By Kathryn Petrides
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.