CA: OPED: The Cancer Drug

—– Original Message —–
From: "Richard Lake" <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, December 22, 2007 1:39 PM
Subject: [mmjlist] US CA: OPED: The Cancer Drug

> Newshawk: Please Write a LTE
> Pubdate: Sat, 22 Dec 2007
> Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
> Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Times
> Contact:
> Website:
> Details:
> Author: Diana Wagman
> Note: Diana Wagman, a professor at Cal State Long Beach, is the author of
> the novels "Skin Deep," "Spontaneous" and "Bump."
> Bookmark: (Marijuana – Medicinal)
> Cancer Opens One’s Eyes to the Many Facets of Marijuana.
> Ahh, cancer. One learns so much from being diagnosed with a death-sentence
> disease. Of course, 95% of it is stuff you would rather not know, but that
> other 5% is downright interesting. For example, "America’s Next Top Model"
> is much more fun to watch when you’ve lost 15 pounds without trying.
> During chemotherapy, vanilla smells good, but vanilla wafers taste
> disgusting. And eyelashes really do have a purpose; without them, my eyes
> are a dust magnet.
> But the most compelling fact I learned was about my friends. Not just what
> you would expect: how they cooked for my family and picked up my kids and
> took me to doctors and pretended not to notice how bad I looked and, most
> important, that I could not — cannot — survive without them.
> No, what really shocked me was how many of my old, dear, married,
> parenting, job-holding friends smoke pot. I am not kidding. People I never
> expected dropped by to deliver joints and buds and private stash. The DEA
> could have set a security cam over my front door and made some serious
> dents in the marijuana trade. The poets and musicians were not a surprise,
> but lawyers? CEOs? Republicans? Across the ideological spectrum, a lot of
> my buddies are stoners. Who knew?
> OK, I admit it, in college I smoked dope with the rest of them. I mean,
> everybody was doing it — an excuse I do not allow my children — and at
> parties I didn’t want to be uncool. Plus, I felt my only other option was
> alcohol, and the sweet drinks I liked were too fattening. But that was a
> long time ago, and since then I have learned to drink bourbon straight,
> get high on life and appreciate the advantages of not doing anything you
> wouldn’t want your kids to do.
> I thought all my friends felt the same. Boy, was I wrong. When I surfaced
> from my chemo haze enough to care about anyone else, I was curious. Why do
> so many 40- and 50-somethings still get high? I asked my suppliers. Pain
> was the No. 1 answer. Not just the psychic angst of being mothers and
> fathers to teenagers, but real physical pain. We’re all beginning to fall
> apart, and for those who imbibe, a couple of tokes really take the edge
> off the sciatica, rotator cuff injuries, irritable bowel syndrome and
> migraines.
> The second biggest reason was anxiety. Perhaps we can blame politics for
> middle-age pot use: the war, the environment, the loss of our civil
> liberties, little things like that.
> Obviously some of us use drugs to ease the lives of quiet desperation we
> never thought we would have back when we were getting stoned the first
> time. Our drug use now is really the same as in college. Then I got high
> to relax, to gain confidence, to forget I was an overweight, mediocre
> college student terrified of the future. Now we get stoned to relax,
> forget our disappointing careers and mask our terror of not just our own
> future but the future for our kids as well. Is it so different from my dad
> coming home from work and having a couple of martinis? Or my mother and
> those little prescribed pills she took when she felt "nervous"? At
> least — we can rationalize — marijuana is all natural.
> I spoke to my oncologist about the pros and cons of marijuana use for
> cancer patients. He said he was part of a study 25 years ago on the
> effects of pot on nausea, joint pain and fatigue caused by chemotherapy.
> It worked then, he said; it really helped some people. But now they have
> great new drugs, such as Emend, dexamethasone and Ativan, that keep the
> nausea and other pain at bay. He said the people who use pot now do it
> because they like it. Or maybe they use it because they would rather
> support a farm in Humboldt County than a huge pharmaceutical conglomerate.
> After chemo No. 1, I was violently ill. Anti-nausea drugs notwithstanding,
> I was hugging the porcelain throne. My body did not want to be poisoned; I
> guess it liked cancer better. I was willing to try anything, so I lit up.
> It helped. A lot. I collapsed on the couch, I zoned out watching "Project
> Runway," I was able to take deep breaths without puking.
> My 15-year-old daughter was shocked. The look on her face was proof that
> her elementary school D.A.R.E. program had really done its job. A
> friend — not a supplier or a user — explained to her it was just to make
> me feel better and that if it worked, wouldn’t that be great? My daughter
> reluctantly agreed, but I knew she didn’t mean it. I had come full circle
> in my life — the next time I had a toke, I stood in my bathroom with the
> fan on, blowing smoke out the window, but instead of my parents, I was
> scared my kids would find out I was smoking dope again.
> The biggest pain of cancer is the gnawing, scratching, bleeding dread that
> they didn’t find it all, that you didn’t go to the doctor soon enough,
> that it is growing out of control at this very moment. My doctor
> recommended meditation. Yeah, right, I thought, more time sitting quietly
> trying not to think about dying. I had carpool for that. Meanwhile, I lost
> all taste for alcohol. Even half a glass of wimpy white wine could make me
> toss my cookies, so I turned to my friend Mary Jane occasionally, only
> when nothing else would do.
> In the middle of one post-chemo night, my husband was out of town and I
> was sick and I got up and tried to get the little pipe lit and take one
> hit so I could maybe sleep. My son heard me struggling and he came into my
> bedroom. He lit the match for me and showed me where to put my finger on
> the "carburetor," the hole on the side of the pipe, to make it draw. I was
> too grateful to ask him how he knew all this. He stayed with me until I
> felt better. It was mother-son bonding in a new way.
> Just another reason to say: Thank you, cancer.
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