Attorney General Jeff Sessions is actively lobbying Congress to overturn existing law prohibiting federal interference in state medical-marijuana policy. As someone who believes in strong constitutional limits on federal power and the rights of patients to choose, I am deeply disappointed. And as a cancer survivor who wanted the choice for myself, I wonder: Does Sessions have any idea what it’s like?
In 2001, I was diagnosed with stage-four cancer. My doctor found a large tumor in my abdomen, and his initial diagnosis read like a death sentence. My wife and I quickly wrote a living will and accessed our finances in the hope that she could keep our home if I died. After many hours of surgery, biopsy results revealed that my cancer could be treated with a toxic cocktail of chemotherapy drugs, including cisplatin and etoposide. My death sentence turned into a chance to beat this disease. Finally, I thought to myself, my stubbornness might be put to good use, weaponized against the cancer in what would be a long slog through many months of chemotherapy.
Most people know about the hair loss and nausea that accompany most cancer treatments. Loss of appetite is common, too. I lost over 45 pounds during treatment, until I looked a little bit like Keith Richards on a bad day, if he were bald. But that was the least of my problems. My white-blood-cell count plummeted, exposing my immune system to endless external threats. I was anemic because my red blood cells were also ravaged by the constant drip of toxins into my veins. I would inject shots into my belly to restore some of the cells in my bone marrow, creating the unforgettable sensation that my bones were exploding. My kidneys were also ravaged by the treatment, which proved particularly problematic for me because my massive tumor had already destroyed one of them. I still deal with the extensive nerve damage in my hands and feet. Overall, my experience with chemo was like the worst hangover you can imagine multiplied by five, every day without any relief for months on end.
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