By: Megan Marchetti
In my late 30’s, I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis. This condition is a forward or backward slippage of one vertebra on an adjacent vertebra. It was extraordinarily painful for me to live with. After four years of dealing with constant pain in my right leg that ran down into my right foot, I opted to have a lower lumbar spinal fusion. Lumbar spinal fusion is a procedure that joins the vertebrae in the lower back to get them to grow together. The objective of the fusion is to have the two vertebrae fuse, ceasing any motion between them. I now have metal screws and rods that were placed directly into my bones to hold them in position while the fusion occurred. The surgery was performed through two incisions, one in my back and one through my abdomen.
Before the surgery, I needed to manage my pain. I was not aware yet of the wonders of CBD. My doctor gave me prescriptions for both Tramadol and Lorazepam. These medications became a crutch for me and I soon became dependent on them. The Lorazepam started to cause word recall problems for me, but the pain was so great that I continued to take the pills anyways.
After my surgery, I was given another prescription for Hydrocodone. I loaded up on all the medications to deal with the pain, but I also wanted to feel the numbness the painkillers delivered. I was in an unstable marriage, and was still struggling with the long, dark and wet winters of the Pacific Northwest. The combination of drugs was an easy way out.
Six weeks after my surgery, I phoned my surgeon’s office to request a refill of the Hydrocodone. I was informed that I was no longer eligible for refills. When I called my regular doctor and asked for a refill on my Lorazepam prescription, she told me that there was no reason I should still require that type of medication and declined the refill.
For three days, I laid on my bathroom floor; I have never felt that physically ill in my entire life. The withdrawal was horrifying. I recall telling a friend that had come to visit that I just wanted to die. After that experience, I vowed never to take prescription pain medication again. I started going to Pilates twice a week and walking every morning to strengthen my core and in turn, relieve any residual pain from the surgery.
In March of this year, I went in for a routine mammogram. By the end of March I had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The first week of May, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy. I spoke to both my oncologist and my surgeon about my fear related to pain management after the surgery, and that I preferred to use cannabinoid therapy instead of pharmaceuticals. Cannabinoids activate specific cannabinoid receptors throughout your body to produce the same pharmacological effects that pain medications do, particularly in the central nervous system and the immune system. My surgeon was less familiar with cannabinoid therapy but was still supportive, and my oncologist was all for it.
For the first two days following my surgery, I took 5 milligrams of Oxycodone three times a day. It wasn’t what I wanted to do but the pain was unbearable, and I was fearful to be without it. On the third day, I gathered up all the courage I had left in me and started taking 50 milligrams of CBD extract in coconut oil to manage the pain. It worked! At night, I took a high dose THC RSO extract to sleep. I got up and walked every time the pain washed over me and I felt like I couldn’t handle it. This allowed my mind to redirect and not dwell on the pain. The vitamin D and getting my blood moving helped with the depression that was, and still does creep in.
The endogenous cannabinoid system is quite possibly the most essential physiologic system involved in creating and sustaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body in the connective tissues, organs, glands, and immune cells. In each cell and all the tissues, the endocannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the objective is always the same; homeostasis, the safeguarding of a stable internal environment.
I am forever thankful that Oregonians have created a structure where people have access to cannabinoid therapies. Scientists are just starting to uncover how important endocannabinoids are to a human’s well-being. It is an exciting time in the cannabis world, and I am enthusiastic and grateful to learn what we discover as we all move forward in this journey together.