First it was a cough. Then it was bronchitis. Then it was time to say goodbye to Michelle Aldrich.
The year 2011 was supposed to be a good one for the 66-year-old. That June, she and her husband, Michael, were feted with a lifetime achievement award by High Times magazine for their four decades of work on marijuana legalization. Yet something was off. She was smoking a lot, maybe more than ever.
And she couldn’t get high.
In the fall of that year — a bad time for the local marijuana movement, as the federal Justice Department began shutting down hundreds of California medical cannabis dispensaries — Aldrich went in to see a series of doctors for what she thought was a flu that just refused to go away.
After six weeks of progressively worse diagnoses — flu became bronchitis, which became pneumonia — a CT scan revealed the cause behind the “heat” she felt in the middle of her chest. A tumor, “poorly-differentiated non-small cell adenocarcinoma.” In other words, stage 3 lung cancer.
Lung cancer is a killer, with nearly 70 percent of new cases resulting in deaths, according to statistics published by the National Cancer Institute. “I thought I was going to die,” Aldrich says from her Marina District apartment. But she didn’t. And now, she is busy telling anyone who will listen that, along with diet and chemotherapy, a concoction of highly concentrated cannabis oil eliminated her cancer in less than four months.