Contributor

Yolanda Simonsis is a 38-year veteran of the packaging and converting industries. She has held past editorial positions with two former publications of Delta Communications and Cahners...more

Cannabis and My Mom

Some of you may have noticed my absence for the last two and half months. Thank you for your concern. On March 17, 2018, we buried my mom. It was definitely more bitter than sweet in that she and Dad would have celebrated their 68th anniversary that day. Still, the world had Evelyn Ferrer for all of 87 years, and I am grateful, though feeling very much alone and lost.

Evelyn Ferrer, Aug. 3, 1930-Mar. 10, 2018

You see Mom was my champion when everyone else seemed to abandon me. She was my compass when I didn't know which way to turn. She would gently remind me when being tough was okay but sometimes finding a less extreme measure might reap better results. When I look in the mirror, I see her. When I speak, I hear her. I only hope to honor her all the days of my life. She taught me, as I and my husband have tried to teach my daughters, to be responsible, to be honest, fair, and care with all our hearts for those we love and who love us.

Like everyone else who has held their parents dear to their hearts, I will miss her and feel at times so inconsolably sad that her wisdom, encouragement, and her own special brand of down-home humor will no longer be shared.

In many ways, I am my mom, and that makes me feel so proud.

Mom fought a very difficult battle for 2-1/2 years with lung cancer. Yes, when she was younger, she smoked. She was also a beautician, so all that hair spray could not have done her lungs any good either. When she was diagnosed, she had the option to let the disease take its course, which had already metastasized, or to try therapy. Coming from a family of fighters (Dad and I both had each battled three different types of cancer), she felt she wanted to prolong her life at least a little longer to be with our small family. And so she did, opting to undergo three different types of radiation, two different types of infused chemo, and immunotherapy. Finally this past August after considering a clinical trial, she decided her time would be spent feeling better without all the chemicals that, while they prolonged her life, also made her quality of life unacceptable. Although we all knew what this meant, we supported her decision. At the age of 87 if given the choice, a person's final memories should be happy ones.

So we took Mom on short trips that wouldn't tire her out too much but would leave us all with memories we'd cherish. The picture here was taken on one of our trips to Door County on a boat tour quite inappropriately called "Death's Door." Mom was never a fan of boats and water, so taking this tour was definitely a show of courage on her part, but I told Mom: "You're facing the most difficult challenge anyone can possibly face. Don't be afraid to live, Mom. I'll hold your hand all the way." She did great. . . a little queasy at times. . . but she smiled and enjoyed every minute with my husband Bob and me.

Then we started hospice in her home, but she was still ambulatory for our last Christmas and New Year together. As her disease progressed, so did the revolting symptoms of nausea and lack of appetite. None of the typical drugs like zofran and compazine worked on Mom. In desperation, we signed up for medical cannabis. In Illinois, cannabis is only available to those with medical needs and an approval process is necessary for both the patient and caregiver. While Mom was listed as terminally ill (TI) and should have been processed in two weeks time, it took a month even though her doctors immediately completed her application paperwork. For someone suffering with associated cancer side effects, a month feels like a lifetime. Mom dropped a significant amount of weight. Then finally the cards for medical cannabis came in the mail. Alleluia!

Five medical cannabis products comforted Mom through her life journey's end.

First Dispensary Visit

My first trip to the medical cannabis dispensary (we used Union Group, Chicago, IL) was an eye opener. It reminded me of a sterile miniature currency exchange with one glass window that had a tiny opening at the bottom only large enough to slip my identification through it. I was then buzzed into a larger room that was more inviting with a large couch where I consulted with a cannabis specialist who listened to my description of my mother's symptoms. Merri-Mints (of course) were round chewable mints not unlike PEZ from my childhood. This instantaneously and completely cured her nausea and increased her appetite with only one chewable mint each day.

A second product called Gold Leaf was portioned sea salt dark chocolate that acted as an analgesic to relieve her pain. Because Mom had lost so much weight, she needed only a quarter of the normal dose, but it typically lasted all day. I was able to completely eliminate—along with their horrible side effects—what I now call the holy trinity of hard drugs that included morphine, lorazepam, and haldol. I also bought a third, fourth, and fifth products as Mom's pain increased. The first was another stronger Gold Leaf product that was white chocolate with blackberry flavoring.

Then we tried Mary's Medicinals transdermal patch that lasted eight hours. Unfortunately, while it was effective, the adhesive was too aggressive for her aging thin skin, resulting in difficult removal. The last product was an oil which was difficult to dose as my instructions were to meter from a syringe an extremely small amount similar in size to a half of the size of a grain of rice. Because of the challenges of administering it when Mom resisted opening her mouth, I had to turn to the holy trinity of drugs on Mom's last day with us.

I can't emphasize enough what a difference medical cannabis made in the final days of my mom's life. I only wish I had applied for the medical cannabis cards earlier when she could have enjoyed fully our short trips prior to her becoming bedridden. Eating is one of the few simple joys left in life once you approach the end of a terminal diagnosis. Anyone undergoing any kind of chemo treatment—whether for a terminal diagnosis or not—can also benefit from medical cannabis (among many other sundry ailments), but in Illinois that approval process can take anywhere from 80—90 days. Based on my experience for a TI designation, I wouldn't be surprised if it took longer. My advice? Don't wait. Apply early and try it. If you live in Colorado or California, you are among the lucky ones who have legislated the availability of recreational marijuana, so you can just walk into a dispensary and consult with the experts on what will work for you.

The packaging for these products, as I'm obligated in this industry blog to share, is not only functional, it's quite slick as you can see from the photo. Tamper-evident cartons—that are difficult to pry open—protect children (and frustrate adults who can't figure out the opening process) sporting upscale graphics and employing stamped decorative effects. Self-destructing labels are employed, with the cannabis I purchased, more for tamper-evidence than decoration. Because I live in Illinois, a label sealed the bag holding my products with the intent to indicate possible use if I was stopped by the police en route to my destination.

Mom would be pleased that I side-tracked this testimonial to her memory with information about cannabis. She would want others you might know or love who are reading this memorial to benefit from her experience. I only wish I had applied earlier for the cards. Mom would have enjoyed a better quality of life for those few short months she was off the "poison."

Sincere Thanks to All

It's important to thank everyone who has expressed their concern for my absence. Some even sent flowers, cards, and personal notes. Over these last 40 years in this industry I've met many people on a professional basis who have kept in touch even after their retirements and have become my dear friends as well. Your encouragement and support have carried me through this difficult time. I want to thank my business partners Claudia Hine and Tim Janes most of all. Without their compassionate support I would not have been able to devote so much time to caring for Mom. Mom thanks them, too. No regrets.

My friends call me

Yo

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