Must Read: What helped me through cancer? Weed

When people about to start chemotherapy ask me what helped me through cancer, I give them a list. Weed is at the top of it. 

It’s not something I’ve written about while chronicling my treatment, but with the federal government moving to loosen restrictions on imported medical marijuana, now is a good time to have a rational discussion about its benefits.


There
are groups that will cry foul at this and rage about the insidious
nature of the drug, that as a nation we are all going to become addicts,
but chances are if they saw someone they loved convulsing from the
pain, they’d hand over that spliff.

Medical marijuana is not about getting stoned or feeling high. It’s about natural pain relief with minimal side effects.

Modern medicine is wonderful and I thank it for keeping me alive but everything comes at a price.

Renata Gortan used medicinal marijuana for pain relief while she underwent chemotherapy. (Pic: Supplied)

Chemotherapy is a brutal treatment that
wreaks havoc on your whole system, breaking your body in order to cure
it. The accepted way to deal with it is to prescribe opioids such as
Endone or OxyContin, otherwise known as hillbilly heroin. My pharmacist
was so concerned when I went to fill out my prescription that he sat me
down and talked through how to take it. This was the man who had been
supplying me with all my chemo meds but he was more worried about Endone
than anything else.

Two footballers had just overdosed on it and
he wanted to make sure the same thing didn’t happen to me. Endone is
prescribed to chemo patients as pain relief because it works.

It’s
strong enough to stand up to all the other drugs floating through your
body. But it comes with nasty side effects, including potential
psychotic episodes, difficulty breathing and hypotension.
Addiction
kicks in almost instantaneously. Like a pillowy bed that you gently
sink into, it takes the aches out of your body so that you feel like
you’re floating. It’s the medical version of a lullaby, soothing you to
sleep.

Medical
cannabis is currently used for purposes such as relief from multiple
sclerosis pain or combating nausea and pain after chemotherapy. (Pic:
AFP/Filippo Monteforte)

When you wake, often in
agony, it’s all too easy to grab another and repeat the process. I
stopped taking Endone when the side effects became too much to bear.

I
switched to marijuana because it also offered pain relief, caused
drowsiness which was blissful when the steroids I was taking for chemo
gave me insomnia and as a bonus, it stimulated my appetite. I talked to
all my doctors before taking it and there were no contra indications so I
went ahead. It gave me all the benefits of Endone without the side
effects.

If medical marijuana had been legal, it would have been
easier to find, I would have known exactly what I was getting and my
oncologist would have had a viable pain-management alternative. The
biggest arguments against marijuana as pain relief are that it’s illegal
and potentially addictive. If the government approves medical marijuana
it will be legal. And, as someone who has taken both forms of pain
relief, I can tell you that it is a lot less addictive than legal
heroin.

Renata Gortan is a journalist at The Daily Telegraph and blogs about breast cancer at www.whenlifegoestitsup.com

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