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  • Writer's pictureAngie Roullier

Cancer




A few years back I was informed upon walking into work that in less than 30 minutes I was to be interviewed to address the topic of the growing relationship between cannabis and cancer.  [1] 


In the words of Clark Griswold, “If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.” Did I know the subject matter well enough to speak about it? Yes. I had this conversation at least 5 times a week. Was I scared to death about being in front of the camera and do I loathe surprises of this nature? Yes, and yes.


So aside from cursing myself for wearing a hoodie to work that day, there was nothing else to do but handle the situation as I would any other patient interaction. Once done with giving my two cents, I was to act out a consultation with a cancer patient for the blinding lights in the room. Little did I know that my acting partner that day would become a source of strength for me in the future.

 

Millie had woken one day with a cancerous tumor the size of a bowling ball in her right breast. I am not exaggerating the size, nor how quickly it evolved. Cancer is an asshole like that. Even though she was a retired nurse from one of the largest hospitals in the state, she had far greater faith in alternative medicine than she did in the “pill mills”, as she would put it.  Millie was using a wide variety of alternative approaches when we met, everything from immunotherapies to mistletoe was thrown at the ticking time bomb in her chest. And like most baby boomers, she had only tried some grass in college and Cousin Eddie’s pot brownies during one strange camping trip.

 

She wanted to learn it all (and take it all), as she was on hourglass time. This sense of urgency (as if the cancer wasn’t enough) came from her oncologist, who pretty much told her to get her affairs in order. The doctor's reasoning was that the tumor was so large that they would never get clean margins (get it all out) and then they wouldn’t have enough skin to close the space. Finding this unacceptable and absolutely certain that there were still more treatments to try, Millie embraced cannabis.

 

While Millie was out there looking for a second opinion, she began to use a topical for the skin over the breast, in addition to a tincture so strong that it demands respect. Thankfully, she had a really elevated tolerance for concentrated cannabis and the tincture didn’t faze her much. In fact, at one point she was looking for something to help her sleep, even though she was putting away over 2000 mgs of THC daily. How’s that for a natural tolerance!

 

By the grace of God, she had found a doctor in Florida that not only was willing to do the surgery (meaning the attempt wouldn’t ruin his reputation) but was confident that he had enough to work with to close afterwards. Millie was both excited and terrified all at once. See, Millie was afraid to fly and therefore had never done it before. I find it very hard to believe that there are any words to do justice to the emotions that must have consumed this woman as she boarded a flight to try and save her own life.

 

Within a few days after she had the surgery Millie called me with a voice so elated that I cried at the sound of it. “The surgeon did everything that he said he would! He got the whole tumor out with clean margins and had more than enough skin to close up shop!”

 

Millie had fought for her life, and she won.

 

After a few weeks in recovery at an Airbnb just outside of Miami, she was cleared to come home and couldn’t wait for her next appointment with the same oncologist that gave her a death sentence just months before.


Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to be a fly on the wall for the following discussion! Hearing that Millie didn’t take her “advice” and took her mortality into her own hands, the doctor became hostile towards her. “Bet you can’t put your arms above your head. You do know you’ll never be able to put coffee cups away again, don’t you?” Millie said the doctor jeered at her. “So, I gave her one of my famous shit eating grins, the one I reserve for the extra special jerks and threw both of my arms up over my head. I even gave her a little wave while my fingers reached for the sky” Millie told me in a mischievous tone. “That’s fantastic! Ha-ha. What was her response to that?” I asked with anticipation, as I love when the over inflated egos of medical professionals lose some air.

 

“You’re going to love this one. She said she would no longer treat me. That she wasn’t going to have a patient that wouldn’t take her direction, even if it did save their lives.”

 

I’m pretty sure I broke a record somewhere for the most curse words per minute. “She said that to your face?! Please tell me that you went scorched earth on this lady.” I begged. “No. Part of me really, really wanted to, the old me would’ve burned the building to the ground for sure, but I now know that it wouldn’t change anything. So, I just laughed. And laughed and laughed some more until she left the room. The life that I saved. My life. Has no energy left for anger. I only have energy for the good from here on out.” Millie said, looking at peace.

 

Whenever my life seems to get overwhelming or viciously unfair, I think of Millie. I think of the amount of sheer courage it takes to fight for your life. Some are squabbles, some are battles and some are all out war. But to come away from these encounters with a new perspective, an inclination to be a better human, now that is what it means to evolve.


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