Last year a memorial service was held for one of my dearest friends, Eleanor Nazarek. Eleanor died from the brutal effects of cancer.
Eleanor was a former teacher who instructed and loved thousands of children. She retired in 1991 as assistant principal of Santa Rosa High School here in California.
For seven months, even with her prescribed medications for nausea, pain, depression, appetite, and sleep, Eleanor's suffering did not cease. She frequently found sleep unattainable.
As a former cancer patient myself, I suggested she try marihuana. "It would be difficult, Dave," she explained. "For so many years I've taught children what I had been taught-that marihuana is a dangerous drug and has no medical value."
The effects of the chemotherapy caused such terrible nausea that Eleanor frequently threw up her medications. Her weight dropped from 135 to nearly 70 pounds. I finally convinced this dear 72-year-old law-abiding lady to try marihuana. I used a water pipe so that it would not irritate her throat. After only two puffs and five minutes, Eleanor fell into a peaceful sleep. I sat by her bedside for two hours. Then her beautiful blue eyes opened. She looked up at me, smiled, and said, "I'm hungry! That marihuana did all the things those five capsules were supposed to do!"
Sadly, however, it was too late. Eleanor actually died from starvation. She hadn't been able to eat for more than one month.
In 1991 marihuana became my medicine when I learned that I had cancer. It was after my second surgery that I experienced marihuana as medicine. Marihuana accomplished almost as much for pain control as my prescribed morphine, Demerol, Vicodin, Delmane for sleep, and other toxic drugs. Pot allowed me to relax, and eased the pain.
I still have an old prescription for Vicodin which was never filled. No argument-all the drugs prescribed for me were tremendously helpful. However, at times I found the pain could be so severe that regardless of how strong those addictive painkillers were, my body frequently remained tense; and at those times my pain turned to agony. Several hours after that second surgery, the pain was unbearable. I asked for another shot of morphine. This time it didn't release the cramping agony. My body couldn't relax.
Having learned from the previous surgery that morphine doesn't always stop the pain, I had put a joint and a cigarette lighter in a zip-lock bag in my jacket, which hung in the closet of my hospital room. I had already told my surgeon that I smoked marihuana on occasion to relax and sleep. He's a fine surgeon and a caring man. He just gave a little understanding nod. No doubt he already knew that marihuana produces relaxation and eases pain, but he couldn't sanction anything illegal. The federal government has jeopardized free speech.
Still connection to the IV tube and a urinary catheter, I got out of bed and almost collapsed from weakness. I made it to the closet where my jacket hung and removed the small cargo. I hauled the urine bag and the IV tower, which was on wheels, into the bathroom. By now I was dizzy. Perspiration dripped from my face. Pain and nausea overwhelmed me. I thought I was going to pass out, yet I was afraid to press the "Nurse" button on the wall.
I lit the joint and inhaled. Good Lord, I thought, now embarrassing if I pass out in here and they find me with a joint in my hand! I was terrified. Would they call the police? I took another puff. Then a miracle came to pass. A feeling of peace envelope me. I stopped sweating. My body relaxed. The pain faded. I felt drowsy.
My journey back to bed was almost painless. I fell into a deep, recuperative sleep-marihuana is nature's tranquilizer.
I awoke three hours later as a food tray was placed before me. I was hungry and ate ravenously!
Over the years I've interacted with literately thousands of people who experienced marihuana as medicine, and relaxation. (I'll be 71 in January).