• Stephanie Johnson

Breast Cancer Brought Me Out Of The Canna-Closet

It’s time for me to come out of the closet...


You see, I’m 46 years old. A Gen X child who grew up in a generation of D.A.R.E. and “Just Say No!”, I was always told how cannabis would be the gateway that would propel me into everything else that was worse. The “just do it once and you could be addicted” rhetoric was rampant; and, who was I to question them?


As I grew up, my perceptions of cannabis had changed a bit, simply based on what I saw from people around me; but, I still couldn’t get beyond my own fears to attempt it. So, much hangs in the balance: perception, reputation, employment possibilities…


Then, at 38 years old, I was diagnosed with cancer.



Stage 3, Grade 3, Triple Negative, BRCA1+ breast cancer, to be precise. This angry beast grew from a pea to its diagnosed size in just one summer. There I was: 38 years old, otherwise healthy, and staring down a 23% chance of living to see 5 years.


That’s when I researched more...

I began to pour through articles about my type of cancer. I read and defined every word that was told to me. I looked up everything from chemotherapy to side effects and survival tactics. Naturally, I also began to research cannabis and cancer. I read articles, like:


ABC News: Cannabis Compound May Stop Metastatic Breast Cancer


“The compound found in cannabis, called cannabidiol (CBD), inhibits a gene, Id-1, that researchers believe is responsible for the metastatic process that spreads cells from the original tumor throughout the body.”

American Association of Cancer Research: Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Inhibits Cell Cycle Progression in Human Breast Cancer Cells through Cdc2 Regulation

“Results presented herein (a) show that the plant-derived cannabinoid THC is able to block the progression of breast cancer cell cycle and (b) provide a mechanism for this action.”

Or this great info from scientists in Spain: Towards the Use of Cannabinoids as Antitumor Agents (PDF)


“Since the late 1990s, a large body of evidence has accumulated demonstrating that various cannabinoids exert anti-tumor effects in a wide variety of experimental models of cancer, ranging from cancer cell lines in culture to genetically engineered mice (Supplementary information S1 (table)). Multiple cannabinoids have shown this activity, including THC; the endocannabinoids 2-AG and anandamide; and different synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists that have either comparable affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors”


Of course, NORML had a lot of info, too: https://norml.org/about/item/breast-and-ovarian-cancer.


I also asked around. I took the time to chat with friends and family and anyone with a personal story or experience. At my chemotherapy planning appointment, strategizing the fight with my oncologist I mentioned it to him, too, and asked his opinion.


Naturally, I’m in Texas so he can’t recommend or encourage the choice of this “homeopathic remedy”, because of the legal status.

He was aware of my ideas, however, and wouldn’t discourage it, because of what they’ve seen in their own experiences of working with fighting breast cancer. So, with getting the “green light” from so many avenues of information, I chose to proceed.

 

It’s now 2020 and I’m writing this blog while approaching my 8th anniversary of survivorship, and, I cannot help but believe that cannabis-based wellness products have been a big part of that survivorship

While on the dreaded chemotherapy, it allowed me to do the two things I needed to do, most: eat and rest. Since making survivorship, cannabinoids have stayed a part of my life. They’ve helped me deal with my neuropathy and chronic digestive and pain issues - remnants of my fight. They’ve also, I believe, been instrumental in my staying alive.

 

Of course, it helps to see even more studies have been done over these past 8 years that cement my hypothesis. More states are finding the value of this specific genus of plant and allowing it in its different forms (Hemp or Marijuana) to be utilized in various ways. I do have a wish for Federal legalization so that we can have comprehensive studies that are transparent and communicative. We cannot be completely sure of anything until we’re completely open to working in it.


Do I believe that it’s a cure-all? No. Absolutely not. I don’t believe that there is anything out there that is an absolute fix for everybody. As I had mentioned, previously, there are just too many variables in people, and in types of cancer (hundreds!), to say that one thing will fix it all.

It’s not scientific to say it and, frankly, it’s lazy thinking and a disservice to so many out there searching for accurate info.


All that I know to be true to me is this, for me and for my fight and survivorship, adding these natural wellness compounds into my life have been, quite literally, life-changing. Every day as I read, study, try and explore I am blown away by the potential of what it can do for so many. 


If you’ve come across this blog because you’ve been reading up about CBD prominent hemp or THC prominent marijuana (both part of the cannabis category), welcome.


Take time to read quality info. Research. Whatever you do: try not to be afraid. This is a time in life when everyone is realizing the inaccuracies of stigma and rhetoric, and maybe you are, too.


For more of S. Johnson's challenging, yet inspiring story follow her on Instagram or on her website.


If you or someone you know was diagnosed with breast cancer, verywellhealth.com put together a list of 5, vetted breast cancer organizations you can connect with, support, and share.



Have a healing anecdote to share? We'd love to hear from you at Jane's Journal.


Email 650 words or more about your experiences confronting, managing, and healing trauma with cannabis to thisisjaneproject@gmail.com.



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