Interview with Aly, mother of three, recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis
The day I interviewed Aly she described herself as “being kind of MS’y lately.” I asked her what it meant to feel MS like. She said it effected everything from how she thought and communicated, to feeling constant pain throughout her body. She started doing some yoga stretches to relieve the pain and tension as I interviewed her.
I could tell she was having a rough patch by how she answered questions. She was making sure the words were correct before she would speak. There was a deliberate effort that came from really thinking it through, not just because she wanted to say it correctly, but because she wanted to say it… period.
She was diagnosed in March of 2016, directly after some huge life changing events. Her father had passed away a few months before, she was in the process of moving into a new house, and she had been dealing with a battle for child support payments that had never came. The diagnosis was a terrible shock to everyone, especially her three children. She has a teen boy, a tween girl and the youngest just 6 years old.
2016 was the first year that Aly had health insurance in over a decade. While she had a full time job, her company was too small to offer health insurance. Yes, Aly lives in the USA where people go without medical insurance and thus without care. Before she had insurance, Aly had just gone on about her life taking care of her kids first and ignoring her own concerns, as many single mother do. She went to places like planned parenthood for her yearly appointments and ignored most illnesses or injuries.
After she was diagnosed with MS, which she terms an immune disorder, she started looking back at symptoms she had experienced for years and putting the pieces together. She used to tell people that she felt like her spine was on fire and that she experienced pain constantly. She experienced muscle spasms all over her body and used to chalk them up to over-work and over-stress. As she went back over the years and over the ailments the puzzle of her MS snapped into place.
Experts say that if you know one person with MS, you know just that one person’s experience, as it effects everyone differently. When Aly was diagnosed, she was in a terrible tailspin of MS symptoms. She was so dizzy her kids used to help her walk around to make sure she did not fall. She lost her words and would fumble with the frustration of not being as articulate as she usually was. Her youngest daughter, at just 6 years old, had told her classmates that her mother had a brain problem and she often fell. She was in a great deal of pain both mentally and physically.
Aly realized that for years she had been managing her MS herself, and that often included using Marijuana. Aly did not live in a Medical Marijuana State so self treating went along with the usual supply and demand challenges. She used marijuana to find a way out of the pain.
Aly smoked for the first time at the age of 12 years. She loved it immediately after trying it. Aly’s smoking habits vacillated to some extent, but she would classify herself as a smoker since she first tried it. She stopped several times due to custody battles with her ex-husband to protect her access to her children. As Aly puts it, “I would be a pot smoker even if I did not have MS.”
For the 8 months period before the diagnosis, she had not smoked marijuana due to another complication with support payments from her ex-husband, who is rabidly anti-pot. So when she was experiencing this horrible stressful time, the MS attacks, and the ensuing medical search she was not smoking marijuana. She was not self medicating as she had for years.
When she was first diagnosed she went through a huge battery of tests. She went from blood work to biopsies, and brain tests to spinal taps. As each test came back with more positive findings she was floored by the result. The Dr’s instructed her not to smoke as they wanted the tests to be as clear as possible. They wanted her to try medication after medication, but not to smoke weed. They wanted to make sure they knew what was helping. They wanted her to take $200 a day pills with questionable side affects, but not to try what mother nature had grown.
She realized how serious this was when one day, at work, the attack was so bad that she had to lay down on the ground. If she did not lay down, she was going to fall. She laid there on the floor no matter who came in. She could barely speak as she was in so much agony in her head and body. She was having little seizure like experience in her brain that caused her to be disoriented and muscle spasms across her skull that caused her to lose all speech and equilibrium. It was terrifying.
She did one medical test where she had to wear 36 electrical receptors attached to her head for a week. She had to walk around with this box of wires that were recording her brain’s missed steps. It was about at this point that she said, “Fuck this, I am going to smoke some pot”. She went to a friends place and got high for the first time in months. The difference was immediate and stark. She felt better right away. She started to cry for both happiness and sadness. She had a way to take control of her situation for the first time in almost a year.
She began to experiment with Marijuana, officially, to manage her MS. I asked her what Marijuana did for her MS symptoms. She said that first of all, weed relaxed the body. Second, it let her do things that she just couldn’t do without it. Also, after she smoked she did not feel as sick. Overall, she felt like she could participate in life again.
Aly’s story is very common for MS sufferers. If they are willing to try Marijuana, they often find immediate and powerful relief. Stay tuned for the second part of the story as we will discover how using Marijuana in micro-doses helped Aly manage her MS and take active steps to improving her life.
Here are some links to resources about MS and Marijuana:
National MS Society: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Treating-MS/Complementary-Alternative-Medicines/Marijuana
Sensi Seeds: https://sensiseeds.com/en/blog/top-5-benefits-cannabis-multiple-sclerosis/
Medical Marijuana CA https://medicalmarijuana.ca/resource-center/