My Story: Why I Turned to Medical Marijuana

My Story: Why I Turned to Medical Marijuana

For my 63-years of life, I have endured negative reactions to medications.

I also live with two incurable conditions, sarcoidosis and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

(413 of 131)When I was born, the pediatrician told my mother that I seemed to be allergic to my own body. Whenever I needed medication, even just aspirin or Tylenol, I seemed to have issues metabolizing the drugs. I lived through one negative reaction after another.

It was not until 2011, before having my 20th surgery to stabilize my leg with cadaver tendons, that a surgeon suggested DNA drug sensitivity testing. His hospital in Wisconsin was at a loss to help me cope with surgical pain and other issues I suffered due to reactions from medications.

Through a simple process of swabbing the inside of my cheek and sending it to the lab, I received a final report that confirmed what my pediatrician felt from the beginning: I barely metabolize any medication on the market.

But now I needed to know what I could use, since my body was destined to experience more and more pain from my serious medical conditions.

I was sent to a pain clinic for a doctor to review my records. He reported there was nothing to offer me for pain relief except trying medical marijuana. I laughed. My whole life I had been told to stay away from “drugs” such as marijuana. Like many, I had tried it once in college but had a bad reaction and spent the rest of the day in bed.

Marijuana did not seem like a good suggestion, and yet I was desperate for pain relief. I decided to try it one more time.

Due to the sarcoidosis in my chest, I would not be able to administer marijuana through conventional smoking.  Instead, I was instructed on how to extract THC (marijuana’s active ingredient) into an oil base.

The first night I measured one teaspoon of the oil and mixed it with applesauce. I took it an hour before going to bed, forewarning my husband to expect another bad reaction to a medication. To my amazement, I woke up to a new day. Not only had I slept the entire night, something I hadn’t done in months, I also woke feeling clear-headed.

I have been a medical marijuana user for over six years now. I know there is a misperception that constant use can cause cognitive issues, but my husband and I disagree. Since taking it for medicinal use, we have noticed that my vocabulary has improved along with my mental clarity.  I have better control of my pain levels, which is allowing me to advocate for pain-related issues.

Today, my husband and I are ambassadors for the U.S. Pain Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation in Rhode Island. It means a great deal to my husband and I to do what we can for those who suffer, to share our experiences in hopes of generating change for others.

The most important part of our day is speaking with patients referred by doctors, who need help managing, coping and living with pain. Being able to help others is the most rewarding part of my life, which would not be possible if I did not have pain relief myself — relief that has allowed me to function and make a difference in this world.

And that relief comes from taking medicinal marijuana oil.

Education about the use of this form of pain relief is vital in order to change attitudes in our society. People need to know that no one dies using this medication or suffers organ damage. Society must understand that those living with pain do not get stoned or high. We get pain relief.

Because of marijuana, I rarely need to take medication during the day. This is because the oil stays in the system, providing peace and calm. When I do have tougher days, I vaporize marijuana, use a tincture or a marijuana lollipop to administer some relief.

In the state of Rhode Island, support for the medical need for marijuana has been amazing. It took time to educate people on the benefits of the drug, but now I hardly hear negative comments about this form of medicine.

I feel we all deserve pain relief, and if this drug treats pain, we all should have the right to obtain it. With pain relief, comes renewal and hope. Days become brighter again, and the chance to live a more meaningful, productive life returns.

ellen smith2Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband live in North Scituate, Rhode Island.

In addition to their work for the U.S. Pain Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation, they serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

Ellen has also been appointed for the advisory committee for Adaptive Telephone Equipment Loan Program.

National Pain Report invites other readers to share their stories with us.

Send them to

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

Authored by: Ellen Lenox Smith

Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website.

newest oldest
Notify of
Denise Ganje

To Janice Reynolds above: not a single death has been recorded with the use of marijuana. When people take too much of it, they fall asleep (which is why you should not take a lot of it and then operate a car or other heavy machinery). Medical marijuana has many uses and not a lot of side effects compared to other drugs. However, it is not for everybody (schizophrenics should not use it).

Janice Reynolds RN, BC, OCN, CHPN

I am so pleased you have gotten the relief your deserve but keep in mind that marijuana IS a medication as well. You cannot say however it has caused no deaths or side effects, everyone is different and the research is not out there. Not only is everyone different, there are many different pain syndromes not all of which may respond to marijuana. Marijuana may be as wonderful as uses state however at this time it is anecdotal. Research needs to be done in so many areas as well as marijuana being standardized (such as THC). At the same time it is wrong to dismiss prescription medications as many people do get good relief from them. One is the major problems for people in pain is providers for the most part are poorly educated about pain, pain management, and have absorbed the biases and misinformation which is propagated by the media (and many times the DEA). Support medical marijuana but always with the caveat that much more research is needed and it may not work well for you.

Linda Tyson

Members of my alternative health care team have been telling me for yrs I needed to try medical marijuna. Given I can’t stand the smell of it, I kept saying no way. I remember my physical therapist saying, we have to find another way for you to digest it. I live with chronic back pain after two failed back surgeries leaving me with peripheal neuropathy; my foot throbs especially at night. Since moving to TX from CA., the health care system here is horrible; very conservative with recently a doctor doing a back procedure on the wrong side. Although around family, I’m trying to get back to CA with my medical team I trust. If the oil marijuana may be a solution to the numerous meds I’m on, including Lyrica and Topamax, I’m willing to give it a try. Thanks for sharing.

dolores ochoa

I live in texas and they do not have medical marijuana here.i think that it would help but if ur on strong meds like I am such as morphine and u show positive for using it they take ur meds away and say u want them just to get high!i dnt get high when I take my morphine it just relieves the pain.i have severe neuropathy in my feet,legs and hands.i also take lyrica and another pill for restless leg syndrome to try and calm the nerves in my legs so they are not twitching at night.even with taking these strong meds sometimes I have bad days and feel I should take another pill to help body feels as if its going thru withdrawl and its not good at all!!I am glad that u found some relief for ur pain!i wish u the best of luck and that story was awesome!!