In the early 2000’s I married my high school sweetheart. We were both young, each about 21 years old, Los Angeles natives recently transplanted to New York just starting our lives. A little over a year after our wedding we were faced with a situation unique to most newlyweds – I was diagnosed with cancer.
I was experiencing a tremendous amount of pain in my right foot. It grew rapidly and eventually I was unable to stand or walk much at all. I saw various doctors and specialists, and spent over a year being misdiagnosed and in pain. Despite many requests, the doctors I had been seeing opted not to order an MRI, but I persisted and in the end my decision to do so was life saving. The test revealed a synovial sarcoma. So began my battle with cancer.
Surgery was followed by radiation, and for a while it seemed as though I was cancer free. Unfortunately, two years later, the disease resurfaced much more aggressively. I was essentially told to either make myself comfortable, because I wouldn’t live much longer, or endure a heavy dose of chemo that would in all likelihood kill me before the cancer did. Two options, and neither were very promising.
At the request of my family, I went through with the chemo. The first round of treatment left me feeling terrible, and the severity of the side affects kept me hospitalized for long periods of time. To make these multiple hospitalizations even more uncomfortable, synovial sarcoma was considered an “adolescent-type cancer” and kept me in the pediatric unit despite being 23 years-old.
During my treatment I received Marinol, a synthetic THC isolate. My oncologist had been hesitant, but since nothing had helped previously, we both agreed it was worth a shot. I was optimistic that this treatment would make things better based on what I had found through my own research. It also helped that Marijuana-derived medication wasn’t taboo because medical marijuana had been legal in my home town Los Angeles since 1996.
Within 30 minutes of taking Marinol, for the first time, I became a different person. As I headed down for some testing I became more alert. I was telling jokes, hungry and more social than ever. I took Marinol for the second round as well, and made it through to the next day. At this point in my illness, everything I did was day-to-day.
It was then I realized that this medicine was on to something. I truly believed that, marijuana-derived medication could be a future treatment for people, like me, who were afflicted by pain. I took a strong interest in furthering the legitimacy of the benefits of this plant. I could no longer sit idly by while so many children and people were suffering around me and a viable treatment was available. I became inspired to do everything in my power to make that suffering stop, and provide another option to those in need.
As I began to wonder how I could get involved in this industry to help others alleviate their own suffering, I continued to suffer myself. I had been encouraged time and time again to amputate my leg. However, I felt strongly that if I had an opportunity to keep my leg then I should – so, I decided to do so. Thankfully, my cancer has not resurfaced, but I continue to live with excruciating pain every day. The muscle that controlled my toes was removed, leaving only scar tissue and bone in my foot. As a result, every step I take feels like I’m walking on broken concrete pebbles.
I had run through nearly the whole gamut of painkillers, and methadone was the last in line that wouldn’t affect my liver. While this treatment helped dull the pain, I knew that another option besides opioids existed in many other states outside of New York – medical marijuana. It was infuriating to me that I couldn’t legally obtain something in my home state that I knew would help me get off opioids and other potentially addictive substances.
And then finally, it happened – medical marijuana was approved in New York. I immediately jumped on the opportunity to pursue treatment, and my doctor supported the decision.
Over the years I have continued to explore and support the medical marijuana industry. I started two new businesses, and as my knowledge increased, so did my ability to guide investors interested in something that is still federally illegal. Despite its challenges, my advocacy and determination has remained steadfast.
As someone with a wealth of knowledge in the cannabis industry, production, testing and the market, I have been impressed with the Vireo team and model every step of the way. Additionally, as someone who practices Orthodox Judaism, I appreciate that Vireo took the steps necessary to be certified by the Orthodox Union.
I visit the Queens Dispensary, and use the Indigo and Red oral solution products from the Vireo spectrum. My previous use of Marinol has given me a much higher tolerance, so the combination of stronger CBD and THC works best for me. The solutions are fast-acting and strong, and on an as needed basis I can address the spasms in my foot and sleep through the night. These treatments have helped me completely regain my functionality.
This experience has not only been life-saving, but has given me a much better quality of life. I feel better knowing that I have a license in my pocket, and there is a place I can go in New York that has properly tested, quality products. I take comfort in knowing that Vireo is passionate about their medical model and the care of their patients.
Early on in my involvement with this industry, I aimed to promote the legitimacy and credibility of this plant. I take pride in supporting medical marijuana, as I believe it to be extremely beneficial to many people who, like me, suffer from debilitating pain. Having had this experience from within, while also being a certified patient allows me to see the big picture. To have a place that allows patients to access trusted treatment AND not feel looked down upon is a dream come true.