Ana’s Story

the first in a series of stories about people’s experiences with medical cannabis

Before she tried cannabis, Ana, a 61 year-old grandmother of four, suffered from undiagnosed neurological symptoms for years.

“If you were to combine the symptoms of MS, Parkinson’s, and neurofibromatosis, that’s what I was dealing with on a daily basis,” she said. “It was too painful to walk around; I needed a walker or wheelchair to get anywhere.”

Due to her symptoms, she was faced with incredible difficulty falling asleep. “Whenever I was able to fall asleep, the involuntary tremors in my arms, legs, and trunk would wake me up. I couldn’t sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time. That was my life for years.”

In 2011, Ana was involved in a car accident and ended up in the hospital. MRIs were ordered. It was only then that she finally received a diagnosis: neurofibromatosis type II, which is characterized by the growth of benign tumors in the nervous system. “Basically, my body can’t stop forming tumors,” she explained. She was also diagnosed with essential tremors, the involuntary movements that were preventing her from staying asleep for more than a few minutes.

Her diagnosis marked the start of a string of prescription medication trials, all of which were unsuccessful.

“Nothing worked,” she said. “And the side effects were absolutely horrible.”

She continued to struggle. A severe bout of pneumonia landed her in the hospital once again, and she nearly died. “I was in really bad shape,” Ana said. “But then, my brother sent me some information about a medical cannabis study that was taking place in Spain.

The results from the study showed that cannabis was actually shrinking tumors. After more research, Ana was convinced that she wanted to try it. She applied for, and was granted, a medical cannabis card.

“After I got home from my first dispensary visit, I sat in my recliner and looked out the window, because that’s all I could do back then. I had no idea how [cannabis] was going to affect me. I just figured I’d maybe catch a buzz. So I smoked it.

“The next thing I knew, I was getting up out of my chair. I went outside. I wasn’t using a cane; I wasn’t struggling. I was able to move around. But the greatest thing was when I went to bed that night. For the first time, I slept all night long! So that was the most amazing thing. The sleeping.”

As she continued medicating with cannabis, her symptoms continued to improve. But she didn’t tell her doctor for nearly a year.

“I was afraid to,” she explained. “I didn’t know how he was going to take that information. But I kept going to see him and kept getting better. And every time, he would just look at me and shake his head, like, “What the hell? You have a degenerative disease. You should be getting worse and worse, but that’s not happening. You’ve been getting better.”

As time went on, Ana was able to drastically cut back on her prescription medications. “I got rid of Gabapentin, I got rid of Lyrica, I got rid of Clonazepam, I got rid of Spiriva and Symbicort. A whole long list of medications I was able to get rid of. I’ve also been able to decrease my anti-depressants. My pain medication has gone down too. I used to be at 90mg of morphine a day and now I’m at 15mg.”

Ana started using the Releaf App to recognize the patterns in her cannabis usage.

“I wish Releaf had been around when I first started using cannabis. It was an absolute nightmare trying to figure out what works. Not only would I have saved myself thousands of dollars, I would’ve spent much less time miserable and in pain.”

Ana continues to use cannabis to successfully relieve her symptoms. “I keep getting better,” she said. “I’m not completely mobile; I can’t quite run a marathon. But I can do things I couldn’t do before. I go without my cane quite often. And I haven’t used my walker in a year and a half!”

“By having the app and being able to track everything — all the way down the line — and how it affects me, this process is so much easier.”

What type of cannabis works best for her? “It all depends on what I’m smoking. Some types of cannabis work better than others,” she explained. “The information on the internet is not accurate, and it’s not accurate because cannabis affects every single person differently. Something that works for one person might not work for someone else, and we don’t even know why yet. Everyone is completely different. That’s why Releaf is so good.”

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