Using Cannabinoids with Cancer Treatment

(Article from The Cannabinoid Journal, 9th Feb 2021)

My name is Gary, I was diagnosed with duodenal cancer in August 2019 and I am a medical cannabis patient. This is my story.

Gary Sutherland | Cancer Patient & Medical Cannabis User

Deciding to self medicate with cannabis was a very scary decision indeed.

After my duodenal cancer diagnosis I found was surrounded with specialist doctors all trying to save my life. I had a twelve hour Whipples procedure to remove the tumour with only a 50/50 chance of surviving the operation, and then eight cycles of FOLFOX chemotherapy over six months. After this I received my updated prognosis from my specialist every six months.

It was hard. I started vaporising cannabis flower, mainly to treat my pain, but in doing so I realised that cannabis had many other benefits for me as a cancer patient. Most significantly I felt my depression was also improving. When vaping cannabis flower I receive instant pain relief, in a way that I can only describe as mind separation from the pain. Yes the pain is still there but my mind focuses on other things. This allows me to forget the pain. Although this may sound trivial and temporary, this has vastly improved the quality of my life. After I used medical cannabis for the first time, I could think straight.

Frequently I stay in hospital. Sometimes for up to ten weeks at a time. Friends come and visit. They tell me to relax and read a book - but I can’t as my pain is unbearable as I don’t have access to my cannabis-based medicine as when I’m at home. The pain is constant and repetitive. I go to bed in pain. I wake up in pain. This has now developed into Chronic Pain Syndrome (CPS), but I have found that vaping cannabis flower helps me break down this cycle. The benefits for me have been life changing.

Using Cannabinoids for Cancer Treatment

Some may say pain killers are a necessary evil, but I think there is a place in pain management for them along side medical cannabis. Medicating with cannabis along side my other prescription medication was always my plan, but as my depression and general outlook on life was improving and I was managing my pain to an acceptable level, I started to reduce my prescribed pain medication - and now don't use them much, if at all.

I’d like to see this in wider use. It could save the NHS a lot of money in the future. I know my GP is delighted that I no longer ask for strong pain killers. He knows why I don't ask for the opioid prescription because he helped me apply for a private prescription for medicinal cannabis.

For me, sharing with my GP that I self medicate with cannabis allowed him to gain an understanding that I no longer needed opioid pain medication, which has now been replaced by medical cannabis.

My hopes as a cancer patient moving forward is to see legal access to medical cannabis made easier and accessibility for all patients, not just private patients. The two tier system is wrong, it's not fair on patients that don't have the income to sustain a private prescription. I am lucky enough to have a private prescription, but like most I can't really afford to be a private medical patient. I have a friend who can not afford a private prescription and he really struggles with sleep, nausea, CINV, appetite and general mood, all symptoms he could have treated if he could get access to medical cannabis, which would make his chemo journey more tolerable.

The powers that be need to start funding clinical trials for medical cannabis to understand this medicines full potential. GP’s being able to prescribe cannabis is what the UK should strive for, my late wife was German and I believe there are 60,000 medical cannabis patients in Germany all being prescribed by their family doctor.

Surely the UK should follow and create their own cannabis model?