Fibromyalgia sufferer Jane Hinchcliffe was housebound and wheelchair dependent for years, but since using medical cannabis she’s back on her feet.
“Cannabis gave me a life,” says Jane Hinchcliffe, who suffers constant, debilitating pain as a result of fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
Now 42, despite showing symptoms at 13, it took until she was 26 for her to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
Doctors put it down to growing pains and she was treated with physiotherapy, followed by a prescription for codeine at the age of just 15.
She spent the next three decades of her life in a fog of heavy opioids and painkillers. In 2015 after a cycling accident Jane developed CRPS, a chronic autoimmune condition usually brought on by an injury.
“It’s known as the most painful condition known to man,” she says.
“On the McGill Pain Index it can score up to 47 out of 50, whereas cancer and fibromyalgia score 20.”
Jane’s symptoms were so bad she needed a wheelchair to get around and couldn’t leave the house. It took its toll on her mental health and she struggled with depression, until two years ago when she started using medical cannabis.
“I started smoking it recreationally at 18 and I used it on and off over the years, but I didn’t realise at the time that I was treating my fibromyalgia,” she says.
It wasn’t until she attended a Green Pride event in 2018 that she realised the full potential of medicinal cannabis.
“I knew that it was going to be a painful day so I’d saved a bottle of morphine the hospital had given me so that I had decent pain relief,” she explains.
“I ended up having a space cake and didn’t need the morphine – that’s when I realised cannabis could actually replace my medication.”
In November 2018, Jane came off the opioids completely and now relies solely on cannabis to treat her pain.
“I’m still in constant pain but the cannabis makes it tolerable,” she says.
“I’ve literally gone from being housebound in a wheelchair, not being able to do anything. Now I can go swimming, I go to the gym, I can go out cycling. I’m out and about and walking.”
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Jane has recently signed up to Project Twenty21, which is subsidising the cost of prescriptions for medical cannabis patients, in a bid to create the largest body of evidence in Europe for the efficacy of cannabis-based medicines.
However, for the last two years she has been forced to access it illicitly, living with the anxiety of not being able to get hold of the right strain, as well as the fear that the police will turn up at the door.
Last year Jane spent time in prison after she was convicted and sentenced to six months for growing cannabis.
“I only served 46 days before I was released on tag, but it was difficult,” she says.“They take your medicine and you are left with nothing.
“I ended up in a wheelchair again in prison, there were some days where I was in too much pain to do anything.”
But despite being left with a criminal record, Jane says she has no intention of stopping using cannabis.
“I don’t have a choice, life without it is just unbearable,” she says.
“It makes me angry, because it’s just medicine.“I think some sort of discretion should be used, if it’s obvious it’s for medical use.”
Jane welcomes initiatives such as the Cancard scheme, which is due to launch in November and aims to protect patients who are accessing cannabis illicitly from arrest and prosecution.
But she fears police officers may choose to ignore it and believes laws should be brought in to allow patients to grow their own medicine at home.“Ideally we need to be able to grow our own,” she adds.
“It would take the strain off the NHS and doctors are always telling us to get a hobby – what better hobby than growing your own medicine?”
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