By: Pamela Jayne
What a blessing it was to revisit Mary this month. The first time we met, I was pleasantly surprised by how vibrant and healthy she appeared, despite what the disease and treatment were doing to her body. A year later, she looks and sounds better than ever. As longtime readers may already know, Mary was the very first patient I interviewed and wrote about in the November 2010 issue of NUG Magazine. Since then, we have become friends, and my heart is filled with joy to bring you the wonderful news of how healthy she is today. But first, let me remind you of where Maryâ€™s journey began.
She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 while being treated for multiple, very serious injuries sustained in a violent car crash. As soon as she was strong enough, the treatment for her cancer began. It included the requisite lumpectomy, six full months of chemotherapy, radiation every single day for 30 days straight, and infusions every three weeks. Willing to do whatever it took to remove the disease from her body, Mary followed the doctorâ€™s orders, but she also took matters into her own hands; and after doing some research, she decided to use medical cannabis as part of her treatment plan. She knew that the poisonous chemotherapy and radiation were necessary to kill the cancer, but the multitude of pain medications she was prescribed only made a bad situation worse. So, she removed them from her daily regime and replaced them with cannabis. The results were even better than she had expected. Her nausea was reduced to a manageable level, which led to an increase in appetite and gave her more energy than I have ever heard of a cancer patient having. â€œThis has been a fascinating journey,â€ Mary said in an earnest tone. â€œI have learned so much, and I am so happy that I made the choice to use something that was natural, not synthetic.â€
Just like the first time we spoke, Mary was adamant about the necessity for all patients to have an advocate, someone who can go to the seemingly endless doctorâ€™s appointments, deal with the mountains of paper work, be a voice for the patient who is often too weak and overwhelmed to speak for themselves, and to sometimes just simply be there. â€œHave an advocate if you need one. Be an advocate for someone who needs one. Looking back at what I went through, I cannot imagine what I would have done without Bob.â€ Bob, as you may remember, is Maryâ€™s husband of over 40 years. To see them together today, you would think that they were newlyweds. Come to think of it, after being given a second chance at life, in a way they are newlyweds and are living each and every moment to the fullest. Just like in our first interview, she still gets a bit misty-eyed when we talk about her family. I have had the pleasure of meeting Maryâ€™s daughter and we both teared up as we talked about her. Beautiful, both inside and out, she will no doubt go on to do wonderful things, just like her mother.
Of course, I was curious what Mary had to say about those who still insist that cannabis has no medicinal value. â€œTake a walk in my shoes,â€ she quickly replied. â€œUnless you have â€˜been there,â€™ and experienced the things that I have experienced, then you have no right to say that it doesnâ€™t work for me.â€ She went on to explain, in a way that only someone who has been through a life-threatening illness can, â€œWhat would it really hurt for somebody who is suffering to at least have the chance to try something different? Even if cannabis doesnâ€™t work for them the way it did for me, they should at least be given the opportunity to give it a try.â€ Imagine how much easier life would be for medical cannabis patients across the United States if our government had as much common sense and compassion as Mary does.
Mary reflected on all that she has endured, both physically and emotionally, over the past several years saying, â€œSometimes you are put in a certain position for a reason. If I can share my experience and the information that I have learned, I want to do that because people have certainly done that for me.â€ She spoke specifically about the only collective she has ever been a patient of, The Green Door Collective on Adams Avenue. â€œAgain, I want to tell them to never stop doing what they are doing. The services that they provide are so important.â€
Surprisingly, Mary has still never smoked marijuana (and never plans to); she has only used cannabis in food â€“ nutritious, whole, healthy food that is handmade in her own kitchen. If in the future she needs to once again use cannabis as medicine, she will not hesitate to do so. After the results she has seen in her own health, she is a firm believer in the healing power of the plant. While we are on the subject of food, have I mentioned that Mary can COOK?! Black beans may be a simple dish for most, but what Mary does with them is pure, delicious genius.
Mary will be returning to work very soon as an international flight attendant with a major airline, traveling to Argentina, Paris, and other renowned destinations. Not only will she be visiting these beautiful locations, but she plans to paraglide in at least one of the cities. When I pointed out that she could paraglide right here in San Diego, she said, â€œWell yeah, I guess Iâ€™ll do that too.â€ I suppose that when youâ€™ve been through what she has, jumping off a cliff and trusting nothing more than the wind and a kite is really not that big of a deal! I look forward to hearing about her adventureâ€¦with both of my chicken-shit feet planted firmly on the ground, that is. Because she has been an exemplary employee with her company for over 40 years now, Mary is allowed to pick and choose her schedule. Not unlike how she chose her own destiny by taking control of her cancer treatment, she gets to decide when and where she flies.
Even though Maryâ€™s story was blessed with a happy ending, it is still not an easy tale to tell, because there are so many who are not so fortunate. So I hope that you will all remember to count your blessings, help those who are in need of help, and most importantly, never give up hope. Oh, and one more thingâ€¦Thank you Mary for sharing your journey with us and for making our world a better place.