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Stephen, a Stage-3 Pancreatic Cancer Patient Struggles to Get Medical Cannabis

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Stephen, a Stage-3 Pancreatic Cancer Patients Struggles to Get Medical Cannabis

Image Source: Theguardian.com

It all started with stomach pains and the inability to keep anything down when Stephen rushed to the doctor concerned about his health. He was diagnosed with stage-3 pancreatic cancer, which was inoperable as the gigantic tumour had wrapped itself around a major artery in Stephen’s abdomen. 

Stephen had been using CBD oil – $89 for one ounce – as it was the only effective and potent medicine which was able to alleviate the tingling and numbness sensations that had consumed Stephen’s fingers and toes. Stephan had suffered excruciating pain and undergone treatments with the hope and heavy dosage of medicines like opioids which contained fentanyl and oxycodone. 

Stephen came to know about CBD and its medical benefits after a year into his cancer treatment. He then pushed his doctors for applying for a medical cannabis card and their reluctance raised doubts in Stephen. Despite the confusion by the doctors, Stephen persisted and when he started using medical cannabis for his pancreatic cancer, he found that it controlled his symptoms as well, and was a better alternative than opioids. 

What came as a shocker was that no insurance company cover their high costs!

Osmolite formula, a solution known for its therapeutic nutrition for patients with high protein needs and increased calorie requirements, was added every other night to a drip to aid Stephen to maintain a healthy weight. 

Stephen explains the current state of his cancer; Stage 3 Pancreatic Cancer with no chances of a Whipple surgery because of the placement of the tumour. It was discovered after a CT scan that the tumour was crucially nestled around a major artery, sabotaging which, could lead to death. 

The doctors regularly take a CT scan every three months and they then identify the course of action from there onwards. The surgery is highly risky, even for the world’s greatest surgeons, however Stephen has a ray of hope as the surgery, if performed, can only be done by one doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. 

Stephen adds that it’s quite funny how consumers can easily buy alcohol, which is the root cause of a gamut of health problems, but CBD oil and medical cannabis that can help patients dealing with severe ailments are more regulated and stigmatized. 

Tricia Reed, PharmD, Lead Pharmacist at the Columbia Care New York, explains the alleged advantages of some of their products. She says that CBD is an anti-inflammatory compound which works great for nerve pain and since it is a non-psychoactive compound, it keeps the seizures under control without causing hallucinations. Contrarily to CBD, THC is a psychoactive compound but it is good for vomiting, nausea and severe pain, helping the patient attain more opioid-type pain relief. 

Every dose contains a limited and regulated amount of exact milligram per millilitre as recommended by the doctors. Each time the patient inhales from the vapour, it gives them a certain dose of medical cannabis in a regulated and safe manner.

Reed explains that in medications that contain higher-THC levels, patients might experience a feeling of euphoria which, if you look at from a wider perspective, isn’t such a bad thing for someone going through a difficult time, especially a life-threatening disease like cancer. 

The sensations that patients get from THC are quite similar to the side-effects of other medications like Valium. Reed encourages patients to look at medical cannabis in an unbiased manner, considering all its merits and demerits. 

She adds that there is a certain taboo that revolves around marijuana and its related products. While a lot of people have begun trusting medical marijuana more, there is still a long way to go for proper medical legalization. 

Rosemary Mazanet, an oncologist as per her initial training, is Columbia Care’s chief scientific officer. She says that the disconnect between the air about marijuana products and the high medical claims that they come along with is what makes it tawdry, and it ultimately boils down to the fact that it is still federally illegal. 

The Massachusetts Medical Society sent out letters to doctors stating that while they were allowed to recommend medical marijuana when it was made legal there, it might cost them their licence. The letter further stated that while the Society isn’t sure of what will happen, the federal government might take some action. Mazanet said that physicians at any hospital or medical institution that are federally funded will be fired if they suggest medical cannabis to any of the patients. 

This confusion has created a huge barrier for doctors from prescribing medical marijuana and also for patients who are on their death beds with their lives hanging by a thread. 

Ivan writes about Cannabis at The Cannabis Radar. He has a degree in Nutrition Sciences from University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre. He likes to spend his spare time reading to his daughter or spending time with his wife.

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