On Being Seven Years Pharmaceutical And Cancer-Free

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In 2012, seven years ago this October, I was staring down a clean ultrasound, with the technician telling onlookers, “It must be a technical error,” as they could not find the cancerous mass that was just there, less than three months prior.

The image seen in both the first mammogram and follow-up ultrasound showed a large, white spider-web-like mass in my right breast, indicating it was Lobular carcinoma – a mass, not a tumor that could be confused with a cyst.

Just 10 to 15 percent of all women in the U.S. present with this type of mass. My sister was diagnosed just a few years prior, undergoing a partial mastectomy, chemo-therapy, and follow-up radiation – with nearly three years of misery suffered. 

Called to Advocate

I was working as a television producer in Los Angeles, when I was brought up to Humboldt County to produce a news show. Cancer was the last thing I thought would happen to me, but as it turned out, Humboldt was a good place for me to get cancer. 

Pearl Moon of Bud Sisters of Southern Humboldt got wind of my situation and delivered a small jar of cannabis oil, telling me to eat small bits with a toothpick, to get used to the 80 to 90 percent activated THC. 

I didn’t think it would work. It did. And now I’m celebrating seven years of, not only being cancer-free, but pharmaceutical free, as well. 

I’m also celebrating seven years of writing for you all in the cannabis space. I already had a voice in media and immediately began writing of my experience. Wouldn’t everyone want to know about this? Turns out my newfound knowledge was a curse, as well as a blessing.

Seven years of preaching to the choir, due to mainstream media’s hands tied via the U.S. Government’s refusal to admit cannabis is indeed remedy. 

Courtesy of Sharon Letts

From Respect to Disbelief

When I was in mainstream media I was respected – people believed what I reported. After I crossed over, even my partner at the time didn’t believe the cannabis oil put my cancer into remission. He just wanted to smoke my oil to get high. 

My own sister said I was “addicted to marijuana.” Friends I’d known for years backed away. Some told me directly that they just didn’t want to hear about it, as the topic consumed my life in more ways than just writing about it. For once you know the truth, once you are helped, you are compelled to share – compelled to help others. And that’s exactly what rabbit hole I fell into. 

I couldn’t sit on a park bench without someone sitting beside me in need. It was as if the hand of God or the Universe dropped them next to me. Slowly, as the conversations unfolded, it was soon revealed they were ill or knew someone who was. Or, they would ultimately ask what I did for a living. When I told them I was a writer, they would ask what would became a dreaded question, “What do you write about?”

For the past seven years, my standard line has been, “I write internationally on cannabis as medicine.” And then the flood gates open. I’ve received every response imaginable – from disbelief, to stupid stoner jokes, to watching their faces change in desperation as they convey a story after story of heartbreak and pain, either personally or of a loved one, suffering with no help from cancer or some other ailment ravaging their body, the family, and their bank accounts.

On Being Seven Years Pharmaceutical And Cancer-FreePhotographed by Jeannie Herer/ Courtesy of Sharon Letts

Covering Cannabis

I covered both Colorado and Washington States before and after legalization; then Oregon, Nevada and California. What I’ve observed is, more healing happens when a state legalizes, as people feel more comfortable to share and test the waters. That edible taken to get high becomes a medible immediately, if the partaker is actually a patient with real ailments – with painkillers and sleeping pills the first to go.

California’s Compassionate Care Program, that would become the model for the eventual 34 states now legal for medical cannabis, is going away, as are other caregiving and co-operative programs, in favor of recreational retail shops. 

It’s ironic because cannabis is still remedy. Yet, with the government stubbornly insisting it isn’t, the laws are being set-up as if it weren’t – while the healing in legal states increases; and opioid usage declines.

They say that ignorance is bliss, and I must say I have to agree. When I was working in mainstream media, I thought I knew a lot – but, I didn’t know shit. I only knew what they wanted me to. 

My own editor at the Times-Standard in Eureka – Humboldt’s county seat – wouldn’t let me write about cannabis as remedy. Marijuana was firmly in the crime section only. With legalization, it’s crossed over into the business and finance sections, but the health editors don’t know how to broach the subject at all. They don’t know how to ask the questions to further the conversation. 

Stigma over Truth

In seven years, with myriad interviews with patients helped for numerous ailments and disorders, I’ve learned a lot, and am strong in my confidence in my work and the plant. But the stigma is still alive and well. Just a few weeks ago I was introduced at a party as a “stoner,” with a laugh and no apology. The stigma gives permission to be insensitive. My rebuttal was that I was actually an internationally known writer in the cannabis space, and a television producer. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

The good news is, I don’t really get sick too often. In seven years I’m still healthy on a plant-based remedy protocol, using cannabis in different modes of delivery, daily. 

I still struggle with depression, fatigue, and assorted mild maladies, but overall, at 60, I’m doing pretty damn well, thanks to the plant. 

If you would have told me in high school in the 70s I would be doing what I’m doing now, I would have accused you of taking the entire tab. This life is a long and winding path of surprises. I’m grateful for my path to Humboldt, for Pearl Moon showing up on my doorstep with her little jar of oil. 

In the next seven years my cancer could come back worse, or I could be hit by a truck. One thing is for sure, today, I’m looking forward to where the plant takes me next. I’ve come back full circle to television, and am actively developing and shopping intelligent programming on the plant. Who knows? Maybe the universe will throw me another bone, and I can continue to turn heads and change minds on a grander scale. Stay tuned.

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