As a 24-year-old woman with cystic fibrosis trapped in her house in Florida during a pandemic with only her partner and two cats, things are destined to be challenging. The world's new normal brought out the worst of my anxiety and depression. Knowing I couldn't fit more psychiatric medications into my regimen, I decided to try something new myself: medical cannabis.
Before making any rash decisions, I thoroughly researched the practice. Although I couldn't find too much information regarding female cystic fibrosis patients and cannabis therapy, I did find research suggesting cannabis could soothe anxieties, aid in digestive issues, inspire weight gain, and allow for a better night's sleep. With that in mind, I decided any of my concerns in relation to cannabis therapy were outweighed by the potential benefits.
I spoke with a doctor who specializes in cannabis and was well informed on cystic fibrosis. We walked through my list of ailments and she responded to each one with information on how cannabis interacts with the body to provide support, relief, and comfort. Because cannabis doctors in Florida can't legally write prescriptions, they can only offer recommendations to their patients. My doctor vehemently advised against smoking and vaping to avoid lung damage. She suggested I use tinctures, a drop or two under my tongue. I was overjoyed that she worked within my personal health boundaries to ensure I could receive the benefits of cannabis without risking my lungs.
Once I was approved for my medical cannabis card, I spoke to each of my CF doctors during our telehealth visits and informed them I introduced cannabis into my medical routine.
The responses of my care team doctors were both positive and relaxed -- they seemed to react no differently than they would had I told them I started taking a new vitamin. They asked questions regarding my dosage and benefits with the intention of making sure the cannabis did not interact negatively with any of my other medications (which it has not). They encouraged me to continue updating them on my cannabis journey and ordered some lab work, which would also let us know how cannabis was treating my body.
Before starting cannabis, I was taking three psychiatric medications per day. Even with those medications, I was still struggling to find joy in my life, as my health has always been a problem area. It's challenging to find the energy and motivation to care for yourself when all you want to do is curl up on the couch. Since starting cannabis a few months ago, I wake up happy and I go to bed at peace. My care team is elated that I've packed on a healthy amount of weight due to what is known as “the munchies.” In terms of my stress and anxiety, I've been able to safely go off one of my psychiatric medications because cannabis has proved to be a healthier and more satisfactory form of therapy. This is because it is neither addictive nor accompanied by unfavorable side effects, such as zombie-like moods and lack of sex drive. I've also been able to cut back on my talk therapy sessions because cannabis has helped me emotionally process a lot of my grief relating to my health and personal traumas.
Overall, my experience has been positive. Implementing cannabis into my routine has been so easy. It takes me an hour to get through my morning breathing treatments, and this doesn't include the amount of time I need to clean my supplies, rinse my sinuses, take my oral medications, and prepare breakfast so I can take my pills correctly. Needless to say, mornings can be time consuming and exhausting.
So, when I take my first dose of cannabis in the afternoon, I'm finally able to relax into the rest of my day. It's like an unfolding of sorts. Cannabis inspires me to be both productive and at ease. I do yoga, tidy up my space, go for walks outside, spend quality time with my cats (I'm obsessed with them), and work on a cannabis-centric podcast with my bestie.
The best news of all came a few weeks ago when my annual lab results showed that my body was healthy (as healthy as a body with cystic fibrosis can be).
My care team and I were thrilled. A strict medical routine with all the treatments (including Trikafta®!) and therapies prescribed to me by my CF care team played a huge role in why my body has managed to stay stable during this pandemic. However, I believe cannabis therapy has made my journey of trying to stay healthy more rewarding. I'm so happy that my CF care team responded positively to my new medicine. The fact that they respect my autonomy enough to let me explore all my options along the journey of self-improvement is a blessing and I'm forever grateful.
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