Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the tag “cancer”

When The Cure Might Just Be Worse Than The Disease


I am going to apologize for the length of this post.  I have done all I can, several re-writes to make it more friendly to read.  But as the conversations continue on this subject, my post actually continues to grow, so that not just the facts, but all sides of opinions can be presented.

The story has received national attention.  Knowing that my blog receives a lot of attention, a follower asked if I would provide an open discussion, that perhaps more understanding might be provided, that perhaps given the following of my blog, the family involved might just see all the support, encouragement, and hope that exists in treating one of the few curable forms of cancer.

Unlike other posts I have written here, I am going to change the format to make it a little more formal, as if written as a term paper.

Before I do that, I want to make a few things clear.  First, I will state facts as they are known and their resources.  I will make obvious those which are opinions.  Commentaries quoted in this post are confirmed as legitimate.  Comments and replies will be allowed as long as they are constructive and not inflammatory.

The Headline

The following is just one link to a news website, there are so many more that originally reported the story about a 17 year-old girl from Connecticut, referred to only as “Cassandra C.”, diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a very treatable form of cancer, but refused the treatment, which was supported by her mother, due to the potentially toxic side effects.  The state interceded and has forced the teen to undergo the treatments, having been removed from her mother, and treated against both their wills.  Here is the link as one news affiliate reported the story:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/connecticut-teen-with-cancer-battles-state-to-stop-chemo/

This is a sad story with major implications in all directions.  Legally, should the state be interfering with the rights of someone objecting to treatments?  How informed were either the mother or the daughter as to all the details needed to make an informed decision?  Does the 17 year-old girl even have rights?  But aside from all the controversies of this story, there is one huge topic not being discussed, either intentionally or just as matter of fact, and I will present that topic towards the end in detail, but how were the concerns of the family addressed, and were their concerns answered?

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Facts

I have stated repeatedly on this blog, I am a Hodgkin’s survivor who will hit my 25th anniversary in remission on March 3, 2015.  I stand behind the facts that I am presenting from a personal perspective and as far as factual.  From the time that I was diagnosed back in 1988, I was told the cure rate of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was 85% which made it one of the most curable.  My oncologist actually made me sick commenting “if you are going to get cancer, Hodkgin’s Disease is the cancer to get.”  (I wrote about that comment earlier in “Paul’s Heart” as to how much I took offense to that statement).  In fact, even in the decades before me, Hodgkin’s has been treatable with success, especially when caught early.  And in most all cases, untreated Hodgkin’s would lead to certain death.

The diagnostics and  treatments for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma have improved in success over the century since Hodgkin’s was discovered.  The safety of the treatments has also improved, but has a long way to go in terms of short term and long term side effects.

But what the reports do not state accurately, are the risks from the treatments.  Personally, I am offended to simply state the side effects as “including nausea, hair loss, vomiting, fatigue and diarrhea.”  This is a horrible stereotype that has existed for decades, which has always enflamed the fears of dealing with cancer.  But the truth is, if it were accurately reported, there are far more serious potential side effects, and they depend on the type of treatment done.  To understate those risks, no matter how small, provides a huge disservice to the patient and her family.

Radiation therapy has always been the go-to for treating Hodgkin’s.  Gone are the days of exposure to cobalt radiation, and being exposed to limits of other radiation that exceed lifetimes of exposure limits.  Chemotherapy drugs used in warfare then used to treat Hodgkin’s as well as other toxic drugs, now considered obsolete.  There are now new standards of radiation and chemotherapies being used, that are providing similar success, but still carry more risks than the stereotype side effects listed above and they include:  cardiac, pulmonary, gastrointestinal, endocrine, spinal, muscular, neurological, renal, urinary, reproductive, and of course, emotional.  There of course is the risk of secondary cancers such as breast, thyroid, colon, and even recurrent or new Hodgkin’s.  Now I have just listed the systems involved, but the effects for each system are numerous.  And for the sake of this post, I will say that this is only in the case of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, not necessarily other cancers, unless those cancers use similar drugs for their treatments.  As you can see, there is far more to consider than just nausea and hair loss.  While the risks may be lower, they still exist.

Facts Of The Case As Reported

The subtitle above is written that way on purpose.  For the purposes of HIPPA, we, as readers do not have the rights to the actual information of the case, including the actual treatment regimen.  Therefore, we can only rely on the following facts as being legitimate:

  • Cassandra C. at 17 years-old is a minor
  • Hodgkin’s Lymphoma very treatable, untreated death likely
  • Cassandra refused treatment due to toxicity concerns, mother supports her daughter’s wishes
  • Department of Children and Families removed Cassandra from her mother, and have allowed the treatment to be administered by orders of the state of Connecticut
  • DCF is now in charge of Cassandra’s care
  • Neither the Supreme Courts of Connecticut or the United States has ever ruled on this issue

The Argument

This is what has me bothered most about the whole thing, because all that is being discussed, though legitimate, is the right to do with your own body.  “It’s a question of fundamental constitutional rights — the right to have a say over what happens to your body-and the right to say to the government ‘you can’t control what happens to my body,'” Cassandra’s mother’s attorney, Michael S. Taylor.

Not being discussed are the reasons that this family is in this position in the first place.  Questions about the safety of the treatments, or the surveillance to deal with these issues are not even being discussed.  So yes, if it is only coming down to the “right to do with your own body,” then the argument should be done.  With a full and complete discussion of the risks and monitoring to address the concerns of the family, only then can the family make the informed decision that they claim to have made and support.  The fact is, we have no idea the details of the conversation between the doctor and his patient about the risks and side effects other than what has been released by Cassandra’s mother.

Instead of trying to get to the bottom of what is best for the young girl, which yes, is to survive a curable cancer, a system, our government, and everyone else reading this story only want done what we believe, in spite of clearly violating a valuable right, not what can be done safer or better.

Case Update – Facts

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/cancer/connecticut-teen-curable-cancer-must-continue-chemo-court-n282421

The Connecticut Supreme court ruled last Thursday, that Cassandra C. is not mentally competent to make her own decision and will continue to receive her chemotherapy that both she and her mother battled to halt.

Lengths to avoid treatment included Cassandra C. running away from home.  But the state used against Cassandra C. the fact that several oncology appointments and exams were missed to claim that Cassandra C. was too “immature” to be responsible for her decision, as her mother is being accused of making the decision, rather than supporting it.

To be honest, it should not be considered unusual, as part of the Kubler-Ross stages, to go through “denial” and want to avoid things that you must face head on.  But it clearly would have been better for the mother to have attended those appointments and exams, and instead argue for alternative treatments that the family may have felt comfortable with.  Or perhaps to discuss the protocol to follow up for potentially dangerous side effects during the treatments.  We will never know.  Therefore the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled against the rights for anyone to want to protect their own body.  A different article completely, this will have profound implications for everyone.  But still, no one is talking about the actual care of the girl, and that does not mean forcing her against her will to go through a treatment that is toxic.  Chemotherapy is toxic.

The mother’s attorney, Taylor argued that both Connecticut courts and the U.S. Supreme Court have previously ruled that a person’s right to “common-law bodily integrity is a fundamental right,” and that right “exists in the minor the same as it could in an adult.”  Clearly, this is no longer the case.  As the attorney then stated, Cassandra C. has the maturity to drive a car and donate blood, but not decide what is best for herself.

To date, the treatments are having success as she is mid-way through her treatments.  And there are pros and cons should that treatment stop.  To ease up on the attack of the disease could result in remaining cells to build immunity against returning to the treatment process, or perhaps even cause the cancer to become even more aggressive.  The treatment plan at that point would need to become even more aggressive and more risky, involving cell transplants which carry their own risks, but also higher doses of chemotherapy prior to the transplant.

Today, as reported on the web site firstcoastnews.com: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/story/life/people/2015/01/12/teenager-explains-why-she-dont-want-chemotherapy/21633579/

“The 17-year-old says she is worried about what she considers risks, including heart defects, organ damage, and digestive problems.  These are legitimate concerns for anyone going through any cancer treatments, and I will personally attest in the treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“I entirely understand that death will be the outcome without the chemo,” Cassandra wrote to ABC News affiliate WTNH-TV from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, where she has been living and getting treatment. “The doctors have made that clear.”

Ultimately, do we, you and I, the government, have the right to tell this family what to do?  Seriously, how should our opinions matter in this?  There is a hope, among many readers of Facebook, blog, and other media resources, that somehow, we might convince the family that they have support, now nationwide, to get cured of a deadly disease, to be one of the 85%.  But this is only of value if solutions are offered for the problem.  As of these news reports, there are no solutions.  Right now, the  only winner is the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Commentary

I am a 24 year survivor of the same disease Cassandra C..  And now that she has gone through her treatments, hopefully she will be closely monitored for the potential late side effects, that could develop.  I have well over a dozen serious diagnosis of late side effect, with at least six of them potentially life threatening, all caused from my “cure.”  My initial response to this story shocked many of my readers as I answered the ultimate “what if” question, “would I go through it again?” and my answer at the time was a definite “no.”  I have had a few days to think about my knee-jerk answer, and while not uncommon for someone in my spot to make that comment, it was unusual for someone like me.  All that was disclosed to me as far as potential side effects would be pericarditis (an inflammation of the heart) or a secondary cancer.  At that time, it definitely was worth the risk for a 23 year-old.  But had I been told, that I could face a fatal heart attack, stroke, restrictive lung disease, and many more… I would have said no.  This came as a shock to those who know how much I love my daughters, who clearly would not have come into my life had I chosen not to go through treatments.  Admittedly, I am going through a different kind of traumatic and stressful period right now which definitely had an impact on my thought process.   I still believe it is not an easy decision to be faced with.  But I also believe STRONGLY that MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE not just in a better and safer treatment regimen, but a better protocol to follow up for the development of the side effects.  And yes, if my daughters were to face any situation like this, I would have fought treatments until I could make sure that EVERY one of our concerns was addressed and dealt with, and only then with close surveillance would I allow it.  But it is my child’s life, and we have the right to protect our body to the best ability, not just what is cost effective.

Bloodwork is done throughout the treatment plan to make sure that bodies are going to be able to tolerate the toxicity of the treatment before it is administered.  But other than a base-line study, no other testing is done on potentially affected body organs and systems until most likely months following the completion of the treatment.  The fact is that one of the drugs, used successfully for the treatment of Hodgkin’s for decades, including me, can result in congestive heart failure.  And medicine knows that it can be detected as early as the first treatment and how to do it, yet it is not.  For the small percentage of patients who face CHF from the drug, the patient will endure permanent damage as they get to the end of the treatment plan.  But there is no follow up for this.  Why?  Because medicine feels it is not cost effective for the small amount of people that could face this.  Admittedly, my cardiac issue is not solely related to that very drug.  But there still was no monitoring me until 2008, nearly 20 years after I was diagnosed.  So you can see where my stance is… better follow up protocol during treatment, along with better and safer treatments, and I believe an incident like Cassandra C.’s situation would possibly never happen again.  But do not take my word for it.

Here is commentary from two guests on this post.  The first is from Wendy, a fellow long term survivor with a different outlook on things, that I can clearly understand and actually support.  The second will be from Josephine, the mother of Michael who I have written about on a couple of occasions, including earlier last week.

Wendy (this is a quoted response from a post on a Hodgkin’s related FB page)

“Each time I sat down in the “chemo” chair and had my IV started I prayed out loud to God. I thanked the many patients who went before me and were the “human guinea pigs” who made successful treatment of Hodgkins Disease possible in 1987 when I was treated. I thanked God for making humans smart enough to become scientists and thinkers who could solve some of their own problems like diseases. The progress made up until that time did not benefit those who were a part of the learning curve and died while discoveries & advancements were being made. That progress benefited “the next generation or group” to be treated. Zofran was not available as an anti-emetic when I was treated so I vomited my guts out! In 1991 the FDA approved Zofran and patients had something to help with the nausea and vomiting. I just missed it by 3 years. That is how quickly things can change. Therefore I think this young lady should consider all of us who endured the poisoning from chemo, the burning from radiation, and now the latent effects and repercussions from those treatments. Yes, some of us are still alive, and many are dead. This young lady should look at the history of treatment, how far it has come and also should consider patients still die from Hodgkins Disease! Perhaps her generation cannot endure anything that isn’t painless and does not involve immediate gratification! This is a long haul journey when you embark on beating back any cancer. It is not always “one and done.” WE are acutely aware of what would have happened if we did not have the fortitude to stick it out. I, for one, would not have had the last 27 years of life! That means I wouldn’t have married my awesome husband and given birth to two sons who are now 18 and 20 years old! My 3 years of diagnosis, treatment, follow up were worth it! The young lady who is refusing treatment may never know what she is missing in exchange for making it through treatment. She may never know her future husband, children. Her Mom, who is encouraging her daughter to refuse treatment, may never have the joy of grandchildren who might have been here if only her daughter could have endured something unpleasant. Yes, this is long, my last thought is that is is an insult to Hodgkin’s patients, dead and alive, who paved the way for her to have an 80% chance to succeed and live. I usually don’t say too much on our site. Now you won’t hear from me for a month or two! Thanks for reading!”

Josephine

Her 24 year-old son died as a direct result of the drug that has cured so many of us Hodgkin’s patients.  He died from complications of CHF that no one, including his oncologist, his mother, nurses, even Michael could ever have known would happen.  But I took the opportunity of this topic to ask her a question that should have been responded with an obvious answer.

“Josephine, did you have any idea that serious heart complications could have developed from the one drug?”

“No.  I have the paperwork, and there is barely any mention of the seriousness of heart complications.”

“So then, knowing what you know now, would you have allowed your Michael to have undergone the treatment?”

Me personally knowing what her son went through from the time he went into CHF until the day he died, and the quality of life issue faced by Michael and his family, her initial answer surprised me.

“Yes.”

And then she followed up… “though I would have made sure that they followed Michael more closely had I known.”

Final Comments

The facts speak for themselves.  Hodgkin’s, though a rare form of cancer, is still one of the most treatable, when it is caught early.  It is going to be one of the most difficult decisions to make, if a patient is completely informed.  But the doctors have to be completely honest about the risks instead of being worried about delays from having too much to think about and taking too long to think about.  Doctors need to make sure that every one of a patient’s concerns are answered, and if those concerns cannot be addressed, then it needs to be left up to the family, and not a court, legal or of opinion.  And finally, WE NEED A PROTOCOL TO FOLLOW UP ON BODY ORGANS AND SYSTEMS THAT HAVE EVEN THE SMALLEST OF POTENTIAL TO DEVELOPE A SIDE EFFECT FROM A DRUG WITH A HISTORY OF CAUSING SUCH DAMAGE.  It is unacceptable to say “it is not cost effective” to monitor for potentially lethal side effects even if they only occur 1% of the time.  Only when a patient and their family is convinced that medicine will do all it can to protect the patient, will a situation like Cassandra C.’s will have a chance of being prevented from happening again.

For me, while I am glad that Cassandra C. is being treated, I am sorry that her rights to refuse treatment were violated.  I do believe in the ability to cure Hodgkin’s… I am proof that it can be done.  But I am also proof, just as Michael and Wendy, more needs to be done with surveillance to prevent tragedies and serious side effects.  Cancer patients are now being followed up more closely once done with their treatments, but more needs to be done, both during and after treatment.  Costs to deny the proper protocols and follow ups, will never equal quality of life.

And now it is your turn to comment.  I will publish your comments as long as they are constructive and supportive as this blog is intended to do.  Simply reply to this post for publication.  Please feel free to share this post.

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Being Humane


Have you ever watched someone suffer in chronic or terminal pain?  Have you ever seen a young patient with tremors that just would not stop?  Have you ever witnessed someone not wanting to eat, losing weight, their bodies wasting away because of the side effects of other medicines meant to save their lives?  If you could wave a magic wand over the patient, to make any of these or other symptoms, just magically disappear, would you do it?

medical marijuana 4

Then many states will have that opportunity for voters to wave their “magic wand”, AKA the right to vote, to approve legalizing medical marijuana, joining 20 other states who have decided that it is a humane need to provide comfort and relief to patients suffering debilitating diseases who cannot find relief otherwise.  Even if six more states approve medical marijuana use, still, almost half of the United States has no plans to legalize medical marijuana.

medical marijuana 1

Alzheimers, Cancer, ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease), HIV, Osteoporosis, Multiple Sclerosis… we all know at least one person who has suffered with one or more of these diseases.  And we all have to agree, it is definitely suffering.  Suffering triumphs over quality of life, but it does not have to.  The fact is, and cannot be denied, marijuana would help every patient deal with the chronic side effects and pains of nearly every malady known to man.

At least three times in my life, had medical marijuana been available during my multiple medical crisis, I would have done much better.  I could never control my nausea with the prescription meds given during my cancer treatments.  The unbelievable pain I endured following my open heart surgery from having my breast bone cracked in half only controlled by a narcotic powerful to knock my unconscious… great way to deal with pain, huh?  Life-long chronic pain for late developing side effects when at its worst, taking up to 4 different drugs to just touch the pain, and give slight opportunity to sleep.  I can only wish I had the opportunity to have been able to use medicinal marijuana.

My father, who recently died from lung cancer, prior to his death, had been dealing with a lack of hunger issue.  Well, as we all know, one of marijuana’s awful side effects is causing hunger.  But fortunately, he was prescribed Marinol, to help boost his appetite, which it did.  Do you know what it did not do?  It did not make him a stoner.  He did not get high.  He ate.  It helped to improve his life.

medical marijuana 2

With all the benefits that medical marijuana has to offer, how could anyone be against helping a patient live a more humane quality of life?  There is absolutely no reason at all for anyone to be against this treatment option.  Yet they exist.  And their reasons are just as confusing and contradictory as their beliefs about the drug and its influences.

As a teenager back in the 1970’s, well after marijuana was mainstream, we were constantly taught, that cigarette smoking was bad.  Not just because of causing cancer, and heart problems, but because teen smoking was a “gateway” to smoking pot, which of course was a “gateway” to harder drugs and alcohol.  But was teen smoking made illegal?  Eventually.  Were teen smoking laws enforced?  There is not going to be an answer to this because enforcement of teen smoking is a joke, especially since many parent provide the cigarettes themselves.  But over time, we have gotten away from the “gateway to pot”, forgotten about the lethalness of cigarette smoking, and instead have now made the main “gateway” label, applied to marijuana.

That is right, several want you to believe that medical marijuana is going to be the gateway to harder drugs.  Alright, I know I am not being fair.  Of course those few actually mean “recreational marijuana”, not medical marijuana.  But they do believe the legalization of medical marijuana will lead to the legalization of recreational use.  And this is what the anti-medical marijuana people want to prevent.  They want patients who are suffering, to continue to do so, so that some day, other people who just want to smoke pot for the giggles of it, which still would not effect them because they were neither patient or user, to continue to suffer.

This is the only argument that those against medical use of marijuana can state.  They do not want recreational use of marijuana legalized and they are afraid that will be the next step if medicinal use of marijuana is legalized.  And this is a stupid thought process.  And for that selfishness people will continue to suffer needlessly.

Cigarettes are known to kill people.  They definitely killed my dad and grandfather just to name two people I knew.  Have we made them illegal?

Alcohol is known to kill people.  I have buried too many to count.  Have we made that illegal?  Oh yes, we tried that.  It did not work.

Marijuana to my knowledge has not killed anyone.  I definitely do not know anyone who died from marijuana usage, medical or recreational.  Why is it illegal to this day?

medical marijuana 5

My state of Florida is one of the latest states to finally consider the humanity of access to medicinal marijuana.  On November 4th, voters will finally be to help patients deal with chronic pain, side effects, and terminal illnesses.  Spearheading the movement in Florida is attorney John Morgan who advertises his campaign with the loss of a loved one who needlessly suffered not having access to a drug that definitely would have improved the quality of life.

The sad thing is, in anticipation of approval of Amendment 2, the legalization of medicinal marijuana in Florida, many Florida communities have already taken steps to prevent accessibility to prescription marijuana.  In Naples, a very conservative community, their city council just banned any dispensaries within city limits.  In other words, NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).  Again, the only argument given is that medicinal marijuana will lead to recreational, and Naples does not want that.  So if you have chronic health and pain issues, perhaps Naples is not going to be the place you want to rest and convalesce, especially if you need the convenience of a dispensary for something although hopefully legal, just will not be available there.

Another unusual comment as to the denial of using medicinal marijuana came from an unusual source.  The president and CEO of the Naples Community Hospital Healthcare System, Dr. Allen Weiss offered an op-ed piece in a recent Florida Weekly…

“I believe medical marijuana is a solution to a problem that does not exist.  The danger in allowance of ‘medical’ marijuana is that it could act as a starter drug in our nation.  There are already existing, safe, easy-to-take medications readily available and prescribed by oncologists and physicians (this sentence was shortened for content, but this was the gist of the comment).”

Do you see this?  Is this really the reason a major health leader is against something that would make a difference to the quality of someone’s life?  Worried about gateway usage from someone chronic or terminal?  Or is the real reason that the pharmaceutical industry stands to take a huge loss from loss of addicting prescriptions for pain and depression for a plant we all know would cost 1/100 of what many generic drugs actually cost?

I am not a pothead, or stoner.  And I do not care if someone else uses the drug for recreational use.  But having been on opioids and other prescription medications for chronic and acute pain, all having various side effects of their own, three times in my life, the odds are in my favor that I will some day face that need again.  And I am hoping that the voters of Florida do the right thing on November 4th, and vote yes on Amendment 2, and legalize the human use of medicinal marijuana.

Reefer “MADNESS!!!”


In 1936, a FICTIONAL documentary was released about the addictive nature of marijuana.  It was called “Reefer Madness”.  I was unaware, as probably most people, that the alarmist anti-pot propaganda was re-released as a movie musical in 2005.  Admittedly, I could only tolerate watching even the original movie for about ten minutes, which was ten minutes I would never get back in my life.  Over my lifetime though, I have seen plenty of films using marijuana, pot, hash, cannabis, whatever you want to call the plant.  And I had never seen anyone smoking pot in these films as anything more than just real happy.  One of my favorite movies is “The Breakfast Club” and there is a scene where the students, who are locked in the library on a Saturday morning for detention, the “stoner” in the film invites all the others to partake in his stash.  It was one of the best scenes in the movie, because for one brief moment, the walls separating all of their differences with each other were brought down, allowing them all to enjoy that moment laughing with each other, without any form of discrimination.

I do not want this post to be about recreational use of marijuana.  I am forty eight years old and in my lifetime I have never heard of anyone dying from using marijuana.  While I do not smoke pot, I am not against anyone wanting to smoke it.  I know I would rather inhale second hand pot smoke than second hand cigarette smoke and die.  At least I will not get cancer from marijuana.

Over the summer, I moved to Florida.  One of several states that has yet to legalize medical use of marijuana.  There are some instances that Florida will allow it, but in general, it has not been legalized in Florida.  There is a proposition, called #2 on the ballot for this Fall’s election.  I fully support the medical use of marijuana, and I want to encourage anyone reading this post to share it.  And if you live in a state that has not made that leap to medicinal use of marijuana and is waiting for an election to do so, it is time to get over the false stigma of marijuana use to allow needless suffering of patients.

Cigarettes kill.  Alcohol kills.  Texting while driving kills.  But this is tolerated because it benefits big companies like Tobacco, Alcohol, and of course the big telecommunication companies.

Chemotherapy has the ability to kill.  Depression meds have the potential to make you suicidal.  Blood pressure pills can kill.  Pain medicines can lead to death.  And then of course there is the overdosing of sleeping pills.  But this is okay because big pharm companies only care about the health of the patients that take the meds and want you to trust that their drug is best for you.

But marijuana does not kill.  Hmmm… what big companies have a stake in marijuana?  Well evidently, now some pharm reps are recognizing the national movement to legalizing medical marijuana and want to be first in line to build their plants.  After all, big pharm stands to be the biggest loser in the legalization of medical marijuana because many patients would no longer need the pharmacy company’s overpriced drugs and would need to replace their revenue with something.  And of course, with approval and success of the medicinal marijuana companies, I agree, it probably would not be long before we followed Colorado and Washington state and legalizing recreational use because once the factories are already established, in theory they would have the biggest jump on mass production.

There is a problem however.  The United States has not legalized the use of medical marijuana.  Instead, they simply allow each state to make the decision, and then the Feds are encouraged to concentrate on more severe issues.  So if it is prescribed, in theory, you could face Federal charges for medical use of marijuana, but not likely.  And if your state approves the medical use of marijuana, that should be the end of the story.  But now it is coming out, well in advance of the election, communities are passing their own regulations, regardless of what the election results are.  Local politicians suffering from NIMBY (not in my back yard) are already passing regulations to deny any medicinal pot shop to open within city limits.  They hide behind the “we don’t need the element that marijuana will bring to our community” attitude.  They totally do not mention the issues with illegal pot use for people who just want to get happy.  But they are against a drug that would benefit patients who are suffering from severe and painful maladies (physically and emotionally) such as ALS, cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS (multiple sclerosis), and other maladies.

So how bad is marijuana?  I have already stated that it is nowhere near as deadly as the big three I listed earlier, cigarettes, alcohol, and texting while driving, and none of those are illegal for recreational use and provide no medicinal benefit.  But let us take a look at some classes of prescription drugs and compare their side effects to that of medicinal marijuana.  You be the judge of which would be more beneficial and safe, and most importantly, improve the quality of life for a person suffering with their morbidity or mortality.

Treating Nausea, Loss Of Appetite, Vomiting, Weight Loss, Muscle Atrophy

The following side effects of common drugs to treat these issues are listed as follows (from Drugs.com):

Less common

  • Bloating or swelling of the face, arms, hands, lower legs, or feet, blurred vision, dizziness, headache, nervousness, pounding in the ears
  • rapid weight gain, slow or fast heartbeat, tingling of the hands or feet, unusual weight gain or loss

Incidence not known (this means that you won’t necessarily be told about these issues on the warning label of the drug)

  • Abdominal or stomach pain, agitation, black, tarry stools, bleeding gums, blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
  • blood in the urine or stools, chest pain, coma, constipation, continuing vomiting, convulsions, dark-colored urine
  • decreased urine output, depression, fainting, fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
  • general feeling of tiredness or weakness, high fever, high or low blood pressure, hostility, increased sweating
  • indigestion, infection from breathing foreign substances into the lungs, itching, lethargy, light-colored stools
  • lip smacking or puckering, loss of consciousness, muscle twitching (MS sufferers have enough problem with this)
  • no blood pressure, no breathing, no pulse, numbness or tingling in the face, arms, or legs
  • pain in the stomach, side, or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back, pain or swelling in the arms or legs without any injury
  • pain, tension, and weakness upon walking that subsides during periods of rest, pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • pounding, slow heartbeat, puffing of the cheeks, rapid or worm-like movements of the tongue
  • rapid weight gain, recurrent fainting, red irritated eyes, red skin lesions, often with a purple center
  • seizures, severe constipation, severe headache, severe muscle stiffness, severe vomiting
  • sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips, stupor, sudden severe weakness
  • swelling of the face, ankles, or hands, total body jerking, trouble with speaking or walking
  • troubled breathing, twitching, twisting, or uncontrolled repetitive movements of the tongue, lips, face, arms, or legs
  • uncontrolled chewing movements, unusual bleeding or bruising, unusually pale skin
  • vomiting (HEY!  Wait a minute!  If you are taking this to reduce vomiting and nausea…)
  • yellow eyes and skin

The list actually continues.  Call me a silly goose, but if I am already suffering from side effects, why would I risk taking something that could actually make it worse for me, when all I would have to do is pop a pill, or even pack a pipe, or eat a cookie with the medicinal marijuana?

Let us take a look at another drug class, for depression.  The object is to make the person not sad anymore right?  Here are some side effects of common antidepressants (according to Drugs.com):

Depression

 

  • agitation, chest congestion, chest pain, chills, cold sweats, confusion, difficulty with breathing, dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up from a lying or sitting position
  • fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse, muscle pain or weakness, absence of or decrease in body movements, bigger, dilated, or enlarged pupils (black part of the eye)
  • convulsions (seizures), difficulty with speaking, dry mouth, fever, inability to move the eyes
  • incomplete, sudden, or unusual body or facial movements, increased sensitivity of the eyes to light, poor coordination
  • red or purple patches on the skin, restlessness, shivering, sweating, talking, feeling, and acting with excitement and activity you cannot control
  • trembling or shaking, or twitching, back, leg, or stomach pains, blindness, blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
  • blue-yellow color blindness, blurred vision, constipation, cough or hoarseness, dark urine
  • decreased frequency or amount of urine, decreased vision, difficulty with swallowing
  • electric shock sensations, eye pain, fainting, general body swelling
  • headache, high fever, hives, inability to move the arms and legs, inability to sit still, increased thirst
  • incremental or ratchet-like movement of the muscle, itching skin, joint pain, light-colored stools
  • lockjaw, loss of appetite, loss of bladder control, low blood pressure, lower back or side pain
  • muscle spasm, especially of the neck and back, muscle tension or tightness, painful or difficult urination
  • painful or prolonged erection of the penis, pale skin, puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • raised red swellings on the skin, the buttocks, legs, or ankles, red, irritated eyes, sensitivity to the sun
  • skin redness or soreness, slow heart rate, sores, ulcers, or white spots on the lips or in the mouth
  • spasms of the throat, stiff muscles, stomach pain, sudden numbness and weakness in the arms and legs
  • swelling of the breasts, swelling of the face, fingers, or lower legs, swollen or painful glands
  • tightness in the chest, unexpected or excess milk flow from the breasts, unusual bleeding or bruising
  • unusual tiredness or weakness, vomiting, weight gain, yellowing of the eyes or skin

The list continues on and on.  But also includes “may create or increase thoughts of suicide”.  Isn’t that why you take an antidepressant so that you do not have those thoughts in the first place?

No matter the class of drugs that are supposed to help ease our pains, help us sleep,  keep us calm and happy, make our heart pump properly, every drug carries with it a similar list of things that could go wrong taking it.  We are willing to risk our lives taking big pharm’s prescription drugs.  Marijuana is not without its risks, but nowhere near the level of prescription drugs or the way marijuana has been demonized.

I did not have the option of using medicinal marijuana when I was dealing with nausea back when I dealt with my cancer.  I had plenty of friends who were willing to help me with this if I ever made the choice to do so.  I did not have the option of using medicinal marijuana when I was recovering from my heart surgery, or dealing with the many painful issues of my long term survival.  But I am sure that would have been better than taking all the opiates and other addictive pain killers to control my pain.  Do not get me wrong, I needed my pain controlled and I am thankful that those meds did their job.

But as I watched my brother-in-law whittle away to nothing but a shell from the ALS that would take his life, as I watched my father fade away in extreme pain to lung cancer, I cannot help but wonder, how much more humane the ends of their lives would have been, had it been legal to give them medicinal marijuana.  My father towards the end had been given Marinol, a form of the medicinal marijuana which was meant to increase his appetite which had dwindled down to nothing.  It did help with the appetite, but was not enough to deal with the pain.

It would be a shame to deny another humane option to treat those who suffer from painful debilitating and fatal issues, just because someone else is suffering from NIMBY when in reality, the majority of us already have it in our backyards currently illegally.  But where are the people screaming about enforcing the law on illegal pot smokers (I do not suggest that because I believe our system is bogged down enough on this particular war on drugs)?  And if you do not support medical marijuana because you are afraid of the seeking and approval of recreational marijuana, then you are unnecessarily making people with ALS, cancer, MS,Alzheimer’s and many more suffer from their diseases.

It is my hope that Florida residents do vote “YES” to Prop 2, legalizing medicinal marijuana.  There are just too many ill people who would benefit from its use.

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