Crohn’s Patients Share A Common Solution
With one in every 150 people affected, Canada has the highest per capita rate of Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis of any country. Since 1995, the number of new cases of Crohn’s in children in this country has nearly doubled. And while the cause behind that chilling statistic is cited as a combination of immune, bacterial and environmental factors, there are more questions than answers to why the disease is disproportionately affecting Canadians.
To lend a voice to the topic, we talked to three people who have had their lives altered by Crohn’s. The discussions produced a number of common themes, as each individual traced the trajectory of their battle with the illness. From being properly diagnosed and treated to adopting new diets and lifestyles, the three shared a similar struggle. In medical cannabis, they also shared a common solution.
Often sick as a teenager, Will was improperly diagnosed several times before finally finding out in his early 20s he had Crohn’s. The experience left him bent against the modern medical system, with a general distrust of the physicians that had diagnosed him with stress and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Plied with prescriptions for steroids and antidepressants, Will felt conventional treatment left him stealing from Peter to pay Paul.
Daily, he grappled with symptoms he likened to “having the flu all the time.” Will says it wasn’t until he developed a robust treatment plan that relief came on him like a revelation.
In addition to reforming his diet and introducing an exercise regimen that revolves around yoga, Will also started microdosing with a low-THC oil and vaporizing dried cannabis when acute symptoms surfaced. He credits medical cannabis with allowing him to continue running down his dreams, which were for many years derailed by the insidious disease.
“You have to be quite disciplined. If I don’t do yoga and I don’t eat properly and I don’t use cannabis, my symptoms can be extreme,” he says. “There are so many offshoots of my symptoms. Pain results in insomnia, which results in the illness the next day. It’s a vicious cycle if I don’t take good care of myself.”
As a kid, Jenny’s stomach hurt constantly. At 14, she was prescribed ulcer medication that helped pacify symptoms until an ugly night in her late teens, when she woke falling to the floor from her bed. As she lay on the ground unable to move from the pain, the thought that something more sinister was to blame washed over her like a wave. She’d hope to report that recovery started that night. But that would be a lie.
Two years would pass at the cost of an appendix before Jenny was diagnosed with Crohn’s – a day she’d greet with action. Her father, then the editor of a community newspaper, dropped the day’s broadsheet on the lunchroom table. There, a letter to the editor highlighted the benefits of medical cannabis to treat even the most egregious side-effects of Crohn’s and colitis.
The message moved her to find the nearest weed dealer and, as she puts it, “cop a big joint, get really high, and find instant relief.”
Where she once had to quit jobs and risk the shame of being fired by doctors for forcing them to sign her medical documents, Jenny now advocates for the herb across every tier of existence. In the context of Crohn’s, she believes cannabis, particularly CBD, can serve as a cornerstone to any treatment plan.
“Food makes you sick and your body simply stops being hungry.” she points out. “I can remember sitting down with my grandparents and all my family after I had started using cannabis to treat my Crohn’s and actually getting to eat a meal with them. Normally, I would just sit there and not eat because I’d be sick and I started crying at the table because I never thought that I would have that family experience ever again in my life.”
Al was feeling invincible when Crohn’s crashed into his life like a tsunami at the back end of 2002. He was 41 and down 65 pounds to a slender 120 – a shadow of his former self – when he fell from the graces of local hero. From multi-sport minor league coach and president of an off-road club to a jaundiced patient in dire straits, Al was on his death bed when doctors diagnosed him with Crohn’s.
In the beginning of his treatment, Al held symptoms at bay with 32 pills a day. He was also injecting himself in the stomach weekly with a biological drug until he was rendered immune to the treatment. He says life under the spell of his flare ups from the Crohn’s in those early days turned his life upside down. A solution to the issue, he believed, became as essential as survival.
From nearly three dozen pills to a treatment plan built of three pillars – diet, lifestyle and medical cannabis – he says his misery quickly morphed to hope by the side of this new muse. With bitter memories of a mouth littered with cankers still fresh in his mind, Al couldn’t bite his tongue. His illness became the catalyst to his work as an activist.
A community leader by calling, he took to sharing the solution that had set him free of the chains that bound him. Over the last 12 years, he’s shared his story through every channel at his disposal – articles, educational documentaries and speaking tours – with no intentions of slowing down in sight. He believes it’s the right of every Crohn’s patient to find the same freedom he has from the icy grip this disease can hold.
“When this hits, it takes over. Between the pills that I was on, the medication that I was dealing with, Crohn’s took my life away from me,” he says. “Cannabis has helped me with everything from sleep to pain to food. I haven’t had a prescription for an opiate drug since I left the hospital in 2003. It’s been nothing but cannabis all the way through.”
Here’s to Future Growth.
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