Medical Cannabis, Intractable Pain & Cancer: Lisa's Story

Lisa of Apple Valley, Minnesota, is a mother to twin daughters, a wife, and Marriage and Family Counselor. Her husband, Mark, is a stay-at-home father. Together, they have worked hard to build the life they have always dreamed of.

Lisa had a lumpectomy when she was just 17. At age 22, she was told she had rheumatoid arthritis; the pain was so profound at one point that she was confined to a wheelchair. Years later she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I remember looking at my nightstand and my Oxycodone was half full. Half full, not empty,” Lisa recalled. “And I panicked. I thought, I need more. And I wasn’t even close to being done with it. It was just that fear the pain would come back.”

To treat the pain, she tried everything. From surgeries, to infusions, to a long, convoluted list of medications and prescription painkillers. Nothing worked. As far as the pain medications went, they only sedated her and left her in a constant fog, but they didn’t help with the pain.

“The days didn’t look like anything,” she remembers. “My days blurred into one another. I wanted to be asleep, I didn’t want to be present.”

Her days consisted of short periods of work and restless sleep. After her two beautiful daughters, Lily and Lucy, were born, she remembered crying a lot. The pain kept her bedridden most of the time and the painkillers left her feeling numb and exhausted. At the time, she didn’t have the physical strength or energy to participate in her girls’ lives the way she wanted to. It broke her heart.

Her husband, Mark, has stood by her side through all of it and took care of Lisa and their girls. He stayed at home during the day to take care of Lily and Lucy and lovingly attended to Lisa’s every need; he would often clothe her, help her with her hair, and fetch her a glass of water when she couldn’t get out of bed. “His days never ended,” Lisa shared, “He was, and is, my rock.”

As a last resort, she decided to enroll in the medical cannabis program.

Going into her first appointment at LeafLine Labs, Lisa and Mark were both weary. She had taken an unconventional path to find a certifying physician for the program and it all still felt surreal. They were both pleasantly surprised at the professionalism, compassion and kindness they were met with at her initial consult; it was unlike any other medical experience she had ever had.

“The system works so much better than any other system we have. “Hey, what does your pain look like? Where, when is this hurting you? This matches you,”” Lisa explained, “You don’t ask those questions with opiates. It went from being a shady, weird experience to oh my gosh, this is new age.”

Lisa and her pharmacist have worked together to find a combination of Tangerine and Heather that provides her with just the right amount of relief. She still has flare ups of pain and struggles with asleep from time to time, but her quality of life has increased exponentially.

“I think it was the first time I really rested well and was able to go to sleep,” Lisa recalled of her first dose.

The opioid fog has been lifted and Lisa feels better than she has in over a decade. Although she still occasionally uses opiates for flare ups of breakthrough pain, she has reduced her use of prescription painkillers by about 75 percent. Her need for morphine and benzodiazepines has been completely eliminated.

Before medical cannabis, she believes her quality of life was close to a 2 on any given day. Now, she experiences days, more often than not, that feel like an 8. Her husband, Mark, agrees; before medical cannabis, anything physical - whether it was getting her food or water, or helping her to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night - he would have to help her with. Now, she can do things on her own once again.

“I’m the one that bathes them now,” she gushed. “There’s a sense of pride to that because before, I couldn’t.”

On Saturdays, Lisa and her family go on outings. Now that they don’t have to bring her wheelchair everywhere and Mark doesn’t have to push her, they can do more, they can go farther. They visit amusement parks, apple orchards and places like the zoo.

Aside from helping Lisa find relief from various sources of pain, Lisa believes medical cannabis has helped to bring her family closer together. “We learned really early on in life that things can be taken….the people, your family, that’s all of it [that matters],” she said. “This program has impacted my family. [My husband] can pay more attention to my daughters if he doesn’t have to take care of me….It makes me happy. It has changed my life."

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