Cancer is one of the leading cause of death in North America, with an estimated 200,000 people diagnosed with cancer, according to figures reported by the Canadian Cancer Society in 2017. With the landscape of medical cannabis rapidly changing, many have turned to the plant for its therapeutic properties while dealing with cancer symptoms.
Cannabis as a treatment gained popularity after Rick Simpson was diagnosed with skin cancer and started applying a concentrated form of cannabis oil (now known as Rick Simpson Oil) to his cancerous spots, which later cleared up.
While the research isn’t currently there to support cannabis as being a ‘cure’ for cancer, many patients have given testimonials on how medical marijuana has helped them in their path to recovery.
We spoke to three survivors across Canada who candidly shared their own stories of being a survivor and how the cannabis has significantly improved their quality of life.
Janice Patera — Toronto, ON
After Janice Patera’s mom died at age 47 of breast cancer, she was certain that she carried BRCA2 (breast cancer gene two). Although she didn’t carry the gene, she still found herself diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2016.
Catching it while it was still in ‘stage zero’, she was sent to have a partial mastectomy.
“I couldn’t do radiation because of how I reacted to it,” Patera shares with Leafly, so she looked into natural and holistic treatments for herself. Patera introduced a cannabis oil into her regiment following six months researching how cannabis could be used, what ratio to use, and how it could potentially help from the inside out.
She found that it was a hybrid strain which helped combat her insomnia and general anxiety surrounding her diagnosis. “I usually would wake up every hour throughout the night, so the oil would actually give me a four-hour sleep segment, which was pretty good for me,” explains Patera. Although working in the medical field herself for 20 years, she found places like the Apollo Clinic and their educators, really quite helpful. “Along with research, they can direct you and let you know what they feel can help.”
Bill Garner — Winnipeg, MB
Bill Garner was living in Saskatoon when we woke up one morning to a large lump on the side of his neck. He tried not to think of it, chalking it up to a boil or irritated skintag but became concerned when it just wouldn’t go away. He visited his doctor, who tried to ease his concerns and told him it was likely a benign tumor, and eventually, it went away. But one year later, the swelling returned and this time—it was different.
“I could feel it, it was changing…” shares Garner. Upon moving to Winnipeg, he returned to his doctor, who ordered for a biopsy that discovered his cancer.
Garner admits that his diagnosis had lead to states of anxiety and depression, preparing for his surgery. “I just found that anytime I started to obsess or worry too much, I could have a toke, and right away it just changed my headspace,” Garner notes. His go-to strains at the time were Northern Lights, which helped with his stomach issues and Purple Kush, which helped immensely with his insomnia explaining that with just a toke or two, he’s able to sleep through anything. “ toke of Purple Kush, and I’m centered. I feel healthy and happy. It’s given me enormous resilience.”
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Paul Hartmann — Brantford, ON
Six of Paul Hartmann’s friends were diagnosed with cancer, in the same year, he turned 60 years old. It was also the year, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After watching many people in his life go through treatments of their own, Hartmann became concerned about what chemotherapy might do and wanted to proceed to treat his diagnosis in the most natural way possible. He tried literally everything from mushroom extracts, to the Ketogenic diet, to eating turmeric root. But then he started his research on how exactly cannabis could fit into the picture and discovered cannabis oil.
Growing up as a rec user his entire life, Hartmann figured it was worth a shot and told his doctors, “It was at a prostate clinic in Saskatoon, and they were young doctors who knew I had a very proactive approach to what I was doing.” He introduced a Kush variety, full extract oil with at least 18% THC, and found that the oil helped him with insomnia and pain management.
Hartmann admits that it wasn’t quite the psychotropic experience that he expected from his usual smoke sessions. But what he discovered was that it helped him sleep a lot, “and it’s a good thing because sleeping is where you do your best healing,” he says.
While it believes it helped manage his symptoms, he believes people should continue to do their own research and keep chatting with their doctors.