My Life as a Guinea Pig
Arthritis and Cannabis. My name is John Doe ( used to protect my family). I am 36 years old and I live in South Carolina. At the age of 6, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis that affects every joint in my body. There is no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis. My entire life, I have basically been a Guinea pig for doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. Arthritis causes my immune system to attack my joints, causing pain, swelling and joint deterioration. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a disease of ups and downs. One day my joints feel pretty good, the next day swelling and pain are so extreme I can barely get out of bed. These symptom episodes, called “flares” can be unpredictable and debilitating. At the age of 10, I was put on Methotrexate, which is a chemo drug created to treat cancer of the blood, bone, lung, breast, head and neck.
At the time, it was an experimental drug in the treatment of adult Rheumatoid arthritis. The Methotrexate made me deathly sick. I lost so much weight, I looked like a skeleton and I was so weak, I could no longer get out of bed. My mother informed the doctors she was discontinuing treatment so she could take me home to die. There were many times as a child, when the nurses would have to hold me down so that doctors could draw fluid from my knees or inject gold shots (Myocrisin) into my joints. This was done without the use of anesthesia or even pain medication. I have been a part of many drug trials for the biological medicines they use today: Enbrel, Humira and Remicade, to name a few. Remicade caused such a severe allergic reaction that I spent a week i the ICU covered head to toe in hives. I have also been on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs all my life, often at high doses. In 2012, my kidneys shut down because they could no longer process the NSAIDs. Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have also weakened my heart muscles. This means that I can no longer take anti-inflammatory medication to treat my severe inflammatory disease.
My Rheumatoid Arthritis has been very difficult to manage. As soon as a treatment starts to work, my immune system recognizes these medications and adapts, causing the treatment to no longer be effective. My arthritis has destroyed all my joints. In 2006, I had both knees replaced. In 2012, I had my right hip replaced. On April 27th, 2016, I had my left hip replaced. Soon, both of my wrists will need to be replaced. The Temporomandibular Joint (T. M. J.) on my right side of my jaw has completely deteriorated. I also suffer from Fibromyalgia, which is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep issues, memory and mood issues. Fibromyalgia amplifies my pain and my doctors have explained to me that sensors in the brain affect the way my brain processes pain signals.
From Devastating Opiates to Hope
At the age of 19, I was prescribed Opiates because the high level of Anti-inflammatory medicine was damaging my liver. Opiates are dangerous. They are highly addictive and change your personality. Opiates turned me into an angry, very dependent person. Neither of which are good qualities for a father and husband. Opiates have almost killed me 3 times, all of which were normal use. That is the danger of opiates. Even your daily dose could kill you. I used Cannabis off and on since I was 17 to treat my Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. While using Cannabis, I never had to take any other medications and I never had flare-ups. Because I was Dying while taking Opiates and I had run out of options to treat my Arthritis and Lupus, I was forced to turn, once again, to the only thing that really seemed to help, Cannabis.
I have been in remission for 2 years now, for the first time in 20 years. I have been able to lose 165 pounds, thanks to Cannabis putting my body and Endocannabinoid system into Homeostasis, or balance. I have gone from 13 medicines and an infusion, non of which put my body into remission. I have always suffered from chronic pain caused by inflammation and joint deterioration. No one has ever died from Cannabis. With cannabis, I finally have a quality of life. I can finally have the one thing I dreamed of as a sick child in the hospital: A Family. Cannabis allows me to be a loving, creative, patient, caring husband and father. None of which I could have done on any of my Pharmacological medications. Cannabis is medicine and I am living proof. I even have the support of my Doctor, but, because of fear of losing her license, we must keep my treatment confidential. I also fear for the safety of my children; that I could lose them to DSS. And I fear for my wife, that should could be unjustly prosecuted so that I can be healthy again.
A Final Plea to Our Lawmakers: Arthritis and Cannabis
There is not a single person in my family that hasn’t seen the amazing transformation in my quality of life since using cannabis. They are all heartbroken that the many legislators do not care enough about the sick and dying people in South Carolina to educate themselves on the benefits of cannabis. There is currently no cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus or Fibromyalgia. All I want is safe access to a laboratory tested, natural medicine so that I, and thousands of South Carolinians, can have a better quality of life. To our Lawmakers: Please make 2018 the year that brings hope for patients like me in South Carolina, and pass the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act.