‘But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.’ – Samwise Gamgee
Thirty days. Time crept by, days of repose where lounging on the couch was punctuated by pain. As my head cleared, I began the delicate process of negotiating with my body. The distraction of vomiting was gone, thankfully. Without the medication to cloud my perceptions, I had a much better view of the damage my body had sustained. Not only were my hands and feet in a constant state of agitated tingling, the wrong move would send jolts of burning pain up my extremities. I had developed a case of allodynia, where non-painful stimuli provoked a pain response in my body.
In this case, it was the pressure of the blankets on my limbs. Or the socks pulling on my toes.
My digestive system was in disarray, a consequence of all those pills. Food that I had easily consumed prior to cancer seemed to irritate my stomach, and I would spend the next year sorting out what I could safely digest.
Even so, I was grateful to be able to think clearly again. My husband observed the “waking up” process, and after a few days, asked only half-jokingly, “Where have you been?” We had just had a long conversation where I had not forgotten something or repeated myself. It was clear that he had missed me. I had missed me too, but honestly until that moment I had no grasp of how compromised my memory and mental capacities had been during those years of heavy medication.
When appointment day arrived at the Cannabis Clinic, I was appraised by the same physician’s assistant. I came armed with lab results, clearing me of any concerns of relapse. My urine sample was apparently a thing of beauty to him, as it was completely devoid of any drugs. I was officially redeemed, a qualified cannabis patient, now that it was clear that I was neither dying nor a drug abuser.
Having cleared these hurdles, the doctor prescribed “real” cannabis – dried flower, not the synthetic pills that had failed in the prior month to curb any symptoms. I met with a “drug counsellor” in a third office, who showed me how the process for medical marijuana worked. I had been granted a license, and would be able to legally purchase cannabis from a government approved “licensed provider” (LP). These orders would be placed online, once I was registered, and then Canada Post would deliver my orders to my home where I would have to sign for it.
That’s the theory, at least: get a prescription from a doctor, receive a license from the government, and indulge in some online shopping which will be shipped to your door.
The counsellor listened carefully to my symptoms, reviewed my medical history, and then suggested a few strains that would best match my needs. Right away, she suggested I start with a low THC dose, and seek out high CBD products. Early research suggested that CBD was more effective in dulling neuropathic pain. I was disappointed to learn I had a few more weeks of waiting before I could order and then receive medication, as the paperwork wound its way through the bureaucracy. Before I left, she had a clear warning for me:
I was to steer clear of the local dispensary in the interim. I nodded my fealty to the LP.
It was a promise that, in time, I would willingly break. But for the moment, I was content to play by the rule book the government had handed me. This just had to work. The stakes were high (pun intended).