• Jessi Stetina

Pain Management

So this is going to be a very open post – maybe too open. Let’s tuck in.

I have pain. I have all kinds of pains. Mostly in my abdomen, where my disease is. I would say for most of the time I’ve been experiencing all my health issues, it’s been something I was able to deal with without pain medication. However, this past week, it’s been pretty bad. So what am I supposed to use? I’ve been prescribed oxycodone.

I don’t have a problem with opioids, per se, but it gives pause. Who hasn’t heard the horror stories? We’re in an opioid crisis – an EPIDEMIC! No one is immune. You’ve seen the Lifetime movie! The soccer mom has an injury, has to take oxy, gets addicted, and has to switch to heroin to get her fix.

You're ruining our family!

It’s scary.

So do I not take them? That’s not an option. The pain is pretty rough. But maybe I don’t take quite so much, not have to stick to every four hours just?

What other options do I have?

Well, here’s the super honest part comes in. Maryland has medicinal marijuana that can be prescribed by a doctor. When faced with my only option being an opioid, I began the process of getting my medicinal marijuana card, known colloquially as a ‘green card’. I’m currently on leave from my work, and it truly seemed safer than oxy. I figured, why not?

The process took a while. You have to apply, and they apparently do pretty extensive background checks over the next few weeks while you are ‘pending’. This includes verifying that you do not own a firearm. I do not, so that worked out, but I found that interesting that you cannot be certified to use medicinal marijuana if you also own a firearm.

But enjoy those beers!

So after all the hoop jumping, I was approved…to go see a doctor to TRULY get approved. This isn’t something that every doctor offers. My oncologist encouraged me to explore this option for pain management, but he has not gotten certified by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

I reached out to those I know in the medical world and was directed to a fantastic CNP who was certified. I was in pretty bad shape when the approval came through, and she offered to make a house call to evaluate me and discuss my options. She was such an amazing resource, so knowledgeable and professional. Reach out to me personally if you’re looking for someone, because I cannot sing her praises enough. She evaluated me, discussed my current pain management, gave me suggestions and a starting point, as well as certified me.

I say a starting point, because it’s quite a rabbit hole you go down when you enter the world of medicinal marijuana. It’s not just an “I’d like some pot, please!” There are strains and varieties that do very different things. I’m not trying to be stoned here. That’s what I’m trying to avoid by becoming dependent on oxy. But for the pain part of weed to work (CBD), there does need to be SOME of the buzz or high (the THC). You have to try to find types, or strains, that are high on the pain killer while not so high on the…high.

And how do you take it? Do you go old school and just smoke a joint, or the new vape oils, or eatables? There isn’t a chart that gives you a one size fits all solution. The only answer is trial and error. You have to research, try, and see if it works.

So does it work for me?

Sometimes. I avoid it as an option when my kids are awake. My mom guilt is too strong. When they are asleep and I try for pain relief for sleep, I’ve found I’ve not found the perfect type for me yet. I am able to stretch out the time between needing to take oxycodone with it, which is the goal. I don’t want to be on a strict ‘every 4 hours’ for the oxy and risk the dependency, but I really don’t have an option sometimes. But with the help of marijuana as a pain killer, I can stretch it 6-7 hours, which is more manageable.

So that’s my confession – I’ve become a junkie!

Classic after school special material.

I kid. I know I get a pass, you don’t have to comfort me. I have no shame in utilizing my every resource to combat this awful disease. There are even studies that show marijuana usage can actually combat cancer itself, although I’d probably have to be using a lot more than I am. But it’s certainly not HURTING.

I wouldn’t say I’ve become an advocate, as I’m still in the trial and error phase, but I would encourage anyone who is dealing with chronic pain to look into it as an option. I take my oxy understanding the dangers of it, and I still worry about the amount I do need to take to manage my pain, but a non-addictive option should always be evaluated. Sure, there is a stigma, and some people have a hard time disassociating years of “Just Say No”, but when fighting for your life and dealing with chronic pain, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.


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