Medical marijuana vs Endone for pain relief

When people who are 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. The Hippocratic oath may be ‘First, do no harm’ but chemotherapy is the exception that proves the rule. It’s 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 that 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 Oxycodone 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. Did I mention the psychotic episodes?

Addiction is easy, because it 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. 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 offers pain relief, causes drowsiness which is blissful when the steroids I was taking for chemo gave me insomnia and as an added bonus, it stimulated my non-existent appetite.

I talked to all my doctors about it 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 to offer me.

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.

 

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Fu*k the cancer Facebook slacktivism

As a relative newbie to Facebook, I’m bemused by all the slacktivism. Share if you believe we need to cure cancer, like this page if you think society should stop animal cruelty, share if you think the best flavour at Gelato Messina is salted caramel.

It’s all pretty pointless stuff. Of course we want to cure cancer, yes animal cruelty is barbaric and who wouldn’t choose salted caramel over something as boring as peppermint choc chip? Any other answer is just crazy.

But yesterday I got angry.

You may have noticed red love hearts popping up on your Facebook feed. No comments, just the heart.

What does it all mean? Pre-valentine’s day prep? Are all your friends in love? Was there a sale on at the emoticon store?

Turns out it was for breast cancer awareness week.

Well of course it was. Everyone knows the best way to promote something is to do it via stealth.

What are the chances that the women who posted the pretty love hearts, who patted themselves on the back for doing their bit, actually went home and checked their boobs?

Forget the fucking hearts and spread information instead. How many women know how to do it? The best time of the month to do it? What to look for?

Let’s let go of the idea that only women over 40 should be checking their breasts and start them young. When we teach girls about their period, we should also teach them how to check their breasts properly so that it becomes an ingrained monthly habit.

Let’s start a conversation and get people talking.

People often ask me about my cancer and then look embarrassed, telling me I don’t have to talk about it if I don’t want to. But I do want to, because knowledge is power.

When I was diagnosed I sought out women who’d been through it, because I wanted to know as much as possible about what was coming up. I’m incredibly grateful to those who went before me for sharing their experiences and I do the same.

When people share publicly, whether online or via their celebrity it has more power because the reach is greater. It’s easier to explain my BRCA diagnosis because people always go, “Oh, that’s the Angelina Jolie gene.” If only I had more in common Ange than just a predisposition to cancer.

This week, I chatted with a woman who knew my story and wanted to share hers. She found a benign lump in her breast and although her mum had breast cancer and the BRCA gene, she didn’t know if she wanted to get tested for it. We spoke about our shared experiences of biopsies and mammograms, we discussed the pros and cons of being tested and, if the test result is positive, what to do next.

So forget the slacktivism and spread information instead.