Pain, Relieved

Charles Briand : Photographer, Cinthya Chalifoux : Stylist and Art director, Karima Vezina : MUA

Cannabis activist Daphnée Elisma shares how cannabis’s pain-reducing powers helped her through some of the darkest moments of her life.

Back in 2010, I started having really bad headaches. I hadn’t been prone to migraines or anything before, so even though my vision began to blur, I didn’t take my symptoms very seriously. It wasn’t until I went to the doctor for something else (don’t they say that’s how it always happens?) and I mentioned my recent dizziness that the doctor sent me straight for an MRI, which revealed my brain aneurism. I ended up having emergency brain surgery, which left me with metal coils in my brain.

You don’t realize the severity of postbrain-surgery headaches. But having metal coils in my brain means every time there’s a temperature change, or I feel tense, or there’s a pressure change, I’m in blinding pain.

Both my neurosurgeon and neurologist prescribed me with a variety of opioids over the next two or three years, but after being rendered paralyzed in my home for a few hours one day after a bad reaction to the medication, I decided enough was enough. I’m the sort of person who works out, who listens to my body, so why was I pumping myself full of medication that made me gain weight, made me nauseous, and wasn’t even working?

It was then that my family doctor introduced me to medical cannabis. I couldn’t believe the instant relief I felt; it was life changing. In Quebec you are only allowed access to medical cannabis if you agree to participate in a research trial—it’s really hard to get hold of it. Fortunately, I ended up at a clinic that was able to provide me with the dosage I needed, a demand that stepped up in intensity after I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014.

After my cancer surgery, I was diagnosed with lymphedema and chronic pain syndrome, and it was shortly after that I discovered CBD oil through Santé Cannabis, the first clinic specializing in cannabis and cannabinoids for therapeutic use in Quebec. It’s drastically reduced the stabbing pain I feel in my armpit after the extraction of my lymph nodes.

When you’re dealing with chronic pain, you’re not just dealing with the effects of the actual pain, but also a really intense sleeping disorder. Medical cannabis has helped me deal with both sides of the symptoms, and I can only hope the government invests in research to find out the full extent of what CBD oil can really do.

My biggest problem now is access to medical cannabis, and I’m worried that the legalization of cannabis this year won’t distinguish between medical cannabis and recreational cannabis. With the proposed excise tax, I will have to pay a sin tax on my pain relief—it’s the only prescription drug that will be the same as alcohol or cigarettes. Adding to that is the fact that medical cannabis is presently subject to sales tax.

Just now I spend about $500 per month on medical cannabis pain relief, and that can vary depending on what producers I’m able to purchase the oils from. We need to find a way to improve access to medical cannabis—it’s literally a matter of life or death for people struggling with chronic pain such as myself.

Cannabis is medicine.