When Sheriann Baker was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2017 doctors told her she could have just two years to live. Three years on she’s tumour free and she claims it’s all down to Rick Simpson oil; a high-THC cannabis oil.
“I’m not going to die of cancer,” says Sheriann Baker, speaking to Cannabis Health from her home in Toronto, Canada.
“I honestly believe I will lead a full life.”
She’s pretty confident, for a woman who three years ago had a tumour the size of a golf ball on her brain and was given – worst case scenario – two years to live.
Sheriann had suffered from migraines since the age of five and as an adult could experience up to 20 severe episodes a month, but she was always prescribed painkillers and the cause was never explored further.
It was June 2017 when Sheriann, then 46, was staying with a friend in British Columbia that she realised something was seriously wrong.
“That morning I had experienced this overwhelming smell of burnt tar,” she remembers.
“We went out to a parade and I started to feel really strange. My left foot was fine, but as I stepped down on my right foot, it was like stepping into a pool of water.
“By the time we got to the car I was completely paralysed. I couldn’t get my brain to tell the rest of my body to move.
“My girlfriend drove me to the hospital and got me admitted – and that’s the last thing I remember.”
Sheriann had suffered an eight minute grand mal seizure, which doctors initially thought was caused by a stroke. Three months later in August, following an appointment with her neurologist, an MRI scan showed the tumour.
“At 46-years-old I was told that I had five to 10 years to live at most,” says Sheriann.
“If I didn’t do chemotherapy and radiation, I would most likely die within two years.”
She continues: “That’s where my research started.
“I’ve always been very against chemotherapy and radiation, I know a lot of people who have died from cancer and told me how brutal it is, if I’ve only got a few years left, that’s not a way I want to live.”
A year earlier, Sheriann had lost a good friend, who had begun using Rick Simpson oil (RSO) – cannabis product known for containing higher levels of THC – after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Rick Simpson claims to have cured his metastatic skin cancer in 2003 by using the high grade hemp oil, which is said to include a particular type of cannabis called Cannabis indica, which produces a sedative effect that helps the body heal. The oil is not a branded product – there are various versions available and Simpson’s own website even explains how to make his namesake oil.
Sheriann’s friend sadly passed away from a splint rupturing his lung, but the autopsy is said to have revealed that he was cancer-free.
“That’s when I just knew, I was 150 percent convinced that I needed to try cannabis oil,” she says.
A few months later, Sheriann underwent a six-hour brain surgery. Doctors warned her they wouldn’t be able to remove the whole tumour and three percent was left behind.
She recovered quickly, leaving hospital after 26 hours and two months later was almost completely healed.
“I told my doctors I was using cannabis oil, it’s really important that patients tell their doctors because it can lower your blood pressure,” she says.
“Thankfully they were fantastic and couldn’t believe how great I looked afterwards. I woke up feeling so grateful to be alive and so positive because I had that confidence in the oil.”
A few months later a follow up MRI scan showed that the remaining three percent of the tumour had gone, she says.
“I still have brain cancer, but the cannabis is keeping the tumour from growing back.”
She adds: “It’s now three years later and I feel amazing, my blood work, cholesterol, everything is above average.”
Sheriann continues to take one to two tablets a day of RSO (of 70-75 percent THC and above) mixed with frankincense drops and coconut oil and also eats a completely ‘clean’ diet, cutting out red meat, dairy, carbs, fats and sugar and living mostly on homemade juices.
After she decided to share her journey on social media shortly after she was diagnosed, she is now a full-time influencer and spends her days engaging with and educating her 20,000 followers.
“I have talked to thousands of people around the world who have fought and won against cancer using cannabis oil – every day I get probably five to 10 people reaching out to me,” she says
“We’re saving our own lives and other people need to know about it.”
While she dedicates a lot of her time to raising awareness about the potential benefits of cannabis oil, she is careful not to force it on others
“I’ve lost friends to cancer who weren’t using the oil and it breaks my heart, but you can’t push it on people, you have to let them do their own research and make that decision,” she adds
“People are just afraid, they have been told all their life that it’s a bad drug, they don’t realise the medical benefits.”
RSO was not included in the legalisation of cannabis products in Canada in 2018, due to its high concentrate of THC.
Following a 1975 study which showed THC and other cannabinoids to have a reducing effect on the growth of cancer cells in mice, a number of other studies have been carried out to examine their effectiveness, including a few early-stage trials on humans.
However, much larger and longer term trials are needed to provide conclusive evidence.
“I show all my scans and medical reports online and have even gone to Health Canada, but haven’t had a response from them,” says Sheriann.
“I do get angry about it and I’m not scared to say things online, I’ll take that chance. If they want to throw me in jail with terminal brain cancer, all power to them.”
Several high profile cannabis growers and producers have reached out to Sheriann to donate oil and she was even invited to speak at a national neurologists conference in Toronto earlier this year (which was unfortunately cancelled due to covid).
She laughs: “I couldn’t even believe it when I got invited, I’m just a Canadian girl who started living this lifestyle and am winning because of it.”
Ironically, Sheriann says the three years since she was diagnosed with cancer have been the best of her life.
“When you get the diagnosis, your whole life changes, but I wouldn’t change it for anything,” she says.
“I’ve had people unfollow me because they are in a place where they can’t see the light, but people with cancer can still be happy and have a life.
“I really believe that seeing the positive in everything is a huge thing.”
Sheriann adds: I remember the first time I went into hospital, I was sitting with all these other cancer patients, and they’d all given up.
“I’m not giving up, that’s not me. You have to be as positive as you possibly can until the end.”
‘NHS asking children to come off meds for clinical trials could kill them’
Parents have warned that ‘washing out’ their children’s medication to enter into clinical trials could put their lives at risk.
The parents of children with severe, life-threatening epilepsy say that insisting that they come off their medication to take part in NHS trials is ‘unethical’.
It comes after the Department of Health appears to have reversed its position on observational trials, insisting that randomised control trials (RCTs) are held before medical cannabis is made more widely available on the NHS.
Following a review into the lack of access held by the Government department last year, the NHS proposed two RCTs and an observational study.
This would take into account the cases such as eight-year-old Murray Gray, who has been seizure-free for 17 months since taking medical cannabis.
A programme of two randomised controlled clinical trials is now being developed by the National Institute for Health Research, with ministers insisting this is the ‘best course of action’ to build evidence.
These trials would require participants to undergo a ‘washing out’ period beforehand, during which they would have to come off their current medication.
Joanne Griffiths, whose son Ben, 11, has treatment-resistant epilepsy has seen his condition improve significantly since he obtained a private prescription last year.
However, her local NHS trust and leading children’s hospital, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, refuses to prescribe the medication until these trials have been carried out.
During a meeting last year lead neurologists and hospital bosses said they were ‘keen’ to be involved in upcoming trials.
However, Joanne was told that Ben and other children who have already had access to THC products, will be offered a ‘wash out’ period to be eligible for the study.
“Asking these children to wash out their current medicines could kill them, it’s putting their life at risk,” said Joanne.
When Ben was on epidiolex – a drug containing CBD which is prescribed for severe epilepsy – he was having up to 300 seizures a day and was ‘near death’.
“I wouldn’t swap my child from something that is working to something that possibly won’t,” she continued.
“It’s unethical what they are asking us to do.
“We’ve managed to reduce every single one of Ben’s antiepileptic drugs that were not working to control his hundreds of seizures. The only thing that is stopping him having seizures right now is cannabis, if we were to remove that from his system he could go back to having hundreds of seizures and could die.”
Elaine Levy’s daughter Fallon, 26, has been taking medical cannabis since 2018. She saw an instant deterioration in her condition when she tried a cheaper oil to help manage the costs.
“Taking these kids off their medicine they could end up being blue-lighted to hospital, they could die or they might just go back to smashing their head against the floor again,” said Elaine.
“They can’t do that to these children and young adults whose lives have been changed so dramatically thanks to medical cannabis.”
She added: “The whole thing is just astonishing, it’s just the hippocratic oath. You can’t take a person off of something that is working for them and then give them a placebo instead.”
More than 30 cross-party MPs have now signed a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling for him to release emergency funding to help families cover the costs of prescriptions until they become available on the NHS.
A spokesperson for Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust said they could not comment on individual cases.
They said: “Alder Hey is at the forefront for children’s health research and is a founding partner of the NIHR Clinical Research Network for Children. The Trust will continue to engage in supporting any new, well designed and robust clinical trials that investigate the role of cannabis-based medicinal products in drug resistant paediatric epilepsy.
“All studies take into account safety considerations for all potential recruitment candidates and the safety of all patients remains paramount.”
First Medical Cannabis Awareness Week launches in the UK – how you can get involved
The first Medical Cannabis Awareness Week is calling for access to NHS prescriptions two years on from the landmark law change.
Taking place from 1-8 November 2020 the inaugural Medical Cannabis Awareness Week (MCAW) will bring together patients, doctors, advocates and organisations to call for fair access to medical cannabis on the NHS.
On 1 November 2018, the law changed to allow UK patients access to medical cannabis. But since then, only a handful of prescriptions have been issued by the NHS.
Patients are struggling to fund private prescriptions – costing several hundreds of pounds a month – and up to 1.4 million people are forced to turn to the illegal cannabis market.
Most patients prescribed medical cannabis live with chronic pain, neurological or psychiatric conditions, such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, anxiety & PTSD – yet many continue to face stigma in their day-to-day lives and from healthcare professionals when trying to access this treatment.
Launched by PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) – a community of medical cannabis patients and advocates – throughout the week patients from across the UK will share their stories about the life-changing impact of medical cannabis and their difficulties in accessing a prescription.
Individuals and organisations from across the sector will take part in online events including a tour of a legal cannabis growing facility, and conversations with patients and doctors.
PLEA advocacy director Lucy Stafford took addictive opiate-based painkillers nearly every day of her teenage years to cope with the debilitating symptoms of the connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
“I had to drop out of school and live with the horrendous side effects. I was a shadow of myself,” she said.
“When I was prescribed medical cannabis, it changed everything. I’ve learnt to walk after years using a wheelchair and now attend university – I’ve got my life back. All patients in need should have the same chance to live a better quality of life – we need NHS access.”
The PLEA Community will host MCAW during the first week of November each year.
As part of the awareness week, people are encouraged to talk about medical cannabis with their friends and family, record and share their own story, write to their MPs and even play medical cannabis bingo (have you been called a stoner when talking about your medicine? Has anyone ever suggested you’re just after a legal high?)
“It’s time to end the inequality and ensure everyone who needs it has the opportunity to benefit from medical cannabis treatment,” said Abby Hughes, PLEA outreach director.
“During MCAW, we’re calling for fair access, we’re promoting medical cannabis education for all and we’re directly addressing the stigma faced by patients. We want people to have conversations about cannabis, ask questions and be open-minded.
“Cannabis medicines are changing people’s lives around the world. In the UK, people are forced to pay privately, and it’s not right. Medical cannabis is keeping children with severe forms of epilepsy alive, and it’s allowing people with chronic illnesses and conditions to live normal lives.”
PLEA advocates for quality of life with medical cannabis, enabling patients to access their medicine free from stigma, geographical inconsistencies, and financial barriers and supports research into the safety and efficacy of cannabis-based medicinal products, to enable evidence-based prescription for all.
Dr Mala Mawkin, head of market development at Cellen Health and advisory board member at PLEA added: “Even though doctors have been able to prescribe Cannabis based Medicinal Products since 2018, healthcare professionals are still not equipped with the knowledge and tools to prescribe in the UK.
“We have made huge progress to be able to have pharmaceutical-grade THC/CBD medicines for patients that are cheaper and safer than the illicit market. The next steps are to invest in research, medical education and address the stigma faced by patients.
“Events during MCAW are here to show patients and healthcare professionals it is essential to talk openly about medical cannabis to address the unmet clinical needs of people living with chronic conditions.”
You can join advocates and organisations to share your PLEA on social media using the hashtag #MCAW2020
Follow @PLEA_community on Twitter and Instagram.
For more information and full programme visit www.medicalcannabisweek.org.uk
How Europe’s first medical cannabis tracking app could revolutionise care
An innovative medical cannabis app has launched in the UK and it’s putting patients front and centre of their care.
Launching on Tuesday 27 October, Eva is a new platform to help patients consuming cannabinoid medications manage their symptoms and capture critical data on the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis.
The app has been developed by digital therapeutics company Alta Flora and allows patients to record symptoms, medication consumption and quality of life through their phone.
It includes features for patients to add and track symptom severity and medication use – with functionality for multiple symptoms and medicine routes of administration, such as dose and formulation.
It also allows users to explore trends through interactive tools and assess their quality of life using validated scales and questionnaires, with a clinically valid framework used by NICE (National Institute for Care and Excellence).
It has been designed for use by all patients, however they access their medication.
Alta Flora’s research found a range of challenges facing patients considering medical cannabis as a treatment, including a lack of data of medical cannabis products, stigmatisation within the healthcare system and a lack of access to prescribers and products.
Commenting on the launch, Gavin Sathianathan, CEO and founder of Alta Flora, said: “It has been two years since cannabis was made legal for medical purposes in the UK and since
then, access to these life-changing medicines for patients has barely improved.
“This failure largely rests on a lack of data, the absence of which deprives doctors and
clinicians of the confidence to prescribe it as a treatment.”
Gavin told Cannabis Health that patients who were tracking their symptoms and consumption were then able to have more open discussions about cannabis with their doctors.
“The nature of cannabis medicines means that the patient is required to listen to their own body – it’s not a standardised thing that you can just get from a doctor, it requires patient-centric tools for us to understand and that’s what we are trying to build,” he said.
“Those patients who took that data to their clinicians found they were engaging with their doctors in a way that was educating them and they were able to have less stigmatised conversations.”
Eva also includes tools for researchers to organise studies within their organisation, such as clinics who want to capture data on their own patients.
“The future of healthcare is patient-centric care. The voice of the patient is becoming much more important, they have a seat at the table now,” he said.
According to Gavin the evidence base produced by Eva will serve both patient and industry needs and could play a key role in providing much-needed data for the safety and efficacy of products, ensuring wider acceptance of medical cannabis.
“We’ve got some really motivated patients who often, after trying lots of different medicines have found that cannabis does work and want to contribute data to improve access for patients in the UK,” he continued.
“We’ve got an opportunity to build a data set to help clinics, prescribers and regulators, understand the impact of cannabis on patients symptoms and quality of life in a lot more detail.”
Gavin also hopes the platform could also be used to track the effectiveness of CBD products on pain, anxiety and sleep,
But Eva’s potential expands beyond cannabis – particularly in a post-pandemic era, he says.
“When we shared what we were doing with academics and researchers it became clear that this idea of instrumenting in real-time the consumption of medicines is valid beyond cannabis,” Gavin added.
“In a post-COVID context, we’re thinking much more about preventative medicine and staying well.
“We’ve had enquiries from the psychedelic space and for monitoring medication used to treat conditions such as diabetes and ADHD.”
Academics from leading UK charity Drug Science have played a role in design, and content from a range of organisations including the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, Primary Care
Cannabis Network, MedCannID, PLEA, and CPASS is integrated into Eva.
The service is fully GDPR compliant and will include patient safety monitoring features
and real-time reporting dashboards for clinicians.
Eva is available to download on the Android store. The iOS version will be available from early December.
- ‘NHS asking children to come off meds for clinical trials could kill them’
- First Medical Cannabis Awareness Week launches in the UK – how you can get involved
- How Europe’s first medical cannabis tracking app could revolutionise care
- Isle of Man to set ‘benchmark’ for global cannabis sector
- ‘I moved to Spain to get access to medical cannabis’
- Italy classes CBD as a narcotic in ‘laughable’ move
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