By Ellen Lenox Smith, Columnist
My husband and I have been licensed medical marijuana caregivers in the state of Rhode Island for over five years. Our lives have been touched by the many people who have been sent our way by doctors for education about medical marijuana. Some of the people below are either our present or past patients, along with some from other states we met and have kept in touch with.
We hope their stories will help you gain the courage to give this safe, non-invasive pain medication a try.
Bob - Paraplegic
Bob arrived at our house in his handicap equipped van and we met him in the driveway. It was difficult to understand Bob’s speech at first due to his intense level of pain. He seemed overwhelmed and lost.
The doctor who saved Bob’s life when he fell off a roof and was impaled and paralyzed, warned him when he awoke from surgery that he would experience intense pain for the rest of his life.
However, things changed when Bob tried medical marijuana. He vaporized marijuana right there in the driveway, proceeded to tell us that he felt no change, and before he knew it was having a conversation with us. At times, the effects of marijuana are so gentle you don’t realize what is changing.
Bob became an advocate for medical marijuana and almost daily would call on the phone to make sure we were doing okay. He became a gentleman that was able to share, care and feel again.
Bob has since passed and is missed, but we know that his dignity was restored by cannabis relieving his pain. Vaporizing medical marijuana allowed Bob to have a peaceful ending.
Scott -- Multiple Sclerosis
42-year old Scott, who has a severe case of multiple sclerosis, told me that turning to medical marijuana saved his life. The former customer service representative was thrilled when he found an alternative to using Avonex for his condition. He did not like using the drug because it caused flu like symptoms and a high fever.
By smoking cannabis, Scott is able to control his pain and is thrilled how he is able to move his stiff legs. He also says it relieves his neuropathic pain too.
School Teacher - Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
An elementary school teacher, who asked that we not use her name, was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). She was not sleeping and had a terrible time functioning in her job. Then she decided to try medical marijuana. She began taking an indica oil at night before going to bed and a sativa tincture during the day after work. Just 10 minutes after each dose, her pain levels are diminished or completely relieved.
She finds the night time dose carries into the following day, but doesn't hinder her either mentally or physically. It allows her to function and be the teacher she was before --- vibrant and focused.
“Without this gift of oils, I would be in continuous pain 24 hours a day, 365 days out of the year,” she told me. “This does not change who I am. It just changes how I am, functioning and living each day, which should be to its fullest.”
Lori - Spinal Injury
57-year old Lori had been employed as a medical coding technician at a local hospital. In 2007, she had an injury to her spine. Unfortunately, back surgery led to epidural fibrosis. After months of failed alternative treatments and medications, Lori's doctor suggested she try medical marijuana.
She found immense relief using a portable vaporizer (PAX) two to three times a day. Lori no longer has to rely on narcotics for pain relief and her entire lifestyle has changed.
“I have at least half of my life back,” she says. “I am not severely depressed, I get out alone more often, and the pain is there but not ruling my life!”
Stryder - Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Epilepsy
We met 5-year old Stryder at an EDS conference in 2013. A pain clinic doctor got in touch with us after meeting with his mother, Angela.
Our hearts broke to see a gorgeous young man crippled from the joys of life by severe medical issues. Stryder barely noticed us and was not conversing. He was pale and exhausted.
We talked with Angela, gave her a donation of our night indica oil (not made from any high CBD plants) and carefully gave directions on how to use it.
They were sharing a room with a woman, and Angela told us Stryder had driven the woman crazy with the seizures he had during the night. But, after the second night of trying the oil, she asked Angela in the morning what she had done differently. When she told her the truth, the woman was amazed with the changes.
Stryder was a different boy. He was talking and interacting like he hadn’t before. Angela believes this was caused by a combination of sleep and brain rest from the seizures. Stryder was alert, smiling, walking, and even went off to play with other children at the conference.
Today, Angela says Stryder is a legal marijuana patient in his state, takes his oil based medication in a dropper and sometime uses cannabis candy to suck on. He is sleeping better at night and is happier.
Angela advocates for medical marijuana to help others get educated with correct facts. When someone said they were against putting cannabis in candy, here is how she responded:
“Would you rather a child smoke it? The drugs that these kids are put on for seizures are devastating, have a lot of side effects and are addicting,” Angela said. “Children are often told to just suck it up when it comes to pain management and that's just not fair. Stryder's success has been unmatched and I will always be an advocate for something that is natural and less harmful as well as effective.”
Maureen - Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
The day Maureen arrived to our house, we wondered how she even made it driving to us. Her POTS (a syndrome that causes an abnormally high blood pressure and heart rate) was so severe, she was shaky and extremely pale. Her cardiologist had wanted her try marijuana since he had observed other POTS patients get relief from it.
Maureen’s POTS was diagnosed at age 54, where she was working as an ER technician. She chose to use the oil and the tincture as needed, until she was put into an experimental cardiac rehab program and began getting saline infusions. After several months, she found that this helped to keep her blood pressure at a normal level and made her symptoms less severe.
“When you're sick every day for a long period of time, anything that helps is worth it; not just for the physical symptoms but for your mental state as well,” Maureen told me.
Today, at age 57, she no longer has to use marijuana at all. She keeps her symptoms under control with exercise and saline infusions. However, if the need arrives again, Maureen says she wouldn’t hesitate to use marijuana again.
Bonnie - Pudendal Neuralgia and Post-Fusion Pain
At 75, retired college professor Bonnie arrived at our home in severe pain. After much education and consideration, she decided to give medical marijuana a try.
In time, as she gained her confidence, Bonnie found that eating brownies with marijuana, along with taking indica oil at night, provided her relief from unrelenting pain. It also provided some hope, thus improving her outlook on life.
"The only real relief I have had from my pain has been with medical marijuana. My medicine allows me to enjoy life again," Bonnie says.
Elizabeth - Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, EDS and Chiari Malformation
29-year old Elizabeth was sent to us by a pain clinic doctor. This beautiful, terribly thin, and discouraged young lady and her mother arrived at our home and it broke our heart. Elizabeth’s CRSP was so severe on her head that she was no longer able to touch it, let alone consider running a comb or brush through her hair.
Elizabeth was a former piano teacher and a recording artist, struggling to hold onto her career. She clearly wanted to get back control of her life. While in our home, she started to rub our topical on her scalp and we were startled when she said she felt some immediate relief. So began her magical way to help get some quality of her life back.
Elizabeth now administers her medical marijuana in a variety of ways. She eats it with edibles, drinks it, massages her joints with it, vaporizes it, and occasionally smokes it. She enjoys using a Magical Butter machine that it makes potent tinctures and oils, and appreciates the "no heat" option, which she uses to make CannaMilk.
Elizabeth found she requires high doses of THC, because she doesn’t absorb it at a normal rate. As a slow absorber, she doesn't get a big peak in relief, followed by a sharp drop-off. Instead it gives her a pretty consistent relief and doesn’t make her feel “stoned."
With medical marijuana, she feels her muscles are not as rigid. She can relax, sleep better, and can touch areas of her skin that used to be too sensitive to touch.
“It has changed my life for the better,” Elizabeth says.
Melvin - Renal Failure, Degenerative Lumbar Disc, PTSD, Headaches
43-year old Melvin is employed as an agricultural-inspector. We met this very intelligent, kind man at our home a few years ago and hoped that using medical marijuana would provide the relief he needed to be able to function better in life.
Melvin did a lot of research about how to use marijuana, what strains to consider, and in time found the best way for him to administer it was with vaporizing and using extracts.
He found that his PTSD was mostly relieved by using the higher CBD strains. Melvin’s PTSD causes unwanted and uncontrollable visions and thoughts. Marijuana slows them down, without triggering emotional responses. Its’ not a cure for his PTSD, but has made it more manageable.
There are two damaged discs causing nerve pain which radiate down Melvin’s legs – making them feel numb, burning and painful. He alleviates this pain using marijuana strains like Bubble Gum, Lucy and Pineapple Express. Without them, Melvin says his back would be in constant pain and he would have to lie in bed for most of the day. With marijuana, he is a functioning employed worker.
“With a huge help from my caregiver I was able to find the correct THC to CBD ratio that works for my PTSD and disc/nerve degeneration. Medical marijuana is my freedom!” Melvin says.
Bill - Cardiac Issues
We met Bill and his wife, Joan, a few years ago. Despite his failing health, the love and commitment between them was so clear. We hoped that medical marijuana would provide the relief needed to allow Bill dignity with the time left in his life.
A former firefighter for 30 years, Bill was diagnosed with just 20% cardiac output. This caused him severe pain while breathing.
Bill found that administering the marijuana in an oil night and using the tincture during the day gave him relief. He was able to sleep again for more than one or two hours. For the severe pain in the center of his ribcage, due to an unhealed fracture, the topical cream gave Bill relief that lasted for hours.
Bill used this form of medication for about a year and wished he had been able to use it even sooner, so that he could have had a better quality of life.
Sadly, Bill recently passed away at the age of 73.
Diana - Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
53-year old Diana was a national award-winning composer, pianist, singer, violinist, dancer, and actress. She had to turn down a Master's fellowship because of her recurrent back, shoulder, and elbow/wrist pain. Instead, she worked as lab technician.
Cortisone shots and bed rest were the "treatment" for her pain. For five long years, she wore hard braces from her wrists to her elbows, yet also managed to perform lead roles in musicals (with braces hidden beneath costumes).
After she was finally diagnosed with EDS, she turned to medical marijuana two years ago. Now, every night, Diana uses an indica oil. Without it, she would sweat throughout the night profusely. Medical marijuana has also reduced her pain from EDS.
Sally - Stage IV Cancer
Courageous 71-year old Sally has been successfully using medical marijuana for over five years. She began using it after being diagnosed with Stage IV uterine cancer.
Sally has defied all odds by remaining active and engaged in life. She found that using the oil at night gave her much needed quality sleep and lowered her pain. For daytime relief, she found vaporizing controlled her nausea.
“Marijuana has few, if no side effects. It is benign in terms of overall functioning,” she says.
Sally, who was recently told by her doctors that she doesn’t have much time left.
Sally, who was recently told by her doctors that she doesn’t have much time left, is a role model to us all; determined, positive and caring. She touches lives in a positive way and will always be in the hearts of those that have had the honor to know her.
These are just a few of the amazing success stories that I have experienced with patients using medical marijuana. Most people that try marijuana are able to find relief from the different conditions they are striving to live a better life with.
We look forward to the future when more research is allowed in our country. This, in turn, would provide the needed support and education for those in the medical field, so they could understand and encourage their patients to try marijuana. Not as a last resort, but as the first choice.
Ellen Lenox Smith suffers from Ehlers Danlos syndrome and sarcoidosis.
Ellen and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical marijuana advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation and serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical marijuana, visit their website.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.
Medical marijuana is legal in 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, but is still technically illegal under federal law. Even in states where it is legal, doctors may frown upon marijuana and drop patients from their practice for using it.