Featured photo by Jake Melara
She was six years old. In her words, the sun was, “warm and bright through her star sunglasses.” They were hiking the Appalachian Trail in Western Pennsylvania. There were parts of the forest that were dense, but the warmth still reached them and was strengthening in the clearings.
She and her brother ran ahead of their parents. They’d seen the rocks ahead and couldn’t wait to climb them. Having been there several times before, there was nothing abnormal about that day.
They began to climb the rocks, racing for the summit. One foot after the other, they pushed and hollered at one another. She had heard her mom yell something at her, but it didn’t click, so she just kept climbing.
Her foot got snagged in brush at the foot of a boulder, pulling her down at the same speed that she was trying to force upwards. Her body lurched, her grip slipped and she jerked downward, hitting her head on the jutted edge of a rock.
Few Dark Years
It was only when she was in the ER, her parents hovering over her, that she realized her right eye was bandaged. In the following weeks, her eye began to heal but the scarring brought on a form of traumatic glaucoma. She was blind by her 7th birthday.
I’ve heard her tell the story to each of our family members. My husband, her brother, has taken her to numerous appointments to help her in any way possible. She grew to live with the blindness and even kept her eye until she was 28, but for a few dark years, she didn’t want to leave the house. Not for cosmetic reasons, but because of her debilitating pressure headache.
The Change That Sparked it All
It wasn’t until her eye doctor suggested a specialist in Florida that they were able to obtain a prescription for medical marijuana. And with that prescription came some serious relief.
I know the subject of marijuana is a touchy one. Perhaps it’s because most of us only recognize the drug as something we inhaled as rebellious teenagers at back woods parties or in your best friend’s old Buick. Then, it was only to subscribe to the cool taboo that surrounded it. Forbidden, able to dull the senses, naturally, we were drawn to it.
This – however – is quite a bit different. The point of the marijuana – in her case – was to help with the headaches caused by glaucoma. Patients with glaucoma usually have high levels of pressure built up in their eyes. The symptoms of this condition can be reduced by lowering their levels of IOP, or intraocular pressure.
Marijuana has been proven to help lower these levels for short periods of time. The compound, called THC, is responsible for kicking the pain. And it’s because of this important compound that we’ve been able to see my sister-in-law as the fun-loving, pain-free person we she was before her headaches.
Admittedly, it was hard for some members of my family to come to terms with her using the substance for her headaches. Some in the family thought it was an excuse for an addiction. But that was just silly. The only thing my dear sister in law drinks on occasion is Malibu and Diet Coke and she’s never had issues with addiction or drugs her whole life. In fact, she has never used marijuana recreationally and has only ever used it for medical purposes.
Of course, the familial concerns were short sighted. I know that it was difficult for her to explain to our relatives and move beyond the many criticisms surrounding medical marijuana. Few could see beyond their own experience and opinion, which is why I’m writing this. It’s time for a different conversation.
Medical marijuana changed my sister-in-law’s ability to manage and cope with her condition. It made it bearable. It gave her some light back in a world that was increasingly dark. We started to see her differently, more like I imagine her husband saw when they weren’t surrounded by people and she wasn’t beneath heating pads to try to assuage the pain.
In a way, she became more herself. No longer hiding behind her condition, brought on by such a simple accident in her youth, she began to take more interest in our conversations and began to confide in me. And that has been an incredible gift.
Though it’s not perfect, and it may not be a forever fix, using medical marijuana to help with a condition like glaucoma can be life changing – in a good way.
Our family is forever grateful for it.
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
Today I have accepted that sometimes I am a crazy person – but that it’s totally okay.
2. What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I have learned to appreciate yoga so much more this past month as I’ve been practicing almost daily and it’s magnificent.
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life. Tell us what makes YOU most proud? We’d love to know the goals and dreams you still have?
At this point I’ve given birth and I’ve run a marathon and those have always been at the top of my list! It is wonderful feeling accomplished, and I am still setting up some new goals to follow.
4. We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?
I yell a lot….I’m working on that…maybe all the yoga will help!
5. I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
Sense of humor. Seriously…my husband may deny it…but I think I’m pretty hilarious.