I spoke at the Brookline Senior Center Friday Night in Brookline , Mass. There where about 60
people in attendance, 50 of whom where “seniors”, our aging population.
I started in healthcare at 14 years old. A candy-stripper, a volunteer. I wanted to do nothing
else than to spend my time with people who were not feeling well in attempts to offer some
service such as company, a walk, or a friendly smile. I was awarded for my dedication to
volunteering, as I spent many hours of my week helping others see the positive side of their
hospital stay. I met a numerous amount of patients over my two years at the hospital, and it
made me realize how much a genuine smile, a hug, or a hand to hold could benefit the health of
At this time in my life, 1982 thru 1984, medical care was so different. It was about taking care of
the patient. It had not seemed to be quite the business model that we have today, but then
again maybe I was just too young to know any better. I did not realize that this is when my
passion was ignited. When I was taking care of others, I did not have any insecurities. I just
knew that I was making a difference in the lives of people who were ill. It is where my passion
started for caring for those who are dying. There is a way to help others transition to the end of
life. No one should have to die alone. No one should have to be in pain. And no one should
have to be without choices on how they wish to die.
I never thought that 32 years later I would be writing about my discussions with the senior
center and their introduction to alternative medicine. I never thought that I would be such an
advocate for alternative medicine, but life has a way of transitioning us to exactly where we
need to be if you let it. My second battle with breast cancer opened up a whole new world of
treatment options for me. Cannabis therapy. Before you make any judgements just think about
what you would do if faced with a terminal illness or a debilitating condition. It is definitely not
for everyone, but to have a choice is not just soothing, in many cases, cannabis is life saving.
In a society that is driven and funded by traditional medicine, we don’t often question our plan of
care. Pharmaceuticals have their purpose in treating disease and medical conditions and the
side effects are just part of the expectation. Often we look at what is known as the “risk to
benefits” ratio and start the medication regimen that we are prescribed. Side effects or not, we
follow the directions and guidelines set forth by our physician and pharmacist and only when
the side effects are severe, do we question the path our medical team has provided for us.
Our aging population has been starting to question their treatment plan, there quality of life, and
their options. They are interested in learning about the endocannabinoid system. They are
interested in learning about alternative treatment options to alleviate pain, neuropathy, GI
disturbances, anorexia, impotence, and many other issues affecting us as we age.
I wish I would have had cannabis to help in treating my father’s aggression that was associated
with Lewy Body Dementia. He suffered with the agonizing memory loss and crippling disease
process that took away every ounce of his dignity. They shot him up with Haldol and Ativan,
used physical restraints when he was combative and never understood the “flashbacks” that
would make him cry due to the images and memory he had of his time in World War II and
Korea as a nose gunner.
It is time for us to provide education to the communities in which we reside to show the
importance of the right to choose medical treatment. It is time to sit with the physicains, medical
directors, housing authorities, the assisted living communties, and the nursing homes to provide
appropriate information for informed decision making and personalized treatment options. It is
about providing a quality of life with dignity and compassion. Not addiction and attitude.
Yours in good health,