I came across an article recently that struck me as quite profound. It is the autobiographical account of an American journalist named Xeni Jardin who came to use and, ultimately love, medical cannabis for a great and important reason: it played a key role in saving her life.
The story, titled, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Medical Marijuana,” is an in-depth journey describing Ms. Jardin’s harrowing ordeal. Diagnosed with breast cancer at a fairly young age, Xeni found herself genuinely contemplating death and dying, unsure of how, or even if, she would go on living.
She goes into great detail about the terrible nightmare of living with cancer. Her life became an endurance race, constantly imbibing endless chemical cocktails: opioids (for surgery pains), expensive and not-covered-by-insurance anti-emetics to help ease the nausea after chemo, anti-anxiety pills and antidepressants to ease the mental anguish that comes with post-chemo PTSD and the suddenly very realistic fear of mortality.
Early on in this journey, a friend of Xeni’s, who was a recreational pot smoker, told her that she could use cannabis to help her get through this. She was not ready to try it — not yet. The stigma was too ingrained even at that point. She recalls seeing bikini-clad young women holding sandwich boards outside of medical dispensaries, promising to be “authorized” in 30 minutes.
“How can this be therapeutic?” she thought.
A short excerpt in Xeni’s own words about the moment she became open to medical cannabis:
“The conceptual walls I’d built against pot crumbled the night after my first chemo infusion. The anti-emetics they gave me at the infusion center didn’t work on me. I vomited all over my house a few hours after the nurse unhooked my wrist from the IV full of toxic liquid (that first round contained a compound originally distilled from mustard gas, not kidding). I don’t remember much about that night, but I do remember my mom holding my head while I dry-heaved into a bucket. We spoke with my oncologist the next day. We experimented with various drugs, but nausea, lack of appetite, and breakthrough barfing were constant companions. Managing these symptoms is more than a matter of comfort. It’s a matter of survival. If you can’t eat, you’re losing fluids while puking your guts out, and you can’t sleep, you have a real problem. You may not make it to, or through, the next infusion. And these infusions were an attempt to save my life. Fuck it, I told my friend. Let’s try pot.”
Cannabis did not fully replace conventional therapy. Xeni still endured chemo and a slew of anti-cancer drugs. It did, however, help her through the treatment (which is so often more taxing on the body than the cancer itself). She had edibles prepared by a professional ex-chef to ensure they were cleanly prepared (crucial for cancer patients who have compromised immune systems).
She was able to figure out that different doses and methods of ingest were better suited to certain phases than others. For instance, she discovered that eating pot candies during chemo could preempt the nausea, and that if she vaped after chemo, she could keep the vomiting to a minimum and relax her mind enough to rest.
Stress is a killer. Your body and mind undergo unimaginable stress when fighting cancer. The ability to relax and rest is more important than most would think. It is only when you are relaxed and resting that your body can try to heal itself. The treatments are devastating to your body, being unable to rest or calm down mentally surrounding those treatments compounds the issue tenfold.
Her oncologist was, by all accounts, incredible. Xeni was written a prescription note for medical cannabis without hesitation, seeing clearly that cannabis was playing a vital role in Xeni’s recovery. Xeni also realized that, by using cannabis, she was able to use less of the hard pharmaceutical drugs and needed to stay on them for shorter periods of time.
Ms. Jardin concludes with a plea to all who will listen that medical cannabis is not a joke, it’s a magical plant that played an absolutely crucial role in saving her life. She says, “May our nation soon come to its senses. May more people with cancer be able to safely, legally, affordably access this powerful drug, and find relief in it. Cancer patients should not have to navigate the world of barely-legal pot doc storefronts or dispensaries designed for druggies. Cancer patients should have easy access to cannabis, if they want it. No law or social stigma should stand in their way. Period. ”
Please go and read Xeni’s full article, she is an exemplar of strength and courage and (now) a very passionate advocate for cannabis access. My heart goes out to you, Ms. Jardin. I pray you have a long and healthy life.