Given some post-chemotherapy eating challenges I’ve experienced during the past few months, and the subsequent weight loss which has occurred, my oncologist has prescribed Dronabinol, common brand name: Marinol. Dronabinol, a.k.a. THC, is “a man-made form of the active natural substance in marijuana” synthesized to stimulate my appetite. It’s been my observation over the six-plus years that I’ve been a chemotherapy patient, that weight loss is a particularly worrisome indicator. Steps are often taken to make sure that the patient – especially during the six-hours-per-day, three-days-a-week, heavy-duty chemotherapy often infused at the beginning of treatment – eats regularly and ingests sufficient vitamins and nutrients. Though I haven’t suffered too much of late, other than the eating/tasting problem I’ve described, my oncologist was quick to this fix. No eating is no good. And even though the potential side effects: “dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, feeling ‘high,’ an exaggerated sense of well being, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting or stomach pain,” don’t exactly turn me on; neither do they bum me out. I need to eat – doctor’s orders – so if marijuana pills are the ticket, then I’m ready to buy. Someone has to do it, and as a cancer patient/survivor trying to stay in the game, these pills are a much appreciated resource to help fend off an evil adversary.
This is a road I have been down before – in the 70s, but that was more of a pleasure trip. This is a completely different road – and trip, and therefore one that requires thinking and treating outside of the box, if necessary. And since I don’t want to be boxed, I need to remain open to remedies and alternatives that might offer a glimpse into a future that six years ago was not assured. In fact, assurances were the last thing I was given. What I was given, as you regular readers know, was a “13-month to two-year” prognosis with a corollary admission from my oncologist: “I can treat you but I can’t cure you.” Having successfully navigated an extremely bumpy road since February, 2009, I am still afraid for myself and fearful of my circumstances. Nevertheless, giving in is not an option. Nor is giving up. These pills are just another addition to my ever-expanding arsenal (most recent additions: wheat grass, beta glucans, dandelion root, milk thistle). This is a dynamic time in cancer research and when one considers the conventional along with the non-conventional, there are reasons for hope and dare I say, excitement, for our respective futures.
It’s ironic to consider that back in the day, smoking marijuana was thought to possibly contribute to or even cause lung cancer and now, decades later, it is being prescribed by oncologists for their lung cancer patients to help them cope with the side effects of their treatment. When we first met my oncologist, it was mentioned that I smoked pot in the 70s and perhaps that was a cause of my current diagnosis. The doctor’s response was that he wasn’t interested in the past; he was only interested in the present/future and treating me forward. And so too have I embraced that philosophy. My life now is about securing a future, not explaining a past.