Medical Marijuana for Post-Cancer Pain
BY “Bonnie Annis” PUBLISHED MARCH 02, 2019
Can medical grade marijuana and CBD help with residual pain after a cancer diagnosis, and why is it so scary for a survivor to ask for it?
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
Any type of cancer can bring physical pain. For those affected by cancer, sometimes the pain is barely noticeable and at other times, it becomes almost unbearable. Attentive doctors realize this and do everything within their power to keep patients from suffering unnecessarily, but sometimes patients fail to speak up. They may suffer in silence. Doctors aren’t minded readers. When the side effects of cancer begin to affect a person’s quality of life, it’s time to voice concerns to a physician.
I’d been suffering severe back pain for many months. As the pain increased, I feared a recurrence of breast cancer. Non-steroidal over the counter medications hadn’t touched the pain, so I made an appointment with my physician. After discussing my post-cancer pain, he recommended I visit the pain management clinic in our local cancer treatment facility. I was hesitant about the appointment because I was afraid of being prescribed narcotic medications. With all the media attention lately about opioids and their addictive qualities, I braced for the meeting.
As the doctor at the pain management clinic went over the results of my recent MRI, he mentioned there were many factors causing the pain. Some were hereditary issues, but most were from the after-effects of my breast cancer surgery. We talked about my desire to try natural methods of healing and thankfully, we were on the same page. When he asked how I felt about trying cannabis oil, I was shocked. I had planned on talking with him about that option but was fearful about bringing it up. I was afraid he’d immediately dismiss my suggestion, but imagine my surprise when he mentioned it first.
I listened carefully as the doctor explained using cannabis oil would be a good option for me. He felt I’d achieve good results for my “all over” body pain.
In the state of Georgia, where I live, laws for the use of medical marijuana are strict. I’d have to apply for a permit and my doctor would have to submit notes to substantiate the prescription. That process could take a couple of weeks for approval. (In fact, I’d written an earlier post about this for CURE® in 2018.)
We weren’t going to wait for that, the doctor said. I was thankful because I needed relief immediately. I’d been hurting so much it was affecting my daily life. Though he was prescribing medical marijuana for me, he explained I could buy Cannabidiol (also known as CBD) a therapeutic grade hemp oil online that would contain the same components of the medical grade cannabis minus the THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana.) I agreed to try this product first and if necessary, to have him submit the application for a permit to carry medical marijuana later.
At home, after sharing the doctor’s recommendations with family, I was met with mixed reactions. Most of my family felt medical marijuana was dangerous and would affect my behavior. Even after explaining the product I’d use would not contain THC, they were still apprehensive.
Cannabis Sativa, the plant from which we obtain marijuana, is grown and cultivated for its fiber, medicinal uses, and is even used for food in Asia and other parts of the world. In many parts of the United States, however, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I illegal substance.
The medical uses for marijuana are varied. According to the Mayo Clinic, marijuana can be used to effectively treat illnesses such as Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Glaucoma, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, and many other physical problems. The use of marijuana in breast cancer has not been widely tested, but there is a promise. In an article, published by the National Association for Cancer Research, the study conducted revealed the use of CBD may even cause breast cancer cells to die.
It almost feels like I’m about to embark on a scientific experiment and I’m the human guinea pig. I’m okay with that. If medical marijuana works in the way it’s intended, I should feel relief from the physical pain fairly quickly. I am hopeful I’ll receive good results. If I do, I’ll be sure to share my findings in another post.
For those with residual pain from breast cancer surgery or treatment, medical marijuana may be an option you’d like to consider. I hope you feel the freedom to discuss the possibility of using it with your doctor. Remember, doctors, do not mind readers. You are the only one who can feel and gauge the level of your pain. And if you’re like me, those pain level charts with numbers 1-10 don’t do a lot of good when trying to accurately convey how you’re feeling. Be your own best advocate. It’s your body and your life. You want to live it well.
Don’t be afraid of the social stigma attached to marijuana. The majority of all medicines are derived from plants. If Cannabis Sativa can help alleviate post-breast cancer pain, shouldn’t we at least give it a chance?