I am a fifty three year old resident of San Diego. For twenty five years, I worked professionally as a chief and caterer. Not only did I own my own restaurant, but I worked for several different restaurants and operated a catering service on the side.
In 1990, tragically, my aunt, my uncle, and my six year old nephew all died of AIDS. In 1990, I was diagnosed as being HIV Positive. I am a victim of AIDS. AIDS is an insidious and complex disease. The symptoms of the disease are serious, terrifying, and seemingly endless.
After being diagnosed, through a regimen of nearly thirty medications, I was able to abate those symptoms and work for another two years. Then the symptoms overwhelmed me.
I suffer from sever AIDS related anorexia. My physician, Dr. Kelly Freeborn, calls it “the wasting syndrome.” I became unable to eat and dropped weight at an alarming pace. Wasting syndrome is a major contributor to death through AIDS-related conditions. After twenty five years of life loving the kitchen and the pleasure of feeding others, the sight of food repulsed and nauseated me.
Another AIDS-related ailment I suffer is called Kaposi’s Sarcoma. This is a malignant lymphoma, a rare form of vascular cancer. It occurs as painful lesions on my face and body.
My body is plagued with neuropathic pain. Sometimes it’s a throbbing ache, sometimes it’s like sharp, electric shocks up and down my limbs. AIDS attacks the central and peripheral nervous systems, constantly bombarding my body with agony.
My daily functioning diminished to the point where I could no longer perform the activities it takes to have a normal life. I was constantly exhausted, with no energy, desire, or hope that my life would ever get any better.
The dozens of medications I was prescribed carried an extra load of side effects with them. The side effects of protease inhibitor therapy, which is a daily regimen of about 30 powerful chemotherapy drugs, all of which cause severe nausea. Of course, this didn’t help my wasting syndrome anorexia. I was also given several strong narcotic pain medications. I was on multiple prescriptions of Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, and other painkillers. These painkillers are highly addictive, and in my state, the doctors kept having to prescribe more and more as I developed a high tolerance for them.
I was also being prescribed medicines for my anxiety disorder. I began abusing the Valium by taking more than I should, just trying to get away from the pain and fear.
All the symptoms of my disease, along with many others that are too graphic or personal to share here, caused me to become severely depressed. The depression strongly affected my personality, making me short tempered, anxiety ridden, angry, and hopeless. I had always been a drinker prior to being diagnosed with AIDS. By 2008, I was hopelessly lost. I became a relentless alcoholic. I was resigned that something was going to kill me. If the disease itself wasn’t going to, then the alcohol or massive doses of pharmaceuticals would. It was just a question of when.
Three years ago, I was lucky enough to be saved by Dr. Kelly Freeborn, and by my 79 year old mother, Ruth Evans, a Registered Nurse. Together, Dr. Freeborn and my mother thoroughly examined all my medical records. Dr. Freeborn determined that all the medications I was on were not helping me achieve any quality of life. Dr. Freeborn wrote me a prescription for the Compassionate Use of medical marijuana for my symptoms. I had used marijuana before recreationally, but I had no idea of its powers to cure and heal. Honestly, after taking so many different pharmaceutical medications, I really didn’t think it would be strong enough to work. This prescription has saved my life.
First, the anorexia. My Compassionate Use of medical marijuana has almost eradicated my debilitating wasting syndrome. Marijuana stimulates my appetite and promotes my gastrointestinal reflexes. I can eat again. I don’t look like a skeleton anymore.
I can go into the kitchen and take joy again in my cooking. I can perform simple tasks that most people take for granted, like baking incredible chocolate chip walnut cookies. Until three years ago, even being around the smells and sights of food was revolting to me. And now I can eat again. The return of my appetite is a direct result of my Compassionate Use of medical marijuana.
Second, the Kaposi’s Sarcoma. This cancer has been successfully treated in several international studies using medical marijuana. It destroys the cancerous cells. But more importantly, it works for me. The lesions themselves, aside from being ugly and embarrassing, are extremely painful. My Compassionate Use has reduced the incidents and severity of the cancer’s symptoms.
The decrease in my suffering from Kaposi’s Sarcoma is the direct result of my Compassionate Use of medical marijuana. The relief from my pain is immediate.
Third, my constant neurological pain. The Compassionate Use of medical marijuana produces the most effective, immediate relief of even the sharpest neurological shocks.
The elimination of my suffering from this chronic neuralgia is a direct result of my Compassionate Use of medical marijuana.
Fourth, the exhaustion which I’d been experiencing had been so bad I could hardly live my life. When I became a Compassionate User, I experienced restful sleep at night and had much more energy during the day. It gave me a far better attitude which has in turn given me the desire to try and make myself as healthy as I possibly can.
This remarkable increase in energy, better attitude, and healthier sleep have all been the result of my Compassionate Use of medical marijuana.
Fifth, because of my illness, exhaustion level, chronic pain, and ultimate prognosis, I was deeply depressed and suffered from waves of terrible anxiety. Since I became a Compassionate User of medical marijuana, the depression has lifted, and the anxiety waves I feel have decreased in number and intensity. Yes of course I still worry about things every day, we all do. But because of Compassionate Use, that anxiety no longer paralyzes me, and the depression no longer nails me down to the couch. The decrease in my depression and anxiety is because of my Compassionate Use of medical marijuana.
Sixth, since I became a Compassionate User more than three years ago, I have stopped drinking. Prior to Dr. Freeborn’s prescription for medical marijuana, I was an unpleasant, mean-spirited alcoholic. I’m still an alcoholic, but I’m in recovery and have not had a drink in over two years. I was able to stop drinking when I became a Compassionate User of medical marijuana.
The very best thing about my being a Compassionate User is that now, instead of taking over thirty medications every day, I only have to take about fifteen. I cut my intake of pharmaceutical medications and their grave side effects in half.
If San Diego succeeds in its plan to shut down all the Compassionate Use dispensaries in the city, I’ll have three options. Suffer my symptoms with no relief, go back to thirty marginally effective medications a day, or commit a crime to get my medical marijuana. And frankly, I’m under a death sentence anyway, but I’d rather not spend the rest of my life, however long it may be, in jail because I don’t want to be sick anymore.