intractable pain

Medical Cannabis, IBS & Intractable Pain: Vicki's Story

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LeafLine Labs patient, Vicki, was born and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota where she currently lives. She is a mother, a grandmother to four grandchildren, and has been with her significant other for over 14 years.

Vicki is a caregiver for her mother, who lives down the street, and she is passionate about helping people; she gets joy from inspiring smiles and laughter in others. She considers herself spiritual and meditates regularly. When she can, she incorporates yoga or pilates into her daily routine.

For the majority of her life, Vicki has lived with the pain, anxiety, and other symptoms that come with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, GERD, Celiac disease, and numerous other food allergies.

To treat her various conditions, she has tried a seemingly countless list of medications and physical therapy, but the relief was always minimal and the side effects many.

Vicki describes herself as a happy, outgoing person but for the past few years she did not quite feel like herself. Her health, both emotionally and physically, went into decline. She experienced more pain and anxiety and began to eat and sleep less. She remembers days where she would force herself to get up and out of her pajamas just of so that her significant other, Kevin, wouldn’t know she hadn’t gotten out of bed all day.

When Vicki first learned about the medical cannabis program in Minnesota, she assumed that the requirements to become a patient were more restrictive than they actually were; she thought that one had to have been diagnosed with cancer or another terminal illness.

When a friend recommended she get certified and she realized she could qualify with her conditions, Vicki decided she needed to make a drastic change and would do anything to get there.

Vicki had experimented with cannabis in the past as a way to self-medicate but didn’t quite feel as though she was getting the relief she had heard so much about; she was eager to see what differences she would experience after enrolling in the state’s program.

In October 2018, she had her conditions certified, enrolled in the program and scheduled an initial consultation at the LeafLine Labs patient care center in Hibbing.

Since her first appointment, Vicki’s life has taken a drastic turn for the best. “The medical cannabis has taken the inflammation out of my body; it has taken the pain away,” she shares.

Now, she is doing things once again that she hadn’t in over two years. She feels an undeniable difference and everyone around her has noticed the improvement in her mood and the way she moves about her life.

Amazingly, Vicki has not had to take a single prescription or over-the-counter painkiller since she began using medical cannabis. She still takes medication to help her sleep at night, but has been able to cut her dosing in half.

Since she was young, Vicki has lived with thyroid problems. Just the other day, her test results came back and she was told she needs to decrease her dosing of Synthroid, a drug that replaces or provides more thyroid hormones. Since 1994, Vicki has never tapered her use of thyroid medication, only increased; Vicki is ecstatic about this change and believes wholeheartedly that cannabis has helped her get to this milestone.

Feeling better and more optimistic than she has in quite some time, Vicki is eager to see what other firsts and progress come as she continues to use medical cannabis. “It has given me my life back,” she shares.

She is grateful to have the energy and desire once again to spend time with her loved ones, pursue her passions and to move about her day with newfound effort and ease.

Vicki with her son and daughter.

Vicki with her son and daughter.

Delivery Methods: Heather Topical Gel Cream

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Created to provide relief for localized pain, LeafLine Labs’ Heather Topical Gel Cream is the most cannabinoid-concentrated topical available to patients in Minnesota.

Heather is our 1:1 formulation; combining THC and CBD in roughly equal amounts has shown to work well together for pain-related conditions.

This product provides anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects while eliminating the psychoactive component often experienced when taking oral, inhaled, or centrally absorbed medical cannabis formats.

Topical formulations act on cannabinoid receptors without breaching the bloodstream, which allows for efficient pain relief while minimizing side effects.

This medication is dispensed in an easy-to-use bottle which includes a built-in applicator that provides a pre-measured dose with each pump. This product may be used independently or in combination with other LeafLine Labs products.

Our pharmacy team often recommends this type of medication for painful muscle spasm disorders, neuropathic pain, and select cancer-related pain.

How May Medical Cannabis Help Patients With Arthritis?

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Arthritis itself is not a qualifying condition for the medical cannabis program in Minnesota, however, LeafLine Labs treats many patients with arthritis who have qualified for the medical cannabis program under Intractable Pain.

Medical cannabis’ ability to reduce pain and inflammation is well established, and many patients currently being treated for arthritis symptoms at our care centers have reported greatly improved symptoms.

Every arthritis patient has unique needs, and a consultation with a LeafLine Labs pharmacist is the best way to determine what medications are most likely to work for their symptom profiles.

For example, one patient may be seeking greater pain relief and help sleeping through the night, and another patient may be trying to be more active with less pain during the day. These two patients would likely have different treatment plans. We can create virtually any custom ratio of CBD to THC and use what the patient feels works best for them.

Our goal with medical cannabis therapy is to help manage the symptoms of arthritis, such as reducing pain and inflammation, and to help improve patient’s quality of life as much as possible.

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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Medical Cannabis, Seizures, Autism & Intractable Pain: Lucas's Story

Lucas of Lakeville, Minnesota, is in many ways your typical 18-year-old boy. He loves girls, Will Ferrell movies, and sports--baseball is his favorite. He also loves some good potty humor, Elmo, and spending time with his big sister.

At age 3, Lucas was diagnosed on the autism spectrum and with cerebral palsy. Around the same age, his parents were told that he also suffered from seizures.

In addition to the seizures, Lucas would often inflict harm on himself or others. He was anxious, restless and would often struggle to get restful sleep. Some of Lucas’s behavioral tendencies has made it hard for his family to spend time out in their community. “Autism is our life,” his mother explained. Lucas and his family have spent many days at home watching TV.

To help manage symptoms and the progression of his diagnoses, Lucas was prescribed a number of different medications. Unfortunately, most of those medications came with side effects that required even more medications to manage them, adding to an already lengthy list of prescriptions. Nearly two years ago, Lucas’s cholesterol and triglyceride levels were so high that his doctor prescribed him Fenofibrate, a common drug for his condition but uncommon for someone so young.

After they had exhausted what seemed like every treatment option, Lucas’s physician recommended enrolling in the medical cannabis program in Minnesota. Interested in lowering the number of prescription medications he was taking and finding a more natural treatment option, his parents were immediately interested.

Since Lucas was young, Olivia had researched and kept in mind the possibility of medical cannabis as an alternative for him, but for years it wasn’t legal and she still had her hesitations once the program started in 2015. After Lucas’s physician certified his condition and they enrolled through the Minnesota Department of Health, it took nearly a month for his parents to decide to make an appointment at LeafLine Labs.

Now, Lucas experiences relief from pain and seizures without the long lists of side effects that prescription medications left him with; they have been able to wean him off most of his pharmaceuticals.

Lucas is mostly nonverbal and prefers not to be touched most of the time, but one of the words he uses frequently is cream. When he experiences pain from scoliosis, for which he is undergoing a spinal fusion surgery in mid-July, he will ask for his cream and stand perfectly still while one of his parents rubs the Heather Topical Gel Cream on his back. “It’s pretty incredible,” his mother remarked.

“As soon as the cannabis was given to him, the hitting of himself stopped. The violent outbursts with us stopped. It was like night and day,” Olivia shared. “I was really expecting him to start speaking and, you know, write his own name and all of these other miracles. I know they will happen someday, though. Just the fact that he stopped hurting himself was enough.”

Olivia describes Lucas as being more self-aware. “I feel like he’s in our world more than he used to be,” she said.

Lucas is thriving in his autism program at school and he is expected to graduate when he turns 21. He can sit in class, focus and not get distracted by what’s going on around him. His parents feel as though he’s learning and making cognitive gains more so than ever before and they haven’t noticed any seizures since he began taking medical cannabis.

He is more interested in participating in the world around him. The other day, his face lit up when his sister entered the room, his mother shared, whereas before he may not have even noticed.

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This past February, Lucas attended his second Night to Shine prom night experience, an event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation for people with special needs age 14 and older. In contrast to his first time prior to medical cannabis, this last prom was a night-and-day difference. He wore his first tuxedo, he participated in activities and interacted with his peers, and he seemed more focused. “He really seemed to enjoy himself,” Olivia shared.

Lucas’s parents are amazed every day by the improvements in health, mood and behavior they’ve seen in their son, and they are eager to witness even more progress once he begins to heal from his spinal fusion surgery in July.

Looking back to the beginning of Lucas’s journey with medical cannabis, Olivia’s only regret is not making an appointment immediately. “It could have been one more month that he had this medicine,” she said.
 

Intractable Pain, Obstructive Sleep Apnea & Medical Cannabis: Tony's Story

Meet Tony, a LeafLine Labs patient who lives in Apple Valley, Minnesota. He is your not-so-typical ‘retired’ (as he likes to call it) 25 year old. He graduated from Augsburg College with a degree in Management Information Systems. He’s sharp, smart, and has a great sense of humor. A self-proclaimed music critic, he runs his own blog where he shares his thoughts on the best and worst of the industry. He enjoys going to movies, playing video games, and spending time outside as much as he can.

Tony grew up walking, running, and participating in all the activities of a typical childhood. When he was 4 ½ years old, he started showing signs of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a disorder of progressive muscular weakness most commonly found in boys. To help manage symptoms of DMD, Tony began taking steroid injections.

Although the steroids helped to slow the progression of DMD, they did not come without side effects. Most notably, he stopped growing around age 12. He also experienced cataracs, high blood pressure and often crippling anxiety. His appetite was small, at best, most of the time. He was later diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Tony’s calf muscles were the first part of his body weakened by DMD, which caused him to walk on his tiptoes. In middle school his overall mobility was quite affected. By high school Tony was using a wheelchair.

The combination of side effects from steroid injections, the chronic pain from sitting in a wheelchair all day, and the stress and physical toll a lack of sleep takes on the body led him to to enroll in the medical cannabis program here in Minnesota in November 2016.

Prior to enrolling, Tony and his family--mom, dad, and brother--took part in petitioning the addition of Intractable Pain to the medical cannabis program in Minnesota. They’ve attended rallies at the capitol and consider themselves advocates for cannabis as medicine.

Tony and his parents struggled to find a physician who would certify his condition. Eventually, they were referred to a physician who was willing to help and was actively certifying patients for the medical cannabis program. “It was challenging. Worth it, but I wish it was easier,” his mother, Carol said.

Since beginning cannabinoid therapy with medicine from LeafLine Labs, Tony’s life has been changed for the better. His quality of life, as well as his family’s, has increased significantly. His appetite is back, he has real, lasting pain relief, and his anxiety is manageable. He can sleep through the night. He can spend longer periods of times doing the things he loves, and he can also spend more time in his wheelchair without his back hurting. He is completely off steroids. “It makes everything better,” Tony said.

As parents and caregivers, Carol and Steve, have found an incredible amount of relief in seeing the changes in their son’s mobility, mood, and overall quality of life. His diagnoses have helped them, as well as his brother, appreciate their own health and not take anything for granted.

Tony and his family work every day to embrace and embody the adage “Live life to your fullest," and medical cannabis has been a key component in allowing all of them to do just that. One of the perks of his situation? “Handicap parking,” Tony joked. Remember that great sense of humor?

Tony’s piece of advice for anyone considering enrolling in the medical cannabis program here in Minnesota: “Don’t pass it by without giving it a chance…”

 

Medical Cannabis & Intractable Pain: Josh's Story

When Josh of Woodbury, Minnesota was 19, doctors found a blot clot; he was hospitalized for several weeks and put on blood thinners. Following his stay in the hospital, he developed venous ulcers on his feet from damages to his veins. Josh underwent multiple surgeries—including skin grafts—that were unsuccessful in removing his ulcers or bringing him the relief he deserved.

For nearly a decade, Josh lived in constant pain. His daily routine revolved around the meticulous care of his wounds and ulcers and managing his pain levels. A restful night’s sleep was rare; he only managed to sleep for 2 to 4 hours at a time. Half-way through the day his pain would start to increase and by the end of the day his feet were so swollen he would have trouble taking off his boots. Josh likens the pain to having barbed wire wrapped around his feet that was heated with a blow torch; the pain he felt on the side of his leg was like having glass jammed into it.

Josh was prescribed a lengthy list of pills, including opioids, which brought only minute levels of pain relief and riddled him with a number of side effects, including digestion issues. Other treatments Josh tried consisted of: medical ablation (which was done approximately 10 times), compression socks, air socks, elevating his legs above his head and blood thinners. None of these treatments were successful.

He was told by one physician that he could not be helped, so he looked for care elsewhere.

When one of Josh’s physicians recommended medical cannabis as a treatment option, he was apprehensive. Exhausted and in need of relief, Josh was considering amputating his leg before trying medical cannabis. With the encouragement of his physician and friends in other states who had either experienced or witnessed healing from the medicine, he decided to try it for 2 months. He made an appointment at LeafLine Labs in Saint Paul; it was his last resort.

Within the first week, he began to experience the relief he had been in search of for nearly a decade. He had a surge in energy, he was able to lower the number pain pills he was consuming right away, and was able to sleep for a full 8 hours for the first time in months.

“Luckily, I have seen real healing ever since starting medical cannabis. I never saw that before,” Josh says.

Now, he can focus better. He has been able to get back to the gym and in the last 6 months has lost 60 pounds. He eats regularly.  Josh still takes muscle relaxers and medications for his veins, but has been able to completely ween of all opioids. He feels better in his own body, more alive. His quality of life has drastically increased since he began using medical cannabis, and for the first time in years he has a renewed sense of hope for the future. Both Josh and his wife are eager to continue seeing him make progress and heal.

“…It’s life changing. When you are in a lot of pain, you look at everything with doom and gloom,” Josh shares, “When you are not in pain, there is a lot more joy and happiness. Life is easier.”

Medical Cannabis, Fibromyalgia, & PTSD: Kim's Story

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For Kim of Benson, Minnesota, it happened all at once. In the early winter of 2015, her father—who she adored—passed away and along with him, the remainder of her support system. She was devastated. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with shingles which took the chronic, widespread pain she lived in every day from fibromyalgia and multiplied it; the pain was horrific.

Kim, who has 5 dogs, 7 cats and several other four-legged friends (as well as two-legged), has been an animal lover since day one; when she was younger, she did not have dolls—she had pets. Raising and taking care of animals is a passion she shared with her father. She also loves to spend as much time outside as possible when she’s feeling up to it.

Kim was diagnosed with fibromyalgia back in 1996 and in 2015 when the shingles came, a pain she never could have imagined accompanied it. Although the rash from the shingles virus only lasted about 2 weeks, Kim suffered permanent nerve damage that she will live with for the rest of her life. She tried every solution her doctor recommended—from anti-seizure medications, to opioids and topical medications—but nothing worked. “I tried all of the heavy stuff, and it didn’t touch it. It didn’t even touch [the pain].”

In January 2017 when the pain was so excruciating and debilitating that she had to give up the deer she and her father had raised – all 43 of them – she felt as though she had nothing left to live for; there have been many days when the pain led to her question whether she wanted to live any longer.

“It’s very emotionally painful as much as it is physically painful. People just don’t understand [my situation],” Kim says, “…Take something that you’ve lived for and then never do it again. I don’t know how else to explain it.”

Once Kim’s doctor recommended she look into medical cannabis, she did not hesitate; medical cannabis was her last resort. Once her condition had been certified and she was added into the state registry, she made an appointment at LeafLine Labs.

It took approximately a month for Kim to find her therapeutic dose but now that she has, she has started to feel better than she can ever remember—that’s how long she has been living in pain.

“It’s a necessity is what it is now,” she explains, “To me, it’s no different than somebody that needs heart medication. If you don’t take this, you’re going to die.”

Before medical cannabis, she describes her quality of life, on a scale from 1 to 10, at 1. Now, with medical cannabis there are days where she feels so good, so normal, that she forgets to take her dose. She has been able to stop taking all of her prescription pain killers and is now free of all the side effects that came with them.

“I don’t even take Aspirin or Ibuprofen [for the pain]. At all,” she shares.

Kim feels as though the medical cannabis helps to relieve all pain from the nerve damage caused by shingles and she has yet to experience any side effects from her medicine. She truly believes that if her parents had been able to use medical cannabis when they were sick that their quality of life would have been drastically better before they passed. Medical cannabis helps Kim to care for her pets, spend time outside, and navigate her days in comfort; the relief she experiences gives her hope for the future.

Medical Cannabis, Intractable Pain, & PTSD: Kristina's Story

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For Kristina of St. Cloud, Minnesota, her diagnoses of PTSD, Fibromyalgia, and a traumatic brain injury (TBI) brought a wave of relief for her and her loved ones. For decades, she did not know what was wrong with her; numerous doctors told her she was perfectly healthy and test results seemed to tell the same story.

Growing up, Kristina experienced bullying and harassment that eventually caused her to block out any memories of her childhood before age 10. When she was in high school, she started seeing a counselor to help her work through the feelings she was experiencing. Unfortunately, counseling was unsuccessful in bringing relief and as alternative treatment she was introduced to antidepressants.

During the decades before she was diagnosed, she was prescribed more pills than she could count from her psychiatrists and pain specialists, though the pain relief she experienced was not nearly significant enough to outweigh the side effects. In 2004 while taking her three children for a walk, Kristina and her family were struck by a distracted driver. Luckily, there were no fatalities, but Kristina and her youngest son sustained TBIs—both of which were not correctly diagnosed until years later.

Come 2011, Kristina was diagnosed with PTSD and it wasn’t until 2013—nearly 10 years after being struck by a car—that she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (which they believed was in-part due to PTSD) and a TBI. Putting a name to her conditions meant being able to pursue a more targeted treatment regimen, but her health care practitioners continued to prescribe pills—she overdosed several times.

When Kristina inquired about medical cannabis as a treatment option, her neurologist at a major health care system in St. Cloud refused to continue seeing her. This sent her into a dark spiral of depression and she embarked on a year-long journey to find a physician who would certify her for the medical cannabis program. There were times when she believed taking her life was the only way to find relief from her own thoughts and pain.

As she describes it, she lost herself. Kristina was in a constant fog. She was confined within the walls of her home, unable to participate in the world and to be the mother her children needed and she so desperately wanted to be. She could not put on makeup, shower, do the dishes, or even wear shoes because of the pain flares that come with Fibromyalgia. When she was able to muster the strength and will to attend family events, she would be bed-ridden and recuperating for weeks at a time afterwards.

Exhausted and in dire need of something that would improve—and quite frankly save—her quality of life, she was able to find a physician who would certify her for the medical cannabis program in December 2016. Once approved in the registry, she made an appointment at LeafLine Labs.

Although her qualifying condition was intractable pain, Kristina shares that she has seen the biggest improvements with symptoms related to PTSD. She is appreciative of how willing the pharmacists at LeafLine Labs are in treating all of her conditions, not just those that qualified her for the program.

Once she began using medical cannabis, it took about 10 weeks for her to be weaned off her pain medications and 5 months until she was off everything, including the medications she was prescribed to treat PTSD. “It was really hard,” she admits.

She felt like giving up many times due to withdrawals, pain and a racing heart, but she remained persistent and patient. Kristina’s loving husband, Byron—as well as her family and friends—were and continue to be supportive, compassionate, and understanding of her journey toward an improved quality of life. Today, she isn’t entirely healed and still must deal with symptoms from her conditions, but both she and her husband agree that her progress has been life-changing.

Kristina is now off of all pain killers and prescription pills she was prescribed for PTSD, Fibromyalgia, and her TBI. Not only is she willing, but also able, to leave her house again. She can do the dishes, put on her makeup, and wear shoes—at least for much longer periods than before. When she is able to attend family events, she can recuperate much faster and isn’t confined to her bed for weeks at a time. “I feel like myself once again,” Kristina says.

Before medical cannabis, she says she had no quality of life at all. Now, each day her quality of life is, on a scale from 1 to 10, anywhere from a 9 to 10. As for her pain, which used to be a 9 or 10 on any given day, it has been reduced to a more manageable range of 1 to 3.

Most importantly, Kristina can once again be a mother to her children. She can take her youngest son, who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum and who has a fear of dogs, on walks outside. “I found myself. I’m back,” she gushes.

Last year for prom dress shopping, Kristina’s daughter was accompanied by her aunt because Kristina’s conditions prevented her from comfortably leaving the house. This spring, Kristina is overwhelmed with joy that she will be able take her daughter shopping to find the perfect prom dress; she attributes this monumental mother-daughter-first to medical cannabis from LeafLine Labs. Kristina, her husband, and her support system of friends and family are hopeful and excited to see what progress will be made as she continues to use this safe, natural medicine.

Medical Cannabis, Migraines, & Cluster Headaches: Mike's Story

“It feels like someone is pushing your eye out,” says Mike of Lakeville, Minnesota, on describing the pain he endures from cluster headaches. “Don’t worry, my condition isn’t contagious,” he jokes.

Mike is a husband, a father of two beautiful daughters and two dogs, and an avid runner. He has lived with vertigo off and on for most of his life, but it wasn’t until August 2016 that he started to experience excruciatingly painful cluster headaches and migraines. Once he was diagnosed, he spent most of the first four months confined to dark rooms, head on ice, with oxygen tanks ready at his side to help bring down the pain.

In the following months, Mike experienced cycles of pain so extreme and debilitating that he could no longer work or carry on with normal day-to-day functions. To treat the pain, Mike’s physician prescribed him Verapamil. Although the medication was very effective, he experienced low blood pressure and a low heart rate and it often left him feeling out of breath. Mike attempted to lower the doses he was taking, but the headaches would get worse each time. Looking for another option, his physician recommended he try Topamax—a ‘nasty, nasty’ drug as Mike describes it, “It’s almost like you’re on heroin walking around,” Mike says, “it really dumbs you down.”

Other prominent side effects from his medications included slurred speech, tingling throughout his entire body, fatigue and a foggy state of mind.

When Mike’s vertigo was at its worst, he decided to pursue self-medication. As an alternative to smoking—he didn’t care for the way it made his lungs feel or some of the other side effects—he began to make cannabis tea. When the tea helped, it would bring his pain and nausea, on a scale from 1 to 10, down from 8 to 4. “That’s the difference between being stuck in bed or being able to go out and cut the grass,” Mike explains.

The issue with making his own tea was that he was never quite sure what he was getting—what chemicals or fertilizers were used or what combinations of compounds were in the cannabis. Sometimes, he would have one cup and he would experience just the right amount of relief; other times, he would have one cup and would be over-medicated and confined to bed—the outcome he was trying to avoid in the first place.

Looking for more consistency and reliability in his pain management with the cluster headaches, Mike decided to pursue enrolling in the Minnesota medical cannabis program. In search of more information before making an appointment, Mike called LeafLine Labs. He remembers everyone he spoke to as helpful, professional, polite and kind, which gave him the confidence he needed to make his decision. He scheduled an initial consult with a pharmacist at LeafLine Labs.

Today, Mike’s pain generally ranges anywhere from 3 to 5, rather than 7 to 9. On his best days, medical cannabis helps to dull the pain from 2 to 3—which in Mike’s book is considered 0. With 3 on the pain scale, Mike can still do work around his home or spend time with his family, rather than being out of commission and unable to participate in his own life. The other benefit that Mike enjoys with the cannabis is the ability to sleep. When the headaches were at their peak he was sleeping 2 to 3 hours per night. He now regularly gets 8 hours. “The cannabis, it’s been huge. It’s just been huge,” Mike says, “It didn’t cure me or anything like that, but it suppresses the pain… Cannabis is one of my tools in this fight.”

Medical Cannabis, Muscle Spasms, Intractable Pain, & PTSD: Ed's Story

Meet Edmund (Ed), a Marine veteran, husband, father, grandfather, and patient at LeafLine Labs. Ed is a medically retired VA Field Examiner who enjoys hunting, fishing, gardening, and spending time with his wife and two dogs. Ed has been diagnosed with various forms of intractable pain, muscle spasms, and PTSD.

For decades, Ed lived with excruciating pain from a service-related injury (USMC 1979 to 1993), in his neck (cervical spine) and his lower back (lumbosacral strain). In the past, he was only able to sleep four to six hours a night because of constant neck pain or numbness in his arms—which started as radiculopathy and progressed into serious pain over time. In addition to his pain, he began to develop knots half the size of a fist on either side of his low-back which was extremely uncomfortable and painful.

Ed decided to undergo neck surgery in 2008, which was not a success, and had subsequent cervical fusion in 2015, which was also unsuccessful. Ed also had surgery on his lower back in 2012, to no avail. Treatment that followed was conservative, including pain meds when needed, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy - but these all simply masked the pain, rather than address the underlying reason for it.

With his traditional methods of treatment not providing relief or the results he desired, he decided to research and then enroll in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program. Since his first appointment at LeafLine Labs, Ed has been able to drastically improve his quality of life with the help of medical cannabis. Edmund says that he has found 70-80 percent relief from muscle spasms in his back and that, “As for my back resolution, with regards to pain, that’s all gone! I’m able to get up and get around and do things I couldn’t do before. There is benefit [to this medicine]. I’ve seen it. I feel it. What more can I tell you?”

Medical Cannabis & Intractable Pain: Randy's Story

In 1989 while serving in the United States Navy, Randy sustained an injury along his cervical spine from C1 to T4. On September 21, 2016, Randy re-injured his cervical spine while undergoing a patient transport that lacked the proper ventilation equipment. His injuries eventually led to marrow edema from C1 to C3. He also developed degenerative disc disease and degenerative arthritis throughout the entirety of his cervical spine, which are both now progressing down into his thoracic spine into T4.

Before medical cannabis, Randy describes his quality of life as non-existent. The multitude of narcotic drugs used to treat his chronic pain robbed him of the ability to breathe on his own, forcing him to use a ventilator while sleeping due to central sleep apnea caused by the Oxycodone. On a scale from 1 to 10, his pain ranged from 7 to 10 and he was sick to his stomach constantly. He would spend his days sitting in a neutral position, moving as little as possible, to subdue his nausea. More often than not, he would go several days at a time without eating, and driving a car was out of the question. At one point, he was taking over 500 pills per month.

Wanting to find a more natural, sustainable path to relief and diminish his long list of prescription medications, Randy decided to enroll in the Minnesota medical cannabis program. Once he found a physician to certify his condition, he found the process to be much easier than he had initially imagined.

Now, his pain is finally under control and he rates it from 3 to 5 rather than 7 to 10. Randy has been able to eliminate Oxycodone, Etodolac, Nortriptyline, Venlafaxine, Tizanidine, Methocarbamol, Cyclobenzaprine and Lisinopril. Aside from an inhaler and allergy medications, he is free of pain killers and prescription medications. His blood pressure is down to a healthy level and he has been able to lose a healthy amount of excess weight. He no longer has central sleep apnea or peripheral pitting edema in his extremities and his obstructive sleep apnea seems to be going away. Finally, Randy feels as though his body is working the way that it was meant to and beginning to heal itself.

“Marijuana has saved the life I was given,” Randy says, “The horror stories are wrong… it’s definitely worth trying.”

My Medical Cannabis Story: A Letter From Lee

Hi,

First and foremost I want to thank everyone at LeafLine Labs for all of your life changing work you do. It is not just a job, a task for you, but a mission to help people live with less pain and more happiness.

A few weeks before I had my first dose of Heather, I was in constant pain. I suffer from severe and persistent muscle spasms, extreme pain from spinal stenosis and nerve damage. I also have fibromyalgia and was not having any luck with a variety of prescription medications. I have two beautiful little girls and I was no longer able to hold them without pain and almost immediate intense spasms. Due to narcotic pain meds, I started retaining urine and had to use a catheter. At 33, this was a crushing moment for me. I started to think about my future and what was in store for me. Was this my life going forward? NO! I refused to take 30+ pills a day to get minimal relief. I did my research and decided to pursue getting registered. I was very apprehensive and was worried about what my family would think. Within an hour of my first dose, my back spasms were gone! My pain had decreased from a 9 to a 3! When I told my family they were not only happy for me but very supportive. With a few consults with Ethan, we added the Tangerine for nighttime use and I have never felt better. I owe LeafLine Labs a lifetime of gratitude. I ask those who are hesitant about medical cannabis to do some research on how it is used in Minnesota. You will find that it is a very structured program and has actually helped many many people suffering from life crippling conditions live a much happier life. Thank you, LeafLine Labs! You folks are amazing!

Regards,

Lee

Intolerable vs. Intractable: A Medical Cannabis Patient’s Story

On August 1, 2016, Ralph became the first patient in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program to meet with a pharmacist to treat Intractable Pain. Since beginning treatment with medical cannabis, Ralph has seen an incredible improvement in his quality of life, while his pain has decreased significantly. Here is Ralph’s story:

“As a never before cannabis user (I was already a Dad in the 60s), I bought into the “counter-culture” reputation of marijuana, and didn’t have it on my radar when I became a victim of intractable pain in my eighth decade. Differentiating “intractable” vs. “intolerable” is important because after post-surgical pain never resolved, shingles complicated the healing, and opioids never really eliminated my pain, I continued to slog through days of what I call “functional discomfort.” The pain was always there, dragging me down, and though I could get through the days “tolerably”, I never felt like more than 50% of me was participating in the life I had known. Unable to sleep due to the pain, the opioids only knocked me out enough to doze, and kept me foggy during the day. I expected cannabis to reduce my pain and relieve me from the opioid fog, but the adjunct effects are just as profound: My sleep is much improved, my Essential Tremor is greatly diminished, my sociability is back, I can enjoy my yard work again, and my wife tells me I’m 10 years younger!

LeafLine Labs has restored my enjoyment of life. The pain management is wonderful, too!

- Ralph S.”