With pancreatic cancer, what Stephen needs is legalised cannabis

With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

A year into his cancer treatment, Stephen heard about the benefits of medical marijuana and CBD oil, but it has proven difficult to get

With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

I was lying face down when I first heard about Stephen Schulman. I’d been feeling sorry for myself, complaining of an throb wrist and back- the vestiges of an age-inappropriate roller-skating accident – while my massage therapist Elisa worked to soothe my pain.

Eventually, our conversation turned to her friend Stephen. At only 41, merely months after marrying the love of his life, Stephen had gone to the doctor complaining of stomach aches and the inability to keep anything down. He re-emerged with a diagnosis: stage-3 pancreatic cancer, inoperable due to a very large tumor wrapping itself around a major artery in his abdomen.

In essence, a death sentence.

Elisa had been buying Stephen sublingual CBD oil– $89 for one ounce- because it proved to be the only thing effectively alleviating the tingling and numbness that had recently consumed his fingers and toes. He and his spouse Wade’s savings had been bled dry by their $2,400 -a-month insurance premium plus general expenses. Stephen is unable to work since his life has become a blur of excruciating pain, therapies, hope, dread and heavy doses of opioids like fentanyl and oxycodone.

A - With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

Stephen first heard about the reported pain relief benefits of medical marijuana and CBD oil for cancer patients a year into his treatment. When he asked his doctors about is asking for a medical marijuana card, their reluctance confounded him. Still, he persisted and when he started using both, he found they controlled his symptoms as well or, in a number of cases, better than opioids. He also found out that no insurance company encompasses their high costs.

As Elisa told me Stephen’s story, I considered how the smaller discomforts I’d come in with attained it harder for me to get around in the working day or to sleep well at night. How they attained “i m feeling” irritable and fragile. And how I could pay a negligible amount of money to a lovely woman to help soothe them for me. My ailments were absolutely nothing by comparison with Stephen’s, yet what he needs is elusive at best, proscribed at worst.

Politicians ought to have embroiled in contentious debates for years about the morality and logistics of legalizing medical marijuana despite reputable studies, like the Rand study, which supports its efficacy. In the meantime, people like Stephen suffer.

I decided to document Stephen’s life because his narrative had something valuable to remind us all about the gap between the abstract moralizing of politicians and the needs of the people they represent.

These scenes were taken between January and August 2019.

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Wade is a freelance hairstylist. Once in a while, he sits Stephen down in the chair in his home salon and treats him to a haircut, shave and facial mask.

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Stephen remembers clearly what it felt like to be diagnosed:” It just makes you like one tonne of bricks:’ Everything is about to change .’ Your life is going to be about doing chemo, radiation, things you wouldn’t normally do and it’s going to be a hard, uphill battle .”

Stephen - With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis
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Wade adds Osmolite formula, a therapeutic nutrition for patients with increased calorie and protein needs, to a drip every other night to help Stephen maintain a healthy weight. The procedure takes eight hours and is very uncomfortable. Lack of appetite and nausea leading to unhealthy weight loss are common for pancreatic patients. The use of medical marijuanas has helped Stephen greatly with these symptoms.

“We - With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

Artist Jason Naylor, whose self-described mission is to” spread colouring and positivity across the globe”, is known about Stephen’s plight through social media and made him the “Love” paint, which he hand-delivered to the couple, that hangs above Stephen and Wade’s bed.

Overwhelmed by medical expenditures, Stephen and Wade accepted the offer of a friend to set up a GoFundMe page for them.

” We have to lean on each other, trust one another, and be up front about how we’re doing and feeling every day ,” Stephen says of his relationship.” There’s no way I would have been able to get through this diagnosis without Wade. I appreciate him more every day. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true .”

Clyde, - With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

Clyde, one of the couple’s two cats, the other is Bonnie( both male ), watches as Stephen tries on his kickboxing gloves. Kickboxing was something Stephen enjoyed with friends before his diagnoses when he was 40 pounds heavier. Now, there are some days he’s too weak to get out of bed.

Stephen - With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

Stephen describes the current state of his disease;” Stage 3-pancreatic cancer without the possibility of the Whipple procedure because of the placement of the tumor. They do a CT scan every three months and ascertain the next steps based on those results. A very risky surgery- I believe it’s only performed by one doctor in the US at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota- is my only option and we’re hoping to induce that happen. But insurance has, so far, refused to pay for it or the chemotherapy I’ll need beforehand, and it is astronomically expensive .”

“It - With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

” It builds me smile a little to wear fun, colorful socks ,” Stephen says in reference to the” cock socks” he wears to physical therapy.

“I - With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

” I think it’s funny ,” Stephen remarks,” that in America you’re able to buy alcohol, which is known to cause all these problems, but CBD oil and medical marijuanas are more governed and seemed down upon. It’s sad because they’ve definitely helped me immensely .”

In New York state, medication comes primarily in the form of pills, vapes, oils and lotions. Dispensaries can’t distribute edibles because it’s much harder to control the doses a patient receives in them. Every dose at Columbia Care New York is consistent and titrated, meaning it’s increased, if need be, slowly over time.

dr reed

Tricia Reed, PharmD, Columbia Care New York’s lead pharmacist, describes the purported benefits of some of their products.

” High THC products are good for nausea, vomiting and severe pain, dedicating more of an opiate-type pain relief. THC is a good muscle relaxer and helps with sleep. CBD is a great anti-inflammatory, works well for nerve pain, and is an anti-convulsant so it’s good for seizures.

Every dose has to deliver the exact milligram per milliliter as prescribed. Each hour you take an inhalation from the vapor, it gives you a specific mg .”

When - With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

When a patient visits Columbia Care for the first time, they meet with a pharmacist who takes them through a full consultation to determine what products they may respond to best.

” In the higher-THC products ,” Reed explains,” there can be a euphoric feeling which might not be so bad for patients going through a hard time. It’s similar to the side-effects you’d get from other meds like Valium. I promote patients to think of it that way. It’s just a side-effect similar to those of other drugs they may have already taken. There is still that sense of taboo or stigma that goes along with marijuana. A lot of what we’ve been trying to do is to de-stigmatize it.

Rosemary Mazanet, an oncologist by original training, is chief scientific officer for Columbia Care.” When I think about the disconnection between the enormous promise that cannabis products bringing and the fact that there’s such an air about it that constructs it tawdry, it comes down to the fact that it’s federally illegal .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis
With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis
With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis
With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis
With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

With Pancreatic Cancer, What Stephen Needs Is Legalised Cannabis

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