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As Pinktober draws to a close, I realize that I haven’t yet written the article I promised for October 1.
I got waylaid because despite the fact that I was pronounced “cancer free” more than 3 years ago, my personal time is still being taken up with breast cancer shit.
“It’s all over now,” gushed my friends and family when I finished my last round of chemotherapy. “You can go back to living.”
Not exactly…In fact, not by a long shot.
Once someone has had breast cancer – in my case, Stage III breast cancer that metastasized to my lymph nodes – one must always be vigilant against recurrence or progression. The earlier the stage, the less likely it is to spread, but I do know more than one woman who jumped from Stage I to Stage IV despite getting the most advanced care and a clean bill of health after treatment.
Breast cancer is an insidious little shit that loves traveling, an uninvited guest who just won’t leave or decides to pop in again against your wishes. As a survivor, it’s a challenge not to assume that every stomach ache is metastasis to the abdomen, or that a migraine is mets to the brain.
I feel like I’ve gotten this frighteningly rational hypochondria pretty well under control over the past 3 years, but when my Oncologist tells me at a routine checkup that I will need bloodwork, 4 separate MRIs, and an ultrasound to ensure that my cancer hasn’t spread (this happened last week), I can’t help but get pulled into the whole process of “please don’t let me have more cancer, please Please PLEASE…” And it’s a total time-suck that prevents me from doing the things I intended to do, like writing this article.
But worse than the “scanxiety” – for me, at least – are the health issues I still have from the chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries I had years ago.
Despite the photos you see of smiling, pink-wearing, victory-claiming ladies at the 5K pink runs, the day-to-day life of a survivor isn’t all sunshine and roses. I, for one, am not going to be doing a 5K run any time soon, though it’s only in part due to lack of desire. Mostly it’s because my damn body hurts.
When I found out I’d need some serious chemotherapy to bounce my 5-year survival rates from 30% to 70%, I figured I’d be in for a really horrid 6 months or so, and then life would get back to normal. For some women, this might be the case. But for most of those I know, the years following chemo are a total shit show.
I have permanent nerve damage from the chemo in my legs, spine, hands, and feet. I have permanent brain damage from a chemo-induced stroke. Some days are better than others. On the “others,” it’s all I can do to make it out of bed.
The funny thing is, I know that there will be lots of comments on this article saying that I never should have done chemo, that I should have just used Cannabis Oil. And though I’d never disrespect anyone for choosing natural treatment him/herself, you know what? I didn’t, and if I could go back in time I’d choose chemo again (and again and again). It saved my life.
Your body? Your choice. But fuck you if you impose your choices on me or disparage me for mine, seriously.
I’ve had just about enough of the chemo-shaming that goes on in the cannabis community, for real.
The same people who say, “if you don’t like pot, don’t smoke it” when discussing legalization should take their own advice and not do chemo if they don’t like it. But they should also have the respect and the common courtesy not to attack, belittle, or condescend to those of us who have chosen to use western medicine to treat our cancers.
I got hopping mad in a Cannabis Oil Facebook group a few months ago when someone posted that “7/10 people die from chemo and 7/10 people beat cancer with cannabis oil.”
Seriously? I mean, I’m not one of those folks who believe that doctors are god or that western medicine is perfect, but that’s a totally made-up statistic that will instantly do nothing but alienate folks like me and will most likely cause your doctor not to bother listening to anything worthwhile you might have to teach about cannabis.
Honestly, folks, the truth about cannabis is awesome enough that you don’t have to make up bullshit statistics that will totally shut down anyone with an MD from even listening to the legit info you could provide if you just bothered going to pubmed and printing out some published medical studies.
Yes, chemo sucks, but it saved my life. I actually had a rabid Cannabis Oil pusher tell me that my tumors may have visibly shrunk from chemo, and I may have been pronounced “NED” (No Evidence of Disease, the more current term for remission) but the only way I’d “cure” my cancer was with Cannabis Oil.
Awesome, that’s great for you, and when you get cancer, you can skip the chemo and use all the Cannabis Oil you want. Your cancer? Your choice. But seriously, I won’t attack you for your choice, so please don’t attack me for mine.
The fact is that some people go into remission with Cannabis Oil. But I’ve also known some who have died, despite their type of cancer, their lack of chemotherapy, and their use of cannabis.
There is currently NO CURE FOR CANCER, and that’s just a plain fact. If you tell me Cannabis Oil is the cure, I’ll kindly remind you of my friend Ted or my friend Craig or countless others I’ve known who have passed away despite their use of oil.
Before you think that I’m saying Cannabis Oil is not a legitimate tool for fighting cancer, please let me reassure you that there is NO ONE who is a more staunch believer than I am in the power of cannabis. However, I believe that more research needs to be done – especially in fighting terminal cancers like Glioblastoma, or other late-stage metastatic cancers – in order to find out more about the efficacy of specific strains, cannabinoid ratios, treatment protocols, or delivery methods.
Ladybud has previously referenced the studies at Complutense University, where cannabis suspensions were injected directly into tumors. Now, that’s something I would volunteer to participate in a clinical trial for. But your neighborhood dispensary cannot yet provide that. If we argue that “Cannabis Oil Cures Cancer!” it’s almost like admitting defeat by saying we already have the cannabis cancer cure, and honestly, I’ve watched enough people die to realize and admit that we don’t.
I’m sick and fucking tired of watching my friends die of cancer. And I’m certainly not a fan of the way my body feels from chemo. But friends…We are NOT, I repeat, NOT there yet with cannabis. Instead of just promoting Cannabis Oil, medical use, and legalization, can we please all agree to keep pushing for more research?
When we’ve done enough research to develop a protocol that allows cannabis to cure all cancers, I’ll be thrilled to admit that you told me so.
For previous Ladybud coverage of cannabis and cancer, click here.
Photo Credit: Audrey under (CC BY 2.0) via Wikimedia Commons