October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, a time when we work to increase awareness and provide support for the nearly 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) of whom will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime.
I wanted to take this opportunity to recognize my cousin, who lost her ten-year battle with breast cancer on the evening of October 5th – almost one year to the day that she learned about the recurrence of breast cancer that had spread to her bones, skull, and lungs. This is not your typical article on how cannabis helped to treat someone’s cancer; to relieve their pain, reduce nausea, aid sleep. This article is about something we don’t speak about much, which is the shame associated with the use of cannabis.
I have worked at Bloom Farms for nearly a year and a half, and when my cousin was diagnosed with the recurrence of cancer I offered her our products, knowing that they have provided relief to so many others. I knew that she was a bit uncomfortable with the idea, so we did it quietly behind closed doors and giggled about it. I told her that I had given it to her to try in the case that she was truly in pain. She reluctantly took the Highlighter vaporizers that I offered her and hid them away from her children and husband.
Months later, after undergoing radiation and chemotherapy my cousin was steadily losing weight, battling unbearable nausea and debilitating lack of appetite. She finally decided that she would give cannabis a try. The cancer had spread to her lungs, she could not use a vaporizer, and instead had bought a range of edibles. Again, we hid behind a closed door and whispered as I taught her about dosage and which products to use. Her greatest concern was that she did not want anything with THC, and only wanted CBD products. I stressed that the THC is what would help induce hunger and mitigate nausea, but out of respect for her wishes, I continued only purchasing high dose CBD products for her to try.
I watched my cousin drastically lose weight, and what prevented her from using cannabis, one of the only things proven to help her, was the stigma and shame that she felt. She believed that if her two sons saw her using cannabis, it would influence them to use drugs. I was so frustrated and angry that decades of the war on drugs had actually worked. My cousin had dozens of bottles of pharmaceutical pain-killers and opiates lying openly in her kitchen, yet she hid away the cannabis products and it remained something we could not talk about openly with her family. I wish that I could have helped her more, but I could not erase the embarrassment and shame she felt towards cannabis.
I love working at Bloom Farms, because not only do we create products that help people, every day we work to fight the stigma associated with cannabis by practicing and advocating responsible use. Though I wasn’t able to help my cousin, I want to end with one happy story. When Mike Ray (CEO of Bloom Farms), first offered me a job, he asked me if I had told my family yet. I guess not all parents are supportive when they find out their child is going to work in the cannabis industry. I did go on to tell my family about my new job, and it turned out that my Mother wasn’t thrilled. She asked me if I really had to work for a cannabis company and I simply replied, “Yes.”
On my last visit home, my mom asked me if I was planning on continuing to work for Bloom Farms. I said, ‘“yes” again. To my surprise, she asked if she could get some sample product for her friend, who was new to using cannabis. Two weeks after providing her friend with a Bloom Farms Highlighter, my mom told me that her friend absolutely loved the product. She thanked me. This experience filled me with hope, showing me that sometimes minds can change.