Pheochromocytoma by Anonymous

My medicinal marijuana story began ever so innocently in 1999. After suffering debilitating migraines (or so they thought) for going on 5 years, I was at my wits end when I friend suggested I try smoking a little pot. The effect smoking had on my headaches was unbelievable. I could return to the functioning world - much to the delight of my then seven year old daughter. As I secretly smoked marijuana, I began to notice other positive changes in myself. Menstruation was more bearable, I was more patient, both to my daughter and to my husband - a good thing as our marriage was pretty bumpy back then.  I was even sleeping better.

Then everything changed in 2001.I found out my headaches weren’t migraines.   They were high blood pressure headaches caused by a pheochromocytoma on my right adrenal gland. As I visited with the doctors up at MD Anderson, they were amazed to learn that with adrenaline levels at 600% normal, I had undergone three surgeries during the time that my pheo had gone undiagnosed. This was a rather incredible feat, as the anesthesia is notorious for prompting a hypertensive stroke in pheo patients. How did that happen, they wondered amongst themselves?  I wanted to tell them, but I hadn’t even told my husband, how could I? I believe that in smoking the marijuana to subdue my headache, I effectively subdued the pheo, preventing it from producing any additional harmful effects.

I felt that once my tumor was removed, I could no longer smoke for medicinal purposes. That if I were to smoke, it would be in a recreational sense and that was just not acceptable. Then, as luck would have it, the first week I was home from the hospital I developed pneumonia. I took their medicine and did their breathing thing, but it wasn’t improving. I remembered having pneumonia as a teenager and smoking pot to ease the nausea and the aches, so I figured what the hell, at least I won’t feel as crappy. As I inhaled I could feel my lung expanding and realized that marijuana was a better motivator than any of their breathing machines. Within a couple of days the pneumonia cleared up and I was back on the road to recovery.

As I recovered, mostly, without smoking, I reflected upon my earlier use and how at the time it appeared to affect me in a way that made my lifelong struggle with mental illness a struggle I could suddenly handle. Being without it showed me that I was correct.  It was as if smoking slowed me down enough to be able to understand and really see what was going on around me. The anxiety of simply being was noticeably void. The severe mood swings and personality changes became more manageable. I was in control and I felt great.

The longer I smoked, the more my tolerance rose, and in 2003 I was forced to share with my husband what I had been doing. He was shocked, as he is super straight. But after he did some reading, he became a vocal supporter of medicinal marijuana. Together we told our therapist (supportive) as well as our family doctor (tolerant/unsupportive). I have independently told a couple of my other doctors as I feel it is important for them to know.

Since I began smoking pot on a daily basis, I have reduced the number of medications I am on to seven and hope to reduce that in time. I exercise daily and have for nearly two years now. I have lost over 100 pounds, and while I have some more to go, I know I can do it . If my husband weren’t so attached to the area we live in, we would move to someplace that would accommodate my usage as medicinally necessary.  Until then I will continue to keep my use hidden away from those who will use it against me.