DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: My breast cancer diagnosis at age 26 was an unwelcome and at times harrowing experience. What allowed me to endure the darkest days was the hope that my rigorous treatment — chemotherapy, surgeries and radiotherapy among them — would allow me to once again live a full and healthy life. It’s what propelled me to walk back into the hospital for more treatments.
But then came A/C: The “A” stands for Adriamycin, a drug neon red in color and injected via large syringes by oncology nurses; its apt nicknames are “red devil” and “red death.” That probably should have been the red flag that I wasn’t going to escape without being slightly worse for wear.
After each of my four biweekly infusions, I lay bedridden for four days, debilitated by severe nausea, heartburn and overall discomfort. I also suffered deep bone pain, a consequence of the Neulasta shot given to keep my white blood cell counts up. I acutely felt all of these side effects, despite being given an intravenous anti-nausea medication, taking anti-nausea tablets every few hours and heartburn medicine and a low-dose prescription narcotic for the bone pain. None of this provided me with the relief for which I longed.
Eventually, though, I was lucky enough to take a medicine that did alleviate my suffering. Not so fortunate was the fact that it came in the form of a drug illegal under federal law: cannabis.