Story by: Pamela Jayne
Itâ€™s not only Daveâ€™s knowledge of medical cannabis or his outgoing personality that makes him such a valuable staff member at The Green Door Collective in North Park; it is the fact that he is first and foremost a medical cannabis patient. He knows from personal experience what it is like to be given a frightening diagnosis and seek out anything that could help to restore his health as quickly and comfortably as possible, especially since he received a clean bill of health. Daveâ€™s passion has been sharing what he has learned with other patients and spreading the knowledge he gained while fighting cancer.
Those who know Dave as he is now would never guess that not so long ago he weighed almost 350 lbs. Nor would they recognize him from his roles in Malcolm in the Middle, ER, Grounded for Life, and the movie Gigli. Before his diagnosis, Dave knew that for the sake of his health he â€œhad to make a lifestyle change.â€ So in 2005, he went on the Weight Watchers program and, by 2007, lost 130 pounds. He should have felt better than ever, but something just wasnâ€™t right. Even though he had gone back to eating unhealthy food in quantities much larger than he was used to, he continued to lose at least three pounds per week. He describes his appearance as â€œgoing from looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to looking like Skeletor.â€ Along with the quickened weight loss, he was also having severe night sweats. â€œI would wake up completely drenched, like someone had thrown a full bucket of water on the bed.â€ He was also experiencing extreme fatigue. Unlike simply being tired, real fatigue drains all your energy and prevents you from being able to function normally. â€œI would wake up and my mind was ready to go, but my body just would not move. And this was after sleeping for 16 hours.â€
Clearly, something was wrong. So on his 27th birthday in 2008, Dave went to his doctor for a physical. The doctor noticed abnormalities in his blood and raised lymph nodes in the groin area. He was referred to a specialist who diagnosed him with nodular lymphoma and spherocytosis. The course of treatment prescribed was brutal, but Dave says the top three worst things about it were the irritability, constant nausea, and not being able to go outside in the sun. â€œAs bad as the rest of it was, I think that was the worst,â€ he said. He never allowed himself to wallow in self-pity or let his physical state determine his emotional well-being. In fact, he â€œnever even called it â€˜my cancerâ€™ or â€˜my disease.â€™ I just called it my situation.â€ (Keep in mind that this was before the word â€œsituationâ€ became synonymous with a certain self-absorbed reality show star from Jersey.) Dave knew he had no choice but to deal with his situation, so he decided to make the best of it.
After having to quit work and go on disability, he spent as much time as his health would allow volunteering at the YMCA. Staying busy when he felt well enough helped him to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He also acknowledges how lucky he was compared to others in similar circumstances. Although he did have to be hospitalized many times for a variety of different reasons, he never had to stay for an extended period of time. One thing he did find himself spending a lot of time doing was filling prescriptions and taking pills. Some of the medications were necessary to fight his illness, but many of them were prescribed for pain and anxiety. â€œMy doctors gave me Vicodin and Xanax like it was candy,â€ he said. When he grew weak from the treatments and tired of taking so many pills, Dave began using medical cannabis. He told his doctors and they were on board with it, especially when they saw how it helped him to gain and maintain weight.
At one point during treatment, he had to go five days without using cannabis. In that short time, he lost 10 lbs. Dave described one of the worst days of his ordeal: â€œIt was around Christmas time in 2009. I had recently been put on two new pharmaceutical medications and they were wreaking havoc on my body; however, I had no choice but to keep taking them. I was having really, really bad tremors and the nausea was way worse than usual. I had an obligation that evening and I knew there was no way I would be able to make it. I felt so bad. On top of being so physically sick, I was bummed out. I headed to the shop (The Green Door Collective) to pick up my meds. Even though cannabis had been working so well for me, I had doubts that it would work that day. Thank God I was wrong! It only took two small capfuls of medicated olive oil. That tiny amount made all the difference in the world. For almost nine hours, I felt normal. I felt great. Actually, people commented on how much better my color was and how the dark circles were gone from under my eyes. I was even able to eat without throwing up.â€
Before becoming ill, Dave was not what you would call a recreational smoker. Yes, he had smoked marijuana on a few occasions, but that was the extent of it. Once he became a cardholding patient, he was able to figure out a schedule of medicating with cannabis that improved his quality of life tenfold. â€œI started smoking a very good quality sativa between 6:30 and 11:30 in the morning. I began to feel upbeat and my body felt stronger. When I was able to replace the Vicodin with cannabis, I realized that I may be onto something. I started smoking a heavy, high quality indica between 5:30 and 9:30 in the evening. It worked wonders for me.â€ He went on to say, â€œThere has never been a time when I am unable to function because of medicating with cannabis. Actually, it was because of cannabis that I was able to function.â€
As far as his advice to other patients, Dave says, â€œFind a strain(s) that works for what you need and then find a reputable collective that keeps them in stock on a consistent basis. And make sure that it is high quality because a fancy label or a name on a jar is meaningless if it doesnâ€™t help you.â€
Dave is adamant about spreading his story and what he has learned because he believes that â€œwe patients should use our experiences to help and educate others. Those who have been recently diagnosed need guidance from those of us who have already been there.â€ Dave doesnâ€™t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. As much fun as he has budtending at The Green Door Collective, he also takes it very seriously. It is not about a paycheck either; he volunteers his time in exchange for medicine. For him, each patient is a new opportunity to share his knowledge. â€œWe are all about educating our patients, not just handing out meds to whoever happens to have a recommendation. We get to know them, so we can advise them on how to properly medicate. It is also important for us to listen to them because we can learn from their experiences as well.â€
When I asked Dave if he considered himself an activist for medical cannabis rights, he paused for a moment and said, â€œEveryone has their place and purpose in this movement. I feel that my role is to educate and serve patients. Others have a different role. We need the people who organize and attend protests to make our voices heard. Itâ€™s just that I believe my time is best spent doing what I do.â€
Patients of The Green Door Collective may have noticed they see Dave much less lately. That is because he is strong enough to return to work full-time, so he only has limited time to budtend. The rest of the staff misses his positive energy and constant smile, but they are relieved to know that he is once again in good health. Patients often ask where he is and remark on how helpful and informative he is. For example, Dave used to always introduce himself as â€œa Scorpio with cancer.â€ I guess now he will have to say he is a Scorpio who used to have cancer. When I asked Dave why he continues to make time in his now busy schedule to volunteer, he said, â€œI want to give back as much as I can because The Green Door has helped me so much. Everything they stand for is also what I stand for.â€