Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Marijuana Has Done to Me

For the past year and a half, I have been advocating for the use of medical cannabis, initially for my daughter, Annie, who has epilepsy, but now for all Pennsylvanians in need. I have heard so many legislators say something to the effect of, “Marijuana is dangerous” or “It will change you.” I am writing this today because during this past year and a half, marijuana HAS, in fact, changed me. It has changed in the way I think - changed the type of people I associate with, changed how I spend my “free time,” although, as the mother of a child with special needs and a typically developing three year old boy, “free time” doesn’t happen very often. Please be aware that when I say that marijuana has changed me, I am referring to ADVOCATING for the use of medical cannabis. These changes, however, have not been the stereotypical “changes” that certain legislators were warning about.

Before marijuana came into my life, I didn’t care about politics. I just didn’t. I know some may find that appalling, my father included, but it just wasn’t important to me. I didn’t vote in the primaries, didn’t follow the “big” issues at the state level, or the federal level for that matter. Now, I can’t get away from it. Any time I see a name that I recognize, my ears perk up. Any time another candidate is announced at the state or federal level, I immediately try to find their position on medical marijuana.

Before marijuana, if I drove by a rally for medical marijuana, I would have looked at the signs and the people holding the signs and wondered why in the world “Freeing the Leaf” was so important to them. Now, I am one of those people. And, I love “those people.” I have met some of the most intelligent, bravest, most compassionate, hard-working families and individuals I have ever known...and it’s all because of marijuana.

By meeting these amazing people, I have learned to be thankful for each happy minute I spend with my daughter...because I have met children that have a much more difficult time than Annie. And at the same time, if Annie is having a difficult day, I find comfort in just knowing that others understand what I am going through because they have been there. I’m not just referring to children with epilepsy. I am including friends and patients I have met, who are dealing with other serious medical conditions.

Before marijuana, I could EASILY decide how I was going to spend “free time.” I used to enjoy going to the gym, starting a project at the house, scrap-booking or simply RELAXING while flipping through the pages of a favorite catalog. Now, marijuana comes first. Always in the back of my mind is an on-going “to-do” list, although it includes nothing from the list above. Thank you notes to supporters, emails to people contacting me and wanting more information, planning the next rally, proofreading educational materials that another amazing advocate has be distributed to the House of Representatives who MAY or MAY NOT think it is “important enough” to read. Those things are on the top of my list now.

Before marijuana, I would scroll through the TV guide and set the DVR for movies that I wanted to see or a new show that a friend told me to start watching, and then in my “free time,” I would watch them. Now, anytime something happens on the medical marijuana front, especially in Harrisburg, I set the DVR for every news broadcast on every network so I can make sure that they are reporting the correct information and I spend the evening watching them. My DVR is currently filled to capacity with all CNN’s “Weed” documentaries, as well as any “Face the State” episode that medical marijuana is even SLIGHTLY mentioned. Pathetic? Maybe. Passionate? Absolutely!

All of this occurred to me last week, as I was listening to Montel Williams speak at the capitol in an effort to draw more attention to the need for a Compassionate Use Act. He said, “Take the patient off the battlefield.” He hit the nail on the head. In my world it means, “Take the patient’s PARENTS off the battlefield.” I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said. I, along with many other amazing people, are no doubt fighting a battle. And the battlefield is Harrisburg. Sure, I don’t dress in fatigues to go to this battle. I break out my most professional-looking attire, high heels, and quarters to feed the meter.

Before marijuana, I would slide on a pair of high heels to go out to dinner or another fun event. Now, anytime my three year old sees me dressed up or hears my heels clicking on the tile floor in front of the door, he exclaims, “Yep, mommy’s going to the Capitol again.” Why should he think anything different? Last year, I spent my anniversary with my husband Matt at the capitol, as we are in this together.

I LOVE how marijuana has changed me. But I would really like to get OFF the battlefield...and do SOME of the fun things that the “old Ang” used to enjoy. More than that, I would like to be able to spend my time “off the battlefield” watching my Annie play outside with her brother Matty, without a lump in my throat, wondering what our plan of action should be in the case that Annie’s health takes a turn for the worse as we await for the Pennsylvania legislature to pass a Compassionate Use Act.

So I guess it’s back to the battlefield for the Sharrer family...for now.

1 comment:

  1. I grew up in Erie,PA. In January 2013, I was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer of buccal mucosa which is a rare, but especially aggressive, form of oral cavity cancer, associated with a high rate of locoregional recurrence and poor survival. Patients with buccal mucosa squamous cell carcinoma have a worse stage-for-stage survival rate than do patients with other oral cavity sites. My 18-hour surgery was done at UPMC Pittsburgh on March 26, 2013. I returned to Erie two weeks later by ambulance and landed back in the hospital 24 hours later and finally was discharged late May. While in the hospital, I was referred to as the "walking, talking miracle" because they had removed my tongue and took tissues from my upper right thigh to form a new tongue. But when the one doctor told my son that I was terminal, that it was just a matter of time; my son spoke with his daughter who lives in the state of Washington where medical marijuana is legal. It took us 6 days to drive here through an incredible heat wave (and the air conditioner went out in my son's 31 years old vehicle the second day of the trip. I didn't want to fly because of all the hospital equipment I needed including my feeding tubes, oxygen and hospital bed). We finally arrived September 1, 2013. My granddaughter had already set up an appointment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and within 5 days I had my "Documentation of Authorization to Engage in the Medical Use of Cannabis in Washington State". By October 2013 I was using RSO from a local dispensary who was gracious enough to give me a 50% discount. BUT let me tell you, 90% of the dispensaries I had approached were so money-hungry, there was no way, on my $1011 a month SS, that I could have afforded to pay the $30 for a 1/2 gram. Rick Simpson's website says that to be effective against cancer, I should be taking a gram a day!!!! To this day the most I have been able to purchase is enough for me to take about a 1/4 of a gram a day. However, I do use many other herbs, too (one dispensary I approached asking for a discount told me to try some of the other herbs out there--all they care about is fattening their pockets. I was mad enough at one point to contact the WA legislators and tell them to rescind the law.) But the dispensary that does give me a little discount also gives me their leaves they snip off and also the left overs when they make their canna butter, etc, which I have gratefully taken and used along with the RSO. The important thing is that despite my prognosis, last month my oncologist was grinning ear-to-ear after he reviewed my blood work and said, "You are still free of cancer!." Two years and three months since my surgery. Will I be moving back to PA? Not on your life, not unless PA makes medical marijuana legal, even though all my family is back there!!! I am grateful to my son for getting me out here and grateful for all the people still praying for me. I have no doubt that medical marijuana is keeping me alive!