over and we have had "video offs" where we will cast the funny videos we have come across and laugh at the stupidity of our twisted sense of humor. This is one of the videos he played for me one day and it has become the funniest coping mechanisms for all the shit I have had to deal with. It could seriously help with anyone's crappy situation. It also explains what a chicken accents is. The amount of times my friend Becca and I have talked to each other in chicken accents after I showed her this clip is board line insane lol. Please enjoy and let me know if you use it in your own life!! "Nice little chunk of change"
When your world gets turned upside down and everything you know and every way you do things just doesn't work anymore you have to adapt real fast!! I was always on the go, I ran a business, was starting another one, was parent council president, coached soccer, took up pottery, tennis, spent time with my kids and was always up for a night out or party! I loved all of it but there were lots of times that I would say yes to going somewhere, doing something or adding additional obligations to an already busy schedule. The months leading up to my diagnosis I was pushing myself so hard to just make it through all of my commitments. The fatigue of the unknown cancer had crept in to the point where I wasn't making it through the day. I was sitting at a doctor's appointment in tears telling them there is something majorly wrong, I didn't know what but I knew something. I was beyond exhausted. When life changes in seconds you have to learn the lessons that are being presented to you because they are there if you allow yourself to see them. The first big lesson was to say NO. No to my clients, fundraising events, meetings, friends, kids, everyone. I just couldn't do it. I actually had a fear of putting a stop to almost everything going on and turning the attention to me. Again with the support of the amazing women in my life they reassured me that there was no other option. I had to look after all of my needs first if I was going to fight what was ahead. I needed my sleep, to eat, be happy, feel relaxed, be honest in how I felt, and not push myself. I have never in my adult life put me as first priority and after doing that for the last 8 months I look back and think "WHAT THE FUCK WAS I THINKING!!" Why have I not looked after myself and waited till this to do it. I mean at the beginning it was so foreign to say no but now I am like a pro! I know when schedules go back to normal and I go back to work there will be times I will have to again push myself through and say yes when I would rather say no but it will not be like before. I will make time for myself because I am a way better person because of it. I have had to say no on every level to my kids for days at a time. I have had days where just getting out of bed wasn't an option. I relied on them to get me something to eat, be quiet for the entire day and not even have them come in to my room and talk to me. And you know what, nothing bad has happen, actually the opposite. Daryn has come home from school and asked me what he can do to help, Sydney winterised the car and had it repaired with the help of my dad. They have stepped up in so many ways and are doing great because of it. The time we spend together is more enjoyable even if for that day its only 15 minutes. I am truly learning that listening to my body and assessing how I feel and what I can and can't do means I am in a better place. As health increases there will be more to do but I have made a promise to myself that I don't have to impress anyone, Giving a burnt out version of Amy is not worth it to anyone involved anyways. I can see times in my life where I should have said no and would have been better because of it. So if you are feeling at the end of your rope and it's just getting to be too much try saying no. Make some "you time" and don't feel bad for one second because the love you give will be that much more when you love yourself first!!!
Today was Bell Let's Talk day in Canada who's initiative is to began a new conversation about Canada’s mental health. To reach out and engaged in an open discussion about mental illness, offering new ideas and hope for those who struggle. Just by fluke last week I invited a couple friends over for sushi not really paying attention to the day and then earlier this week got invited to another friends for lunch today as well. So as it ended up I talked and talked all day. Not about mental health but about so many other things. It got me to thinking that having people in our lives to talk to is so important!! Don't get me wrong I love my alone time too and will have an hour long bath just so no one will talk to me in my house, but knowing that if I need to talk about anything I have friends there for me. I also realised the importance to talking to friends and acquaintances of all levels of closeness and how different those conversations can be and how they can add to your life. I also want to add that when I referring to talking I mean the back and forth conversation of talking and listening, not just me rambling on to people but I am sure I do that too some days. I have friends that know way too much about me, I am sure they know me more then I know myself. I tell them everything, in detail, to the point they might just be thinking please just stop what is coming out of your mouth!! I have friends that I know when we sit together we are almost exploring looking for another point of view from each other where we can leave thinking I have never thought of it that way before. I also have people that I, and I know this will be a surprising to some, just listen. One of my favourite things is to listen to someone who has a complete opposite opinion than me and ask how they got to that opinion. It's amazing to me when I can see why they think that way. I usually don't agree with them but that's ok because my opinion is form through that path I am walking. I try when I am down to reach out to my friends and sometimes just talk about absolutely nothing, and I mean pointless stupid stuff that makes us laugh and really makes no sense but I feel better at the end. So if you need to talk about mental health please do so or if you can't maybe just talk and see where it takes you!!
I am not sure how I lucked out this much but I have these two people that I hang out with that are pretty friggin awesome! Oh yeah I also made them! These two weirdos make me laugh so hard sometimes I literally can't breath. My daughter Sydney who just turned 18 has become this beautiful adult before my eyes. I am amazed that I got through the high school teenage girl years without killing her and she liked me most of the time. As my role in her life is changing from full on mom to someone to give advice and guidance we are developing such a great friendship. Daryn will be 12 this spring and is one of the most unique, corky, kind people I know. His ability to know what to say to put a smile on my face is uncanny. I have leaned on both of them for comfort and support and they have never once let me down. Even though as I type they are driving each other crazy and screaming like lunatics I still could not have imagine going through all of the treatments and surgeries without their help. The lessons they have learned I am hoping contribute to the cool adults I know they are going to be. To love someone through the good is one thing but to love someone through the hard times is something completely different and my kids have stepped up and held my hand through everything so far. They are the first faces I see when I wake up from surgery and the looks on their faces when they walk into recovery and make eye contact with me is pure love in every sense of the word. I have been totally open and honest with them about everything and they have had the fear of a fate unknown as much as I have, especially at the beginning, and they have handled it better then I ever imagined. Happiness is key to fighting back against cancer and Sydney and Daryn have given me that a 1000 over. Awesome kids are the best!!!
I kinda kick myself for not starting this months ago, but I am here now and that's what matters!! It's actually a very cool day to begin because as I am typing I am watching the CBC coverage of the Woman's March in Washington and around the world. So as I watch woman stand up for one another it inspires me to share the wonderful women in my life and how they have lifted me up, showed me how to love and what love really means!! Friendships to me are so important! I have always looked to my girl friends for guidance, laughter, comfort and to go along with my crazy ideas when we all knew they were probably not the best ideas. They are just as bad an influence on me as I am them. When they bring me that shot of tequila when they know damn well it will tip me over the edge and then drag my ass to the car so I get home safe and sound. When I call them in tears over whatever and they are at my door with a bottle of Bailey's. Watching them ban together the moment I found out that I had cancer without even a second thought. I was told on a Monday I had cancer, had no clue what stage yet, and within an hour of me getting home 3 of my friends were there sitting with me, holding me and crying with me. They have slept in hospital chairs, made sure I have food in my fridge, clean my house and keep me in line when I cop attitude. The most important thing they have done though is make me laugh. When you think of a woman in her 30's (late) getting cancer colorectal cancer is not the one that usually comes to mind. The amount of inappropriate jokes that can go along with that diagnosis is unbelievable. Anything to do with ass, shit and butt just naturally fits into funny comments and conversations. I have been lovingly tagged by myself and friends as the literal pain in the ass. After that Monday my core group of 6 close girl friends, my mom, sister, daughter and my poor poor son and dad made up Amy's Ass Army. As well as other close friends who have stood by me no matter how low I've been or how weird it's gotten, and believe me when I say it has gotten weird. As this blog goes on I am sure you will meet all of them and how great my community and support is! I truly believe that the strong amazing women in my life have been the game changer in what could have been a way scarier obstacle!