“When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.” – Paulo Coelho

I had been on medical leave for a year, and if anything, I was in worse shape than when I handed in my office keys and cell phone. At the beginning, I was determined to make good use of the time: I joined the Y, and swam in the pool with the old folks several times a week. They were lovely company, and while we putzed around in the water, I was regaled with stories of WWII, breaking the glass ceiling, and who offered  the best Aquafit classes! However, it was soon clear that my limbs would not tolerate the water’s leverage against my body. Sadly I bade my new friends farewell. Next I tried an experimental treatment for nerve damage, frequency modulated electromagnetic modulation system (FREMS). The initial results were amazing, dropping the pain thresholds quickly in a few weeks’ treatment. But over time, the pain crept up again, returning me to where I had started. My doctors, of course, responded by shaking their heads at my foolishness and prescribing more medication.

The elixir of anti-seizure, anti-depressant, and opioids proved too much to metabolize in the long run. My body began to push back, and I began vomiting multiple times a day. This went on for months, until I was unable to keep down anything at all. Food, water, pills – it all came up. I tried to carry on, but never managed the fine art of upchucking politely out the car window, or into the flowerbeds if I was outside. Eventually I found myself completely bedridden for weeks at a time. Without medication, pain gripped my skeleton, and squeezed without mercy.

Photo by Matheus Vinicius on Unsplash

Out of desperation, we began exploring cannabis.

This was actually quite amusing, considering the fact that I was a high school vice principal. Each week at work, I’d leave a student to sit in my tiny office for a while. As the pungent odour of weed wafted around us, I’d conduct a search, confiscate anything I found, and call parents. It was routine, with the occasional surprise at the ingenious hiding places for a student’s stash.

This was also amusing because I had never inhaled, as they say. As a lifetime nonsmoker, I found the concept of cigarettes somewhat mysterious. Thus inhaling was literally a skill that I needed to be taught, as my body rejected both the smell and the heat rolling down the back of my throat.

But I’m getting ahead of the story arc, here, because gaining access legally was not going to be a simple task, given the medical challenges facing me. Once I received a license to use medical cannabis, the system proved to be clumsy, and almost deliberately difficult to navigate.

In the end, I met both the doctor of the local cannabis clinic, and the owner of a not-quite-legal dispensary. Both would have a role to play in enabling me to find meaningful pain control, which I desperately needed to move along a path towards

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