Patient Stories

Medical Cannabis & Cancer: Tom's Story

Shortly after Tom retired in September 2015, he discovered he had skin cancer. He immediately underwent a procedure to remove two areas, one on the side of his head and the other on his cheek. Things went well for several months, but started to take a turn for the worst in the spring of 2016. Come July, after experiencing extreme fatigue, nausea, and a severe lack of appetite for several months, Tom was diagnosed with John Hodgkins Lymphoma and was informed that his right lung was filled with fluid. Tom underwent a procedure to remove the fluid and then pursued a vigorous health plan to regain his health.

Minnesota born and raised, Tom spent the breadth of his career as a hard-working equipment operator while pursuing his passions of skiing and ski jumping (he was a member of the US Ski Team at one point in time) and performing music with his fellow band members of The Terrapin Brothers—a great group of people who love playing music together—in his free time. Before the symptoms surfaced and he was diagnosed, Tom was active and healthy; he had just begun to enjoy life as a retiree.

Within three months of receiving his diagnosis, his symptoms drastically worsened. His oncologist advised him that his next steps should be surgery to remove the lymph nodes in his chest and chemotherapy.

Having witnessed a close friend battle cancer under similar circumstances and seeing the damage that chemotherapy can have, Tom was weary of this path. Against the recommendation of his physician for a treatment plan that was homeopathic and natural. After implementing methods such as natural oils and herbs, chiropractic treatments, and maintaining a healthy diet, Tom decided to incorporate medical cannabis—his relief sky-rocketed.

Not only can he sleep through the night again, Tom can now ski, stay up late playing music with his band mates, and has noticed a remarkable increase in energy and decrease in pain. Tom describes the pain relief from medical cannabis as a Godsend, and he continues his well-rounded homeopathic treatments to help manage the symptoms of his cancer diagnosis. He attests that because of medical cannabis, those who knew Tom before cannot believe he is the same person—the medicine has improved his life that much. “Cannabis is a blessing, and the people who are trying to change the world with [this] healing plant are also very special,” Tom remarks.

Medical Cannabis & Terminal Illness: Patrick's Story

Patrick Harder of Longville, Minnesota passed away peacefully on December 27, 2016. He was surrounded by his wife and family in the comfort of his home. “He passed beautifully. He passed the way he wanted. He got his wishes, he got his miracle. I thank you guys so much for taking his pain away. I can’t tell you the relief he got…it’s huge,” Patti, his wife, reflects.

Patrick was the kind of person who didn’t have a mean bone in his body, according to his wife. He liked everyone and the only trouble he had ever gotten into was in the form of a few speeding tickets, she jokes. “He taught me patience,” Patti says, “This man was the most patient man I knew. Quiet. Gentle. Kind. Everything.”

Patrick lived for deer hunting season and farming, two of his biggest passions. He and his wife used to travel the states showing world class Appaloosa horses together. Patrick also loved to spend time with his family, ride horses, attend picnics in the summer, make maple syrup, and just about any other activity that you can do outdoors.

On April 11, 2016, Patrick was diagnosed with colon cancer. His doctor had found a tumor located between his pelvic bones, making it inoperable. The next steps suggested by his doctor were to remove his anus, colon, and large intestine and then begin a rigorous round of chemotherapy—Patrick didn’t want to take that path.

As an alternative route, Patrick began to receive cannabis in the mail from friends who lived in other states. Because he started to experience success in the form of relief, he decided to legally obtain his medicine and began the process of enrolling in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program.

After trying a variety of formulations from the other manufacturer in the state with less than remarkable results, Patrick decided to try LeafLine Labs at the end of September 2016. “He found his level with your medicine,” Patti says, “He never did with the other guys.”

The Harders had a difficult, uphill battle from the appointment of his diagnosis up until coming to LeafLine Labs. They were met with resistance at every step of the way, from finding a certifying health care practitioner, to dealing with hospice care, to speaking with their insurance company. “The only place we felt comfortable was LeafLine Labs,” Patti shares.

Patrick swore he instantly felt relief after trying his first doses of medical cannabis from LeafLine Lab, Patti recalls. Although the medicine was not a cure for his cancer, it helped him to live out his last several months with relief from his pain. “We had 26 years of awesome, and then 8 ½ months from diagnosis to his passing… a lot of people don’t get those 8 ½ months together,” Patti shares with gratitude.

Medical Cannabis & Multiple Sclerosis: Erin's Story

During one of her darkest periods, Erin, a St. Cloud resident, recalls thinking, “How can anything possibly come back to me when everything is gone—nothing is working? My bladder is not working. My voice is not working. I can’t see. I can’t even hold a fork. How is this possible that things can come back?”

To say the least, Erin’s nearly 12-year-long journey with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has been a roller coaster—the first 6 years were the worst. Erin, a former dancer, dance instructor, and aerobics teachers who is now 37, was diagnosed at just 25 years old. Depending on the day, Erin used to experience any combination of the following: a lack of coordination and motor control, slurred speech, limb numbness or paralysis, spouts of blindness, and jerking tremors that prevented her from the restorative, restful sleep her body needed. At one point, she was confined to a wheelchair. These symptoms would last anywhere from a day to a month or in extreme cases, longer.

To treat the symptoms of MS, Erin took numerous different drugs including Gabapentin, Klonopin, and Topamax. She tried Botox, which provided relief for a time. Erin also self-medicated with cannabis obtained by other means than through the Minnesota medical cannabis program, but didn’t care for the way it made her feel; she couldn’t function, she couldn’t hold a conversation, and she would feel hungover and foggy the day after. She knew a lot of people who would go to Colorado for cannabis but did not want to go that route herself.

On top of it all, the long list of medications she was being prescribed only added more side effects like lack of appetite, grogginess, and a mix of frustration and anxiety that led to a spell of depression. After more than a decade of dealing with less than ideal results, she decided something needed to change.

In January 2017, after being referred to a certifying health care practitioner (HCP) by her neurologist, Erin enrolled in the Minnesota medical cannabis program. After a few months of working with her pharmacists at LeafLine Labs to find the right therapeutic dose, Erin has found it. Now, she feels as though she can handle her condition on her own. “I get so many benefits from the cannabis,” she says, “You guys don’t even know.”

She has been able to ween off Gabapentin and several other medications and for the ones she continues to take, medical cannabis helps her to manage the side effects. Finally, she is starting to feel like herself once more. She can dance, walk, run, write, brush her hair, and put makeup on—things that at one point in time, she wasn’t certain she would ever be able to do again. Most importantly for Erin, she can keep up with and spend quality time with her 7-year-old daughter.

Erin also has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and believes the cannabis is helping to manage symptoms that come with the diagnosis. Before, Erin would tend to isolate herself. Since starting medical cannabis, she has rediscovered the desire and the energy to participate in the world outside the four walls of her home.

“Look at me 10 years ago versus today. I’m a totally different person. Even my friends say [they’ve seen a difference] from last summer and this spring. I’m totally different. My attitude has changed. I’m happier. I dislike how this drug is stigmatized as being bad when it’s not. Some of the drugs I was on were awful,” Erin remarks.

Medical Cannabis, Seizures, & Autism: Julian's Story

Julian’s mother, Victoria, didn’t think his condition could get any worse, until one day it did. Rather than inflicting harm on others, he turned to harming himself; a mother’s worst nightmare. It started with hitting himself in the head and kneeing himself in the teeth. Then, in October 2016, Julian was hospitalized after nearly beating himself to death. He was admitted with two black eyes, a fractured skull, and hematomas on his head. The doctors – as many others had done for the entirety of Julian’s life – attributed his actions to a behavioral issue and advised to treat accordingly, but his mother knew that wasn’t the problem.

Julian was certified in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program in January 2017 for his seizures (at one point he was having 30-40 per day, many of which were grand mal), but has several other conditions that benefit from his new form of treatment as well. His mother has said, “I really think that if we didn’t get qualified for this that he would really find a way to kill himself. He’s in that much pain.”

Although born without any preexisting conditions, he was later diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Julian developed gastrointestinal issues as a young boy and suffers from neuropathic pain from a back injury that never healed properly. Julian endures Tourette Syndrome-like motor tics and often struggles to control his own body.

With Julian’s limited verbal skills (which he has worked extremely hard for), identifying the direct source of the pain was tricky, but Victoria knew an overwhelming amount stemmed from the region of his head. She could see when a headache came on and his pain levels increased – he winced and looked as though he wanted to crawl out of his own skin, often grabbing at his head, hitting himself, or banging his head into whatever surface was closest. Sometimes, he would lash out at others. It had become clear that Julian did not want to hurt himself or those around him, but he did not have the control of his body to deal with the pain he lives in every day.

After Julian was released from his October 2016 hospital stay, he was put on several different medications and he had a stable month in terms of his aggression and self-harming. The side effects of his medications, though, caused him to sleep all the time and he seemed as though he no longer wanted to live; he was miserable.

In January 2017, Julian was hospitalized once again for the same reasons, and missed out on over a month of school. Once again, the doctors attributed it to behavior. Determined to find relief for her son this time around, Victoria searched for a physician who would certify Julian in the medical cannabis program. On the same day that he was certified, she made an appointment and met with a pharmacist at a LeafLine Labs patient care center.

After his first two doses of Cobalt, Julian’s parents noticed him begin to relax. His seizure activity was low and the severity drastically decreased. He barely hit himself. Within a few days and several more doses of medicine, they continued to see small, yet promising improvements. After a month, they started to see more significant, lasting results. His speech improved and he has started to retrieve words his parents had not heard him speak in months. His need for swaddling decreased and he started to gain more control of his limbs. Julian started to sleep through the night more often. He was successfully weaned off his psych medications, and his mother hopes to be able to wean him off several others, including his seizure medications.

Early in February 2017, he returned to school. “One day I was like, He’s really irritable, he doesn’t feel good. So, I give him a little Tangerine and he’s smiling before he leaves for school,” Victoria remembered, “I checked in and they said that he was having a decent day. We weren’t having any decent days. I think it’s really going to change his life.”

The most extraordinary part is that Julian started to smile again for the first time in over half a year. “I know it’s early on… but this is the first time in a year that I’m seeing him smiling again. He’s reaching out and he’s looking for help, he’s trying to problem solve. He’s trying to keep himself under his weighted blanket or doing whatever he can to keep from hurting himself rather than going and doing it. He didn’t start asking for help until he started the cannabis therapy,” Victoria remarked, “This is not a band aid medication. This is a healing medication. This is not something that is going to have damaging side effects on his liver. It’s not going to cause organ damage and breakdown of his organs. It’s not going to have all these neuro-psychiatric side effects like the psych medicines do. I don’t want him on any of that. It’s not addictive like an opiate. But it’s going to manage his inflammation, his pain. And it’s helping his brain to make connections again. It’s so huge to me.”

When we spoke with Victoria in March of 2017, she told us that Julian’s days consisted of going to school and spending time at home. He required two adults with him to protect him from himself, he wore two helmets and padded braces around his elbows to prevent his arms from bending, and he slept under a weighted blanket each night. “If he can’t bend his arms, he can’t reach up to hit himself in the head,” Victoria said.

As of May 2017, Julian was going every day without wearing his protective gear – helmets and arm guards – or harming himself. He did not need to sleep with a weighted blanket anymore or have two people to hold his arms back throughout the day. He could spend time around his sister, family members, and friends once again. He attended school five days per week. He would flash his million-dollar smile many times each day and laughter was becoming more and more common. He continued to relearn phrases and words he hadn’t spoken in years. His mother and father could tell that Julian was not in the pain that he used to be – they could see it in his eyes, they could tell by the way he moved about their home.

Fast forward to May 2018 and all of the aforementioned still holds true. As his pain levels decrease, his mood and behavior increase. Julian is continuing to learn and grow - he’s thriving. He is talking more and typing to communicate. Through his typing, Julian’s family and loved ones are getting to know him and are seeing more of the bright, funny boy he is. He had an incredible school year and is looking forward to the summer when he can spend time with his family, swim, climb, and run around barefoot.

Medical cannabis has provided hope for Julian and his family that they had once lost sight of. Julian has faced many obstacles along his health care journey, but he is resilient and it is clear there is so much life inside of him. He is curious and enjoys going to school, looking at photos, and watching the History Channel and Wheel of Fortune. When he smiles, he speaks with his eyes and you can feel his joy. Victoria swears that without cannabis, her son would not be here with us today. She describes it as nothing short of a miracle.