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IN THE WRONG BUSINESS

IN THE WRONG BUSINESS

I drove up to the parking lot at 10:33am last Saturday morning and there wasn’t a car to be seen; crap, could they not be open yet? I circled in front of the door and discovered that 11:00 am was the opening time so off I went to the bank just a hop skip and a jump up the road and did my deposits. At about 10:58, I returned and to my surprise, there were about twenty five cars in the parking lot on this just starting to snow December day and a line out of the door waiting for the them to open.

I stood out like Resse Witherspoon did on the grayest of New England days as she made her way through the Harvard campus dressed in head to toe Barbie pink in the movie, Legally Blonde. The people in this line were made up of a motley looking sort as they vaped their way waiting patiently. They were thin, somewhat scraggy. They looked like they hadn’t seen sunlight in sometime and many looked like they were in the midst of chemo treatments, sickly, thin and colorless. A familiar sight each looking like and reminding me of my brother as he and I traipsed back and forth from hospital for chemo treatments and home again. Some looked like they were part of the club who never leave their living rooms unless they need to, like that look of the kids who are addicted to video games dressing completely in head to toe black, vitamin D deficient. This was not me as I stood among them in the long line. I almost felt a little guilty standing there, but I got over that fast. I am part of this unlikely tribe, a victim and survivor of a two time we caught it early cancer diagnosis; and someone who does not want to take barely a Motrin let alone be addicted to oxy.

No this wasn’t the Apple store the first Saturday in the busy shopping month of December. It was a compassion store. The Greenleaf Compassion Center in Portsmouth where the economy was ripe and blossoming and where they only take cash, check or debit cards. I am in the wrong business. It was like being at a MAC counter the week before Christmas, free gifts with purchases, spend $25 and get an extra treat for an additional $12.50. They had coffee mugs that also double dutied as coffee bongs and hats, tshirts and chocolate treats fully charged with a variety of ‘medicine’ as they refer to it when you ask about the varieties available. It is a happy place in its odd way. It is a place that is also a political hotbed, a place filled with people who want to be well, who don’t want to choose the pharmaceutical route for their pain and have to jump through hoops to make sure their specific illness falls under the codes designated to achieve the platinum card- a Rhode Island state medical marijuana card. Though the term ‘medicine’ is a little tough for this former back in my high school Jamestown days weed imbiber, I understand the importance of shifting the meme as it relates to the way the terminology is perceived by the majority. In fact, the end result of this miracle product is reduced pain, reduced discomfort and a calmer groovier set of rose colored glasses to view the world. Don’t we need more groovier views of the world? Don’t we need calmer? Don’t we need less oxy addicted medically constipated humans and a less anxious collection of souls out there in the planet?

This topic is a hot one in the midst of an opioid crisis the likes we have never seen. I know there are thousands of people just in our state who have been affected by the abuse of opioids. Marijuana runs the risk of being thrown into the negative messaging barrel of bad information. Marijuana is not Oxy. It is not heroin. It is also not alcohol or cigarettes. As I stood there in the line, I noted to myself that I use medical marijuana cautiously and carefully. I am not a stoner, I am not an addict. I use it as a safe way to address the intense discomfort I have felt since my mastectomy. As I have written numerous times, medical marijuana has been the only relief to the upper band tightness I have felt since my surgery. I use it sparingly and responsibly usually right before bed on very occasional evenings. It works better than the prescription for oxy that was automatically handed out after each of my three surgeries. It has worked better than Tylenol or Motrin. Like alcohol, I would never indulge and drive, never smoke before work or an appointment or anything where I had to be a grown up; I am a responsible patient. This is all a part of making sure that this experiment of medical marijuana can become the first step to making this legal for all in our state.

One thing I learned early on in owning a business is to not talk religion or politics. I have abided by this for my entire business life. But watching my brother die having to figure out illegal ways to obtain the only drug that would ease his pain and also have to try to locate it on the street was something that has stayed with me for over twenty years. Listening to the stories of people who have intense joint pain or back pain (no pun intended) and I know that medical marijuana would be helpful, but the codes necessary do not attach to these ailments. I must speak about this because I have seen its effectiveness. There is no reason why people who need it, like my brother did, should have to register like a common criminal with the state, pay yet another fee and have limitations like a ridiculous wait to obtain the card that has now been changed from a two year license to a one year.

As I stood there in the line waiting to spend a hundred dollars among every other person standing in the line waiting to spend probably more than that, I couldn’t help but think, “Why is this not legal here beyond medical?” I understand the perception of its harmful effects, but when I think about the positive effects compared to hard core drugs that are highly addictive, and up until recently highly available and the future tax income potential, this seems like a no brainer. I would rather know where the product was coming from because let’s face it, if someone wants to smoke pot, they are going to smoke pot. Why not capitalize and at the same time make sure the pot is clean and sourced properly?

It is seldom we hear of someone going into a public place and blowing it up because someone was high on marijuana. Alcohol is far more dangerous, cigarettes are still being made and sold and our children are still smoking them and we know the damaging effects of both of those. I am sure there is lots of research that marijuana is a gateway drug that the anti marijuana people out there espouse, but in my humble opinion, no scientific backup here, I don’t know one single person in my early circle from both my younger years and my present years who has ever gone beyond marijuana to something stronger. And back in the day living on a 3 by 9 mile island there wasn’t much to do besides smoke pot; lots of pot. Actually I have found the opposite to be true, if anything marijuana helps the sugar industry more than the heroin one. It surely doesn’t help the alcohol industry as this is the last thing I want to drink after a few puffs on a joint.

Is it big Pharma that is lobbying against marijuana becoming legal? Because goodness knows pharmaceutical companies are not going to be creating large organic growing fields in their highly industrialized buildings. If the sugar conglomerates out there are concerned about their demise as more and more of the general population learns that the sugar industry is more like the cigarette companies of yesteryear (like the bread companies were when Dr. Atkins came out screaming the negatives of bread, remember that?) they should be lobbying full throttle for its full legalization. Sugar and pot are like peanut butter and jelly, it is a marriage made in heaven. The restaurant business should also be gathering their posse and trying to get this legalized too for that matter. People are going to smoke pot. Why not monetize it and do something that helps grow our state tax base?

Like alcohol, I do not feel it should be allowed in outdoor public places, or in cars of anyone driving or passengers. It should be smoked in controlled spaces and in the privacy of our own homes or backyards. Why are so many so afraid of this? This industry is here to stay. What part our little state plays in it is the sixty four thousand dollar question? When I say I am in the wrong business, I don’t mean that I would ever want to own a compassion center, way too much red tape. I hope it is worth it for these rebel owners who have risked much to be the line leaders in this growing business. As I consider the future of retail and downtown livelihoods as we move further and further towards everything being available online, I witnessed that people actually have money and actually still leave their homes to shop. If marijuana was legal, the opportunities for brick and mortar businesses are exciting and I am not just speaking of places that sell it.

I know that there are people who believe that we don’t need more drugs, people should be high on life, exercise, hobbies, but indulging in alter experiences is not anything new. Humans like alter experiences and they are going to continue legal or not. Let’s make this happen and allow for the legalization of marijuana for all. Regulate away, tax away for that matter as good old fashioned economics will drive the success of the legalization simply because of supply and demand. People want to buy pot legally and are willing to pay for it. How many Apple I phones have you bought when the one you have is perfectly fine. You want it, you are willing to pay the absurd $850 for it and you don’t even need it. Rhode Island has the apple store potential if we can legalize marijuana. In weak economies, the businesses that thrive are liquor and lipstick; the feel good items. Marijuana is a feel good too. I know as my conservative peeps out there are reading this, they may be cringing with the notion that I am taking such a strong stance on this issue. It is always a risk when you say something controversial, but I have seen the struggles of many who would benefit and I have first hand knowledge of its many positives. I don’t think our kids should smoke pot. I also don’t think our kids should drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. I am fully aware that this next step will need lots of detailed focus to avoid the potential of our children getting their hands on anything that could harm them. Massachusetts is getting ready to open their stores. We should move on this sooner than later so everyone in RI is not driving across the Massachusetts line to not only save on state tax, but the inevitable marijuana purchases as soon as Mass opens their first store.

We are often tongue and cheek referred to as Rogue Island. Let’s for once find ourselves being known as rogue for something instead of shady and misaligned politicians and Crimetown. Just because it is legal, doesn’t mean everyone has to indulge. As a matter of fact, every resident could be a beneficiary of the wealth of cash from the taxes our state could put on this out of the gate. As our governor goes after big businesses to expand and build here in our state, we have a monetary opportunity right under our nose. Way better than adding super harmful gambling casinos to our little state and a great opportunity to soften and create grooviness too. We don’t need more casinos, we surely don’t need any more corrupt politicians, we have plenty of those, progressive thinking about new business doesn’t have to be just going after tech companies or adding more bike paths (though I whole heatedly support both).

When I think about the part of legalization that is the fun part, I know there is a lot of potential. I am not naïve though. I know there are many regulations that have to be considered and I feel for law enforcement and politicians who will have to work hard to make laws that haven’t been created yet. We have many states like Colorado who have already been at this. Let’s find out what is working, what they would have done differently in hindsight and adapt what is working without reinventing that wheel, learn and correct what has not worked and fixed some of the issues that they have had. I am sure that this writing today will sit both comfortably and uncomfortably with many, but here is the thing- when I think of how much marijuana has helped me, how much it helped my brother, I am a believer. May the critics not ever have to be in the shoes of someone who needs it, but in my opinion whether someone needs it or wants it, it should be available. Time will tell but for now I will happily continue to take full advantage of my very legal card until maybe our state legislature can move ahead and consider that there are so many who will benefit from across the board legalization. Are you listening?

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MY MEDICAL MARIJUANA CARD

MY MEDICAL MARIJUANA CARD

I am going to be totally forthcoming. I love smoking medical marijuana before bed due to my very legal medical marijuana card from my original diagnosis since I have had this last surgery. Medical marijuana completely removes the tightness around my upper body, loosens my weird new hard ass tennis ball bowling ball double set now attached to the front of my chest. No bullshit here. My body becomes like a rubber band and this has helped me have a deep sleep in a super chilled body.

This surgery only EIGHT WEEKS ago was miraculous. I got to wake up and look down at my chest and see boobs. It was a completely different outcome than I ever imagined, a way better outcome. I can almost say I have enjoyed the experience; this sounds fucking nuts. But I know that my super mellow evening date with my medical marijuana card on occasion is a personal victory for my brother’s memory and his harrowing experience, for my own experience and for my overall health. Sometimes the tightness is so uncomfortable and the hardness in and on my chest is indescribable. My new nighttime ritual is the only thing that has been helpful for my upper body to lighten up for a few hours and way into my evening sleep.

Some people may think that the smoke part of the smoking pot is not a good thing. I agree with this. But Motrin and Tylenol have been proven to be detrimental to the liver/stomach when taken too frequently. Oxy, for me anyway, only lasts for two to three hours and knocks me out for the count, then wakes me up abruptly like I never took it. It is also highly addictive and is in fact a proven gateway drug, unlike marijuana, though I imagine some would dispute that. Besides the fact that when you have to get an Oxy prescription filled, you feel like a common criminal at the pharmacy.

The side effects of pharmaceuticals are shameful leading many people to take more pharmaceuticals. I don’t know how Big Pharma peeps wrestle with their conscience and actually place their head on their pillow and sleep (oh yeah they have pharmaceuticals to help them doze). I am not throwing Big Pharma completely under the bus. I am fully aware that there are many prescription drugs targeted for many ailments providing comfort and relief and can be life saving. The overuse and over prescribing though leading one drug need to another drug need and so on is what my concern is.

When I reflect back on my initial entry into the possibilities of the Big Pharma world and the decision to abstain from the recommendation of an aromatase inhibitor for five years, I made it as a super self-informed patient. The purpose of the aromatase inhibitor is to block any remaining vestiges of estrogen for the estrogen positive breast cancer I had been diagnosed with. When I researched the side effects, my concern was the other drugs I would eventually have to be put on.

Me to Oncologist: “I heard one of the side effects are bone loss, could you give me a little more information on this?”

Oncologist to Me: “If this does happen, we can just put you on blah blah blah, (some bone repairing bullshit drug) but it will only happen while you are taking the aromatase inhibitor, after you stop taking it, your bone loss will repair itself.”

Really?

She said this so matter of factly with no consideration of how these side effects would possibly affect my quality of life. I clearly remember the appointment with the oncologist that day. She thought that I was coming in there for a five-minute appointment, as a matter of fact, she had already called in my prescription to CVS. The assumptions that prescription drugs are the go to for anything that ails us without question worries me. I really don’t want to be part of the system if I can help it.

I made the choice after very thoughtful consideration. I weighed the risks of the many side effects and my future quality of life versus quantity of life. When I decided not to take the aromatase inhibitor, it was because I had also made dietary changes, supplement additions, and an additional surgery that would force my body into surgical menopause. When I received the news that I had recurring breast cancer, it occurred to me that my decision to not take the drug could have been a reason, but my instincts never equaled regret. My doctor made sure to tell me immediately that this new cancer had nothing to do with my decision. It was estrogen negative, not estrogen positive, so the drug wouldn’t have helped anyway.

After this last cancer surgery, I gave myself a two week pass to divert from my usually strict diet and typical of sugar and carbohydrates, (thank you Al Forno, Elis, Pommodoros, Ina Garten recipes and PVD donuts-michelle m), two weeks has turned into eight weeks (and add a few glasses of wine the past few weeks as well.) Sunday afternoon I started to feel a lot of leg pain, so much so that it woke me up Sunday night and I had trouble sleeping. Yesterday I was limping and the thought started running through my head that it was cancer all over my bones. The weird thing about living around so much cancer death in my young life is that I have such a trigger response to some of the symptoms my brother had before he was diagnosed. He had a lot of leg pain that doctors had a hard time diagnosing for him. By the time they did, the cancer had metastasized all over his bones.

So of course my thoughts did not go to my regret of not taking a drug, but of veering off my regular supplements and of my Whole 30 way of eating that had changed my life. My doctor even said to me after I questioned if what I had been leaving out of my diet as valid since my cancer had recurred that perhaps the recurrence could have been much worse if I hadn’t made the commitment. I hadn’t thought of that. This gave me great comfort and as I tossed and turned with worry Sunday night beating myself up for an eight week free for all, I changed my thought pattern to the word PATIENCE, my old comforting friend I occasionally forget to call upon for assistance. It is doubtful that an eight week free for all would cause cancer to metastasize all over my bones. I promised myself I would stop fucking around with my health and get back on my nutritional wagon.

I don’t think these types of thoughts will ever leave me for the duration of my life and I will have to figure out ways to balance the extreme worry with putting my head in the sand as I don’t want to be an alarmist, but a realist. Afterall I have the genetic mutation, BRCH 2, and it propels me into a constant state of reality awareness. So in all of this psychological trauma, I feel grateful that I have a medical marijuana card. It has reduced anxiety, it has helped me sleep, it has removed physical pain Most importantly, it is a natural alternative to a chemical pill created in a lab somewhere by a mad scientist.. Medical marijuana should be easier to get for many more ailments. Medical marijuana has been the only drug that has helped me and I wish it was more easily available as a viable alternative to the prescription drugs jammed down on our throats these days.

Yep I said it and I hope the people who get to sit in their ivory towers with no ailments are reading.


That big ass smile was in honor of my brother. It took me almost five months after surgery to get this card yet only 5 minutes to pick up an oxy prescription.



New boobs, 8 weeks after surgery- 3 fills later

And the veering off final recipe of baked pasta from the spectacular Ina Garten queen of butter and cheese and carbs. I’m going to miss you, Ina.

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HOLY SIX WEEKS!

HOLY SIX WEEKS!

One of the few “advantages” of getting cancer depending on how you look at shit coming at you and your scope of the rose colored glass way of looking at things is that I was able to get a medical marijuana card. I got this card that has a two year shelf life the first time I was diagnosed two years ago. Now, some reading this may be horrified at this notion, after all many people feel that marijuana is a gateway drug to all kinds of horrible other drugs; this may be true, but it is not my truth so before the judgment factor kicks in, hear my own take on this.

“Back in the day” meaning my high school days in Jamestown, RI, a small three by nine mile island connected by two bridges, there wasn’t much to do. Add to this formula, a super shitty relationship with my newly divorced mother causing me to live with the other half of the newly divorced father. Then there was the zero parenting as my liberal father believed that “I’d figure it out.” Not quite sure how my father came to the conclusion that a fifteen year old girl was capable of this, but in my world and all of my friends’ worlds, oddly, all of our parents had this way of thinking. Perhaps we just found each other because we intuitively connected our branches since we all seemed to simultaneously lack the roots in our own homes.

Needless to say, a group of fifteen, sixteen year olds living on a contained island figured it out alright, with a little help from drugs and alcohol. Frankly, I am happy we navigated ourselves and lived to tell about it without all of the parent intervention that goes on these days because every single one of us managed to “figure it out.” This was probably due to a combination of lots of luck for sure but also white privilege and a middle class upbringing in a quaint New England town. Of course the heroin and opioid addiction was not in our radar, but the cocaine and crack cocaine epidemic surely was. Somehow every one of my circle of friends managed ourselves in and around all of this, mostly staying in the marijuana and alcohol circle. In some cases as we got older, many friends stopped drinking altogether and most of us ceased all drugs because this is just what you did when you grew up and had to find your way in the responsible world of work and life. We turned out alright maybe because we had the freedom to in fact figure it out.

When we were kids in Jamestown with nothing to do and no parenting which translated into no curfew and no rules, it was hanging out at the beach, playing backgammon, and smoking pot. In hindsight, it was a really unique adolescent experience. I am by no means an advocate of this style of parenting because basically my friends and I all raised ourselves and as it turns out each other too. Things could have gone drastically wrong, but the advantage that we had is that living on an island was basically safe. We lived within walking distance and most of our delinquent behavior was confined to being on foot on warm summer eves. The other advantage of this upbringing is it made me hyper aware of what teenagers are capable of so when I was given the privilege of having my own child, things were very different (aka way more conservative) in the way my own upbringing influenced my parenting style.

Obtaining a medical marijuana card was a victory for me and also homage to my beautiful brother. Before his death at 25, he was a staunch advocate for its legalization for at least medicinal purposes and it was really the only thing that helped him through his pain. I saw it with my own eyes and anyone who has not personally experienced marijuana’s ability to help cancer patients (and many others for that matter) has not lived in its harsh and very painful reality. So my first time in the facility was like going to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. I learned so much about the different strains that help different ailments and though I am sure people obtain cards who don’t need them as seriously as others, the fact that people are being helped with quality marijuana vs. the street and often badly laced marijuana is a positive. After a few trips into the compassion center, I found it had done what it needed for me and my use of it tapered off as I healed. So I started thinking about this last bout with cancer and my upcoming card renewal. Would I be able to get a renewal since theoretically there is no more cancer because there are no more breasts?I started thinking about this double mastectomy and reconstruction six weeks out and the incredible tightness that is now an official band around my upper body with no exit in sight. I considered the other benefits which don’t fall under medicinal in the medical sense to occasionally very responsibly and very legally indulging in a, yes I inhale, puff of a good old fashioned joint. The creative energy that comes to me is astounding. I rearrange, I clean, I organize, I create. Of course I can’t have a regular conversation with the public, but it does offer a wonderful way to go deep within and shut my never stopping brain from the never ending chatter that at times stops my creative flow.

So yesterday was a stunning day and I felt really great. I was going to my first party in over two months where there would be dancing and I was so excited to get dressed up, put makeup on and hang out in normal land. I found myself with about four hours of glorious free time and decided to head out to my barn to begin to prepare it for the upcoming Art in the Garden tour that my beautiful garden will be featured in. I realized that I would have to approach this slowly as I am still really cautious of what I should be lifting and moving. This would be a gentle rearrange, not a full blown purge because I simply can not reach and bend to the level it calls for. I still have some of the pot I had bought many months ago and decided to indulge to get the motivation to at least begin the barn cleaning.

I forgot how much I love smoking pot sometimes. I never really do, because it just makes me way too slow and as I said before I can’t talk to anyone, this eliminates the ability to run my company, be a parent and basically be a responsible grownup, but on these rare occasions when I give myself permission to really chill out, there is nothing like a few hits off a really good joint. It also transports me back to my adolescence before technology became our power source and when our circles of social were humans not media. It also transports me to when my father and my brother were alive and my mother was talking to me. So I think on occasion an Alice in Wonderland trip down the rabbit hole is worth the fall.

I was imbibing for the creative and spiritual power and to take the edge off of the last six weeks of trying to conduct my life as it was knowing the was will never be again. It is a lot. It has been a wonderful (I can’t believe I am saying that) but overwhelming experience and I had a four hour window to escape into an alter universe. An amazing observation occurred and this is why I decided to write about medical marijuana today because my intention when I decided to smoke a joint yesterday did not include the true medical benefit I had forgotten about.

Fifteen minutes into my barn makeover, all of the tightness in my upper body was gone. I am serious. Completely disappeared and stayed away until this morning and even this morning it is not nearly what it was before. I couldn’t believe it. GONE. After my surgery, I was given Oxy, Tylenol, and Motrin for the pain and I took it, but always with the worry that my liver would be compromised or I would become addicted to Oxy like Nurse Jackie. Nothing ever got rid of the tight band around my chest completely like my experience yesterday. The only vestige of the awareness of my upper body was when I went to hug someone, the hard tennis balls I now call my breasts were the abrupt reminder. So even after the buzz of the joint wore off, after I cleaned the barn, after I took a shower and got dressed and went to the party and danced for the first time, there was no pain, no discomfort. This lasted longer than all of the damaging pharmaceutical drugs that I have exposed my body to for the last six weeks. Two and a half hits off of a medical marijuana joint which by the way cost less than three dollars and all of my discomfort disappeared.

When my brother was alive, he believed that the pharmaceutical industry was responsible for the reasons that medicinal marijuana had not become legalized. After my experience yesterday, I can see why he thought this. There is no reason why medicinal marijuana should not be legal. Why do we want to encourage prescriptions of Oxy, proven to be a gateway drug that causes family destruction, lying, theft, and terrible criminal acts when it is over prescribed? Why do we want to continue with prescribing high dosages of Motrin and Tylenol that people are taking like candy when it is proven to be very harmful to our livers and stomachs? Why do we allow all these expensive and highly addictive prescriptions to take away pain instead of a simple less costly few hits of a good old fashioned medically prescribed marijuana joint? This does make a chick wonder if my brother was right over about his pharma conspiracy theory over twenty years ago.

Holy shit, I am starting to sound like my father. Holy do I miss my father and brother during this time. Not only for their energy and love, but for these wonderful conversations about conspiracy theories, health care industry and big pharma. I know they are with me if not physically at least spiritually FOR SURE.

So as my next project redo, the basement, which will be saved for a rainy Sunday and my next need for a complete respite from my elastic band vibe around my upper body, that toke will be for the three of us, dad, bro and me. AHHH SIX WEEKS. BAM.




My brother, Michael and me when he was in the “maybe he’ll beat this cancer” time.

My father and me ( I was pregnant with my son, Michael here)

My brother and me when he was a junior in Portsmouth high school, first white boy to sport the dreadlocks. He was a rockstar.