NORML Tennesseans Need a Medical Cannabis Program: Kim’s Story
The Tennessee NORML blog is doing a series of articles in which we share the personal stories of real Tennesseans in need of a medical cannabis program. This is Kim’s story:
I am the 48 year old mother of 8 wonderful kids, and I also have 5 awesome grandchildren and one precious great granddaughter.
I worked as a nurse from 1993 all the way up until I was deemed legally disabled in 2012 due to back issues. You see, I was born with idiopathic scoliosis, which over time caused the failure of several discs in my back. It also causes extremely painful degeneration of my vertebrae, serious nerve compression and crippling headaches. Last year, the severity in the degree of my spinal curvature started to affect my breathing and other body functions.
I have also had problems with multiple joint failures, which leads me to believe that I may have a connective tissue disorder as well. In 2003, it began with an anterior lumbar fusion of my L5 – S1. What that means is that I was opened up from the front, gutted, then my spine was fixed, and my guts were put back in. My orthopedic surgeon at that time told me that I would probably be in a wheelchair by the time I was 50. In the past two years, I’ve had a cervical fusion of my C5 through 8, I’ve had a rotator cuff repair, three knee surgeries, and most recently a total reconstruction of my spine – complete with 32 screws, fusion at every level except one, and Harrington rods alongside the spine. Oh, and screws anchoring my spine into my hips. This was just done this past April. This was definitely the most agonizing experience of my life, worse than childbirth by far……and the recovery was nothing less than torturous.
Now, I am also “blessed” with gastroparesis, which means that taking the needed narcotics to deal with all this pain makes my life a living hell. I don’t know if any of you can grasp the gravity of what that’s like, unless you deal with symptoms like I have to deal with.
I cannot take anti-inflammatories or oral steroids for a full year, I must wait until the fusion of my spine is complete. Also, due to the horrible effects of the gastroparesis mixed with opioids, I won’t take the pain medicines they prescribe for me……..so where does that leave me?
Honestly??? It’s leaving me living in agonizing pain most days, and just trying to live as normal a life as possible despite that pain, although this is a seemingly insurmountable task lately.
My family and I moved up here to Pulaski Tennessee two years ago from Tampa Florida. We opened a restaurant and built a happy life here. We absolutely love Tennessee, but I do have one issue with the state that I really dislike. The lack of a medical cannabis program.
Medical cannabis actually works very well for me, without the addiction risk pain pills carry. I use medical cannabis whenever I go back to Florida, and find great relief for many of my symptoms when I use it, without negative side effects.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it here in Tennessee. I love the nice people, I love the picturesque scenery and the beauty of the land here. I love everything about Tennessee, Giles County, and Pulaski in particular. It’s the best place we could have ever picked to raise our children and start our business. However, I don’t like that the only option that I’m being given in Tennessee to manage my debilitating chronic pain and other symptoms is to take synthetic opioids.
I know too much about opioids and what they can do to people. I know that they are extremely difficult to taper off of, and that all too often this is how drug addicts are created. Sometimes, when doctors cut people off from these synthetic opioids, they turn to cheaper and more readily available things like heroin. We recently had such a tragedy happen in our family, and it’s catastrophic. Because of these possibilities, I choose not to put synthetic opioids into my body.
I feel that it’s not right that I cannot get the medical help that I need here in this state. I do not want to leave, but I may be left with no other option, because I also want to be a law-abiding citizen and set a good example for my children. This means that as long as I live in Tennessee and we don’t have a medical cannabis program here, I can only look forward to getting relief from all my symptoms every few months when I travel back to Florida. And then, I will only get relief for a short period of time, just to have to stop when I come back home to Tennessee. My doctors here will gladly give me deadly, addictive opiates, but frown at the mention of a non-toxic, non addictive natural plant medicine to control the same issues……it’s ridiculous. It’s time that we educate the members of our medical communities, our state government agencies as well as our politicians and everyone else, about the benefits provided by this medicinal plant. It’s time to remove the stigmas that go with it, and education is key to doing that so we need to be sharing the truth about cannabis every chance we get.
It’s paramount that actual patients and Tennesseans who support medical cannabis speak up and tell their personal stories about why they need it, we need people to understand that their friends and neighbors are suffering and really do need a medical cannabis program. Please help us by educating people every chance you get, and visiting or writing your Congressman/ woman to discuss the need for a medical cannabis program in Tennessee. Also, consider supporting your local chapters of NORML and Americans for Safe Access, as well as groups like Illegally Healed (which shouldn’t even have to be a thing!)
To be honest, until just here lately I had been afraid to share my personal story with very many people, due to the fear of being judged based on outdated stigmas.
However, I have decided that I can’t ask anyone else to help reform this issue in Tennessee if I am unwilling to stand up and publically fight for it myself! Thank you for taking the time to read my story, and please consider sharing yours if you have one……… because when we’re working together for what is right, we often end up changing the world for the better.