Patient Success Story: Chelsea

Chelsea is an incredible lady (and HMH receptionist!) who has healed through cannabis therapy. She has been utilizing the medicine since she was young to manage emesis and chronic migraines, which turned out to be due to a cancerous brain tumor. Thankfully, she is now healthy, and continues to use cannabis to help with any remaining symptoms from her childhood illness. Chelsea proves that while we may endure years of illness, humans are resilient. She has been empowered by understanding her own health and needs, which includes incorporating cannabis into her active lifestyle.  

HMH: When did you first begin using cannabis as a medicine?

Chelsea: I first learned about cannabis as medicine when I was a child in the hospital. There is a drug called Marinol (dronabinol) that is actually a synthetic form of cannabis. When I was eight years old I had developed chronic severe migraines and spontaneous projectile emesis, aka projectile vomiting, like the little girl from the movie The Exorcist— it was pretty scary! I became unable to make it through a full day of elementary school without spending part of it curled up in pain inside the nurse’s office from either an agonizing migraine or from throwing up somewhere uncontrollably.

My family physician couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me even after months of various treatments so finally my mom took me to a neurologist at St. Luke’s medical center in Denver, Colo., for a MRI brain scan. The MRI revealed a cancerous tumor roughly the size of a softball in the lower right portion of my brain and brain stem.

While in the hospital, several of my friends in the cancer ward also took Marinol to help treat their severe nausea and the pain caused by chemotherapy. Typically it’s only used for adult patients and only taken for a short amount of time, however, it is also prescribed to younger cancer patients who have failed to respond adequately to conventional treatments to relieve nausea and vomiting. While in the hospital it helped me significantly, but paled in comparison to the relief I found later in life from ingesting natural medicinal cannabis. After multiple procedures and over six months living in the hospital I was eventually able to go home, albeit in a wheelchair with IVs still hooked up. My mother and I were told I’d likely never be able to walk again. I had gotten a pinched nerve after one of the surgeries and my right leg was unable to feel sensation and physically unable to extend.

After years of physical therapy and bi-annual checkups with my neurologist until I was 18, I was just about back to a healthy state with no relapses. I could walk and run just fine and although I also suffered some muscle atrophy in both my right leg and right arm, both areas were much better, though its unlikely they will ever heal entirely.

I have been a medical cannabis patient since 2011 and use it to treat two primary conditions that developed as a result of my time in the hospital: cervical neuropathy from the removal of several vertebra caps, and Chron’s disease/IBS which I may have had before the surgery but was diagnosed officially after I got out. There is a significant amount of research suggesting cannabis fights and prevents cancerous growths and that gives me faith that hopefully, I’ll never get another tumor again. I’m also pretty certain this plant’s medicine has been a large part of what has helped my nerves and muscles heal and regenerate. Nowadays it helps me manage my daily stress and get to sleep.

HMH: In what ways has cannabis improved your life? What are some obstacles and/or difficulties that you have encountered?

Chelsea: Cannabis has helped me function in my day to day life and allows me to live the active lifestyle I love. There were times before I was able to use cannabis as medicine when I was too fatigued to go for a run or join friends on a climb or a hike. My neck gets sore during most days and as an artist and athlete it can mean the end of a project or game unless I treat it with a topical rub—smoking and edibles greatly help too. Mornings were and still are the hardest, my Chron’s tends to flare up first thing when I wake up. In the past it was almost debilitating and getting up was no fun. Now I’m able to wake up early, medicate, do some yoga or go for a walk, and then go about my day. There is a difference between surviving and thriving and for me, cannabis is that difference.

HMH: Are you drawn to particular strains? Why?

Chelsea: I’m definitely an Indica girl, some of my favorite strains are Northern Lights, Kosher Kush, and Mendocino Purps. Recently I’ve been trying more hybrids and Sativas and have come to the realization that while Indicas work best for me, it really does depend on the strain. There are some fantastic strains out there, and a new one is always worth a try.

HMH: What would you tell someone who is interested in cannabis, but doesn’t know where to start?

Chelsea: Educate before you elevate! Pick up a book, talk to friends or family who use cannabis about how it works best for them and what method they use to consume their medicine. Leafly is also a fantastic website for all cannabis users, from the novice to the expert. I think it’s really important for first time cannabis consumers to keep their dosage controlled and initially limit it to a small amount until they feel comfortable using more.

HMH: Where do you hope the industry goes in the next 2-5 years?

Chelsea: I would love to see medical cannabis become nationally legal, there are so many difficulties for MMJ patients when it comes to traveling or even relocating. When it comes to reciprocity laws, the legal landscape in this country is a mess! Believe it or not it can be very limiting.

HMH: What else do you do to stay healthy/feel good on a daily basis?

Chelsea: Wellness really matters to me. It’s probably because of all the time I spent in the hospital as a kid but, I truly love living life and make an effort to treat my body and mind right! First and foremost I drink tons of water, especially living in Arizona. Because my Chron’s flares are largely psycho-somatic, I really do have to make an effort to regulate my levels of stress and anxiety. So, besides working out 2-3 times a week and trying to eat well, I do a lot of meditation and healing therapies. I also take CBD oil because it helps with all my little problems: chronic neck pain, Chron’s, muscle atrophy, and general stress and anxiety.

— Interview by Taylor Haynes

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