Alice lives in Sydney with her husband and four grown up children. Unfortunately it has been a harrowing few years for her eldest son who has been seriously ill with brain tumours. However, through the family’s strength of will and tenacity, they have fought this illness and right now he is in remission. Alice’s son has used medicinal cannabis to cope with all of the side effects of his treatment, so we were very grateful when she said that she would share his experiences with our readers.
Cannabis use as a medicine, fibre and food dates back over 10,000 years
We all know it’s contentious, but my experience has served to make me a fervent believer in the capacity of Medicinal Cannabis [MC] to ameliorate many of the challenges to health and wellbeing faced by us all today. Dr Google can provide us with studies, statistics and insights, but my account concerns my adult son’s diagnosis with a Grade 2 brain tumour in 2015, what ensued, and what part MC has played.*
When facing a cancer diagnosis everything is in tumult. The ground falls away from beneath you and adrenalin burns through you. Not only has this unforeseen monster stormed into your life, but then follows the need to make clear and sound decisions as to how to manage it. Then there is a lot of advice.
I have learned that there are protocols in place if you have a breast cancer diagnosis for example, or prostate; however, with brain cancer the lines are a little blurry. Where is the cancer located? Is it in a sensitive or ‘eloquent’ part of the brain that could be fatal to treat with surgery, chemo or radiotherapy? And today the question is broadly asked – does chemo possibly aggravate the cancer? Might it not be better to let the body’s own immune system fight the disease – as it was designed to do? [Immunotherapies are playing an increasingly large role today.] The questions are myriad, and as an amateur I was not equipped to answer them. I can only posit that the choices we made for our son were, for him, the right choices – for what we learned at the time – and the nature of his particular tumour.
What part can MC play?
It was our good fortune to meet a remarkable woman shortly after our son’s diagnosis who had studied the merits of MC for the purposes of helping her son who had an extremely rare Grade 3 brain tumour. This young boy was given a prognosis of mere months when he was 5 years old. His mother, my friend, prolonged his life by a staggering further 4 years during which time she did not permit the administration of any invasive procedures such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, but worked with MC alone – with a highly nutritious diet. She studied cannabis’ multiple strains and dosages in such depth that she became a widely acknowledged expert in the field, and has been invited to lecture to neurologists and oncologists around the world. The fact her son lived four years past his original prognosis is testimony not only to her diligence but the undeniable power of MC.
Another firsthand experience with MC was my meeting a man who had been told ‘to get his affairs in order as a matter of urgency’ as he had a life-threatening grapefruit-sized tumour bulging in his neck right up against his carotid artery. There was no question of surgery, and he was not prepared to risk chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Instead he started dosing himself with MC and his tumour slowly abated. Now he only has a mottled scar to remind him of this brush with death. He knows my son’s story and has recommended that he take a small dose of MC for the rest of his life.
What does MC offer re Supportive Cancer Care?
• Cannabis can alleviate the symptoms and complications of cancer
• Cannabis can reduce or prevent the toxicities of treatment
• Cannabis may allow patients to tolerate and benefit from active therapy more easily
• Cannabis may reduce pain. (Significant studies have been undertaken to substantiate this claim and I witnessed it with my own son.)
• Cannabis can reduce anxiety
• Cannabis can boost appetite
• Cannabis can assist sleep
• Cannabis can ease the emotional burden of patients and by extension their care-givers
• Cannabis can help cancer survivors with psychological and social problems
• Cannabis can assist in palliative care
• Cannabis can assist to combat severe, intractable seizure disorders such as epilepsy but I am not addressing this specifically in this account.
There has been much scaremongering about Marijuana, and I am sure some of it may be warranted. However, one puff on a joint of therapeutic quality marijuana eased my son’s nausea [when both on radiotherapy and chemo] within seconds. It’s that effective. And knowing that, I would not ever resist his taking it. Furthermore, I would do whatever it took to get my hands on some when I knew he was imminently facing treatment. (I could recount quite a few stories on that subject!)
As a fully enrolled member of the uninformed or even ill-informed public regarding MC, I did not understand the differences between CBD, or THC or THCA or Marijuana – all of which we read about today. So, for clarity:
CANNABINOID – CBD – is one of a class of diverse chemical compounds (derived from the Cannabis plant – not a manufactured chemical compound) that acts on cannabinoid receptors in cells that alter neurotransmitter release in the brain.
TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL – THC is the main psychoactive part of cannabis – one of 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 65 other cannabinoids. This is the component that makes you ‘high’, that frightens authorities, and that clearly needs to be strictly monitored and dosed.
THCA – a further compound from cannabis which is proving to be a good substitute for THC in order to reduce psycho-activity.
The endocannabinoid system – ECS
The ECS has evolved over 500 million years in mammals, birds and fish. What is overlooked and little understood about MC and its effect on our bodies is that at a fundamental level it is a health-giving therapy, even taking illness out of the equation. Not everybody is aware for example that there are already natural cannabinoids in breast milk and what a significant role they play in the development of human beings. So, to nourish our ECS (with carefully selected cannabis compounds) is to promote our body’s health, and therefore our immune system together with our gut wherein lies the power to combat disease, infection and cancers. The ECS is overall a balancing system. Our body’s own personalised regulator.
How does cannabis fight cancer?
Cannabis has been shown to:
- cause programmed cell death (apoptosis)
- inhibit proliferation of cancer cells
- slow tumour growth by preventing formation of blood vessels (angiogenesis)
- stop metastasis
Methods of application
• Oral tincture or spray with measured cannabinoid content
• Vapour or smoke
• Full extract cannabis oil
Dilemmas in prescribing Medicinal Cannabis
Pharmacologic effects of cannabinoids – to name but a few
Analgesic, anti-spasmodic, anti-anorectic, antiemetic neuroprotectant, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive, anti-glaucoma, anti-diabetic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant.
Our son’s tumour progressed to Grade 3 in 2017. After a second craniotomy it was decided that he should undergo radiation therapy and chemotherapy for a small amount of residual tumour. We secured a supply of high quality extract of CBD and THC and some marijuana to ease his days during the 12-month program of treatment. Three months out and he is doing well and there has been no sign of recurrence in his last two scans. In fact, they have revealed no evidence of tumour. We await the next scan’s results in a few weeks’ time.
In conclusion I asked my son to write up a brief account of his views on MC
I was a mid-teenaged pot smoker and gave up when I stopped enjoying being high at around 18. A decade later I developed a brain tumour in the midst of my wonderful new overseas life. My need for surgery took me home where I toyed with the idea of radio and/or chemotherapies but wasn’t quite sold on either. It was when said tumour became grade 3 cancerous that more drastic action was required. After a few radiotherapy sessions I was introduced to cannabis oil to help with the horrible side effects. The effect was incredibly relieving: no nausea or upset stomach, improved appetite, minimal pain from surgery and a supplementary back problem I have. It was miraculous. Once chemo started I knew I had a solution ready for the sickness that was coming. This is when I started smoking the cannabis. All the benefits were apparent that I had experienced with oil but smoking is much faster acting.
Mother earth has given us a life-saving medicine here, I just hope it’s not too long before we do the right thing and follow the lead (in all countries) of the United States and start to decriminalise AND legalise this life-changing natural plant for the benefits of all people whether suffering seizures, Parkinson’s, dementia or undergoing such intensive treatments. The possibilities are endless!
*I am not a specialist and have only brought to this article, extracts and insights of what I have learned over the last few years. If I have written anything in error it is unintentional. If anyone chooses to pursue MC, please ensure it is sought from a reputable source and dosed appropriately.
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