A Chocolate Square of Relative Bliss

Medical marijuana as ‘cure for cancer’s dehumanizing effects’

I’m sick. I have cancer.

The first two words are the most important. I was diagnosed a little over a year ago. The succeeding months have been filled with pain, nausea, needles, mortal fear, and drugs of all kinds. I’m talking all kinds — it’s like being roboticized chemically. They have worked for me so far, for which I’m extremely thankful. But, like I said, the first two words — “I’m sick” — are the point.

Two weeks ago I was watching “The African Queen” on TV. My mood was a gray, damp concrete cellar floor. My pain, an aching background barely noticeable after living with it for so long. My spirit, a damp concrete staircase descending.

Suddenly, light filled it to overflowing. The world that suddenly appeared next to me, just visible out the corner of my eye — I’ll call it a soft hallucination — contained something like the set from when Dorothy first enters the city of Oz. It seemed to be playing on a continuous, diaphanous loop, all gold with little people dancing, their shoes jingling. In an instant, I was no longer sick. Why?

Because the square of marijuana-infused chocolate with almonds had unleashed its kindliness. Not only did my sickness disappear like dew in the face of a hot dawn, but I actually felt good for the first time in many months. Warm. Optimistic. The light came with a flood of peace of mind. “Miraculous” is not too strong a word. The chocolate square of relative bliss was provided by a friend of a friend who lives in Colorado, where medical, even recreational, grass is now legal.

Medical marijuana just became legal here. Tomorrow New York’s law regulating the dispensing of medical marijuana will go into effect. Let me assure you, I was not new to pot, except in this form, as a medicine. I had fulfilled my late ’60s requirement to burn, burn, burn. But up until the “African Queen” I had avoided trying pot “edibles,” not wanting to rock chemo’s carefully proscribed boat. (And besides, I was too sick to try them.) So, it came as a wonderful reunion, pot and me, during “The African Queen.”

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I’m not a pro-pot zealot — the drug has a couple downsides, especially for young people — but the plant’s history as a tool, a balm, fabric, soap, on and on, and now as a medicine, overwhelm any negative aspects, in my opinion.

But let’s not get carried away with the cannabis. Plain, old-fashioned neighborliness, love, and friendship have kept me afloat. The stream of visitors continues. Special thanks to those who dropped everything to help me button up my boat, go to the dump, haul firewood.

The supply of food has been endless, especially rewarding because a lot of it has consisted of local fare, home-caught and pickled herring, smoked herring and whiting, pheasant, duck. Striped bass. Porgies. The trouble has been my appetite, until “The African Queen” almost totally absent.

Nevertheless, I return to “I’m sick” because it corresponds to the lack of appetite, and this leads to loss of weight, dramatic loss of weight — I lost 15 pounds in a little over two weeks — and weakness.

Feeling good, feeling healthy is where it starts. There is no better feeling than healthy, and from it flows our own kindness, generosity, and the finer instincts. I feel it’s essential for survival, and I’m not alone. Consider the billing that the “the pursuit of happiness” received right there after life and liberty. I’d argue the pursuit deserves greater praise because we derive optimism from a sense of happiness and well-being. Optimism is the God-given light that shows us the way.

It’s amazing to me that the negative propaganda that’s been dragged forward from way back in the ’20s continues to flourish. Then again, I must say the recent, almost invisible, efforts to spread the truth about the healing (yes, healing) qualities of pot have been impressive. It’s almost as if a whole turned-on segment of our population has been working for decades behind the scenes to bring us to this point.

Healing? I’ve learned that words like “healing” and “cure” are loaded, not often used among people who actually have this disease. My feeling is that a large part of this squeamish word “fear” (and regrettably, the hope that comes with it) is caused by a reticence to abandon the imaginary humbug that seems to accompany any discussion about pot’s positive properties. For many, absurd is the idea that the “party drug” that promised hippies a new way of thinking, an enlightened future, has morphed into some kind of panacea. Probably just a clever way of introducing recreational sales.

I’m writing this piece to counter that belief. Medical marijuana is a cure, maybe not of cancer, but of its dehumanizing effects. For cancer patients, marijuana is hot on the trail in the pursuit of happiness. New York State has done the right thing by bringing our pursuit within reach.

I’m feeling good these days. The chemo regimen seems to be working. The pain issues I had are under control. So, now, like every other cancer patient, I’m on hold, waiting with greater peace of mind.

A final note: My positive reaction to medical marijuana is my own. It will not correspond to everyone’s experience. Some of us are too sick. My advice is to talk it over with your oncologist. You’d be surprised.