I’ve always been a skeptic and a cynic, so when I saw all the people saying marijuana was a miracle drug, I didn’t believe them — especially when they’d make outrageous claims like it cures cancer. (It doesn’t.)
I just assumed it helped with pain in the same way drinking enough wine kills the pain, and that people who wanted medical marijuana were just looking for excuses to use it legally.
Mind you, I always thought (and still do think) that marijuana should be legal for recreational use anyway. I just didn’t believe all the hype.
Now let me tell you about my wife, award-winning artist Heidi Hooper. Heidi studied metalsmithing for her Master’s Degree and taught courses at the Massachusetts College of Art. Her work was shown in galleries all over the country.
Then she got a cancerous tumor that ate away her right arm muscle. After years of operations and radiation treatments, they saved her arm but the muscle was removed completely and in order to keep the bone from being exposed, they took a muscle out of her back and laid it over her arm, just for protection. She doesn’t feel a thing on that flap of skin, but for a dozen years or so now, she has been in constant pain overall and has to get into a lymphedema machine every once in a while or her arm swells up and we have to rush her to the hospital.
Since the operation, they’ve had her on gabapentin which deadens the nerves. It still doesn’t help when the weather is bad or when she uses her arm too much. She’d often have to drink wine or rum on top of it just to kill it enough to get some sleep at night.
However, she refused to give up her artwork and eventually found her niche with dryer lint art. She’s won awards for it, sells it for thousands of dollars, has it in galleries, and is in Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museums (and their books). She’ll be a guest on ABC TV’s “To Tell the Truth” soon (“Which one is the real dryer lint artist?”).
But here’s the thing: Medical marijuana is now legal in Pennsylvania, and if anyone is eligible for it, it’s someone like her. The doctor put her on marinol pills and then she has a vape that she uses when the pain is really bad. They weaned her off the gabapentin and there were a few weeks of withdrawal where she did little but lie in bed because she said she felt like she had the constant flu.
The withdrawal symptoms have subsided but not left completely, but the amazing thing is how well the marijuana is working without making her feel high. As someone explained to me, when you’re at -5, it raises you to zero so you feel normal. And that’s what she says — she hasn’t felt this “normal” in years.
Even better, she’s thinking clearer, as if a cloud has lifted. “I used to lose my train of thought in the middle of a sentence, or walk into a room and not remember why I did so. It’s so great to be able to be aware and clear.”
I know, I know, that goes against the pot cliche, but it’s true — and compared to the other medication she was on, it’s practically a miracle.
So I’m a convert. I was wrong. It doesn’t just make you high to the point where it kills the pain. It really works.
Now let’s hope the Governor can convince the legislature to legalize it. Although her marinol pills are covered by insurance, the vape is not and it’s expensive!
EDIT: Being a nonsmoker, Heidi always hated the vape and gave it up after I wrote this. She now uses the tincture, which works just as well although not as fast.
(Plug: If you want to support Heidi and encourage her after all she’s been through, why not become a patron of her art? Even a dollar a month means a lot to her!)