The intent of this letter is not to argue the pros and cons of medical cannabis or to refute the myths and misgivings regarding the “weed.” It is intended to relate a personal experience that profoundly influenced my belief that cannabis is indeed beneficial in treating numerous symptoms associated with many debilitating diseases.
My experience occurred as an oncology RN while doing chemotherapy research at the University of Alabama Medical Center in Mobile. I had four patients on my floor between the ages of 32 and 45 who had become friends. They were in the final stages of leukemia, all treatments had been tried and basically all hope had been abandoned. The chemo had left them with terrible nausea, loss of appetite and subject to a plethora of illnesses due to the destruction of their immune systems. Pain control was a constant issue. They had opted to avoid the CNS depressants when possible so they could remain alert and interactive. I worked the night shift and noticed that a pungent odor would occasionally appear on the floor late at night. I convinced my co-worker that the smell was trash being incinerated. I tracked it and found them together in a room using marijuana. They all agreed it was the only thing that stopped the vomiting, helped relieve pain and stimulated their appetite.
But just as importantly, it let them talk about their impending deaths, tell their life stories, express their fears and assist one another with facing the great unknown. It allowed them to laugh and play. They set up a putting range in the hall, threw foam horseshoes, played guitars and sang. They would buzz cut each others’ heads and even had an ear piercing party much to the consternation of the oncologist.
I kept the marijuana a secret. I watched each one pass, two in one week. I came to realize that to withhold a simple plant derivative that alleviated so much misery with so few side effects was not only cruel but actually inhumane. Since that time I have encountered patients who utilized cannabis with great success to improve the quality of life affected by chronic disease. It is for this reason that I implore you to vote “YES” to medical marijuana and compassionate care when you visit the polls on Nov. 6.
Ken Smith, RN