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Sue’s story: Alleviating chronic pain from secondary bone metastases cancer

October 7, 2020 | IN PATIENT STORY | BY Kate Thorpe
Sue’s story: Alleviating chronic pain from secondary bone metastases cancer

Sue Evans from York uses medical cannabis treatment to alleviate chronic pain caused by cancer.  Here, she tells her story.

Sue Evans

In December 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my right breast. I underwent a lumpectomy and a 4 week intensive course of radiotherapy.  I refused chemotherapy because I considered it to be too invasive a treatment for me. In 2016 I did however, begin an endocrine treatment (Tamoxifen) to help prevent a resurgence of the cancer.

Sadly for me, one week into this endocrine treatment I suffered liver failure: I was told I had three years to live unless my liver repaired itself.  I stopped the endocrine treatment, cut out alcohol and started an alkaline diet. Thankfully my liver recovered within three months and still functions well, however I was left with a threat of an associated condition called Varices, a weakening of the veins which can cause internal bleeding. To date, my follow up breast scans continue to be clear, which is positive.

Turning to CBD for chronic, long-term pain 

In 2018, I developed pain in my right pelvic area which was later aggravated by a fall I had on an icy path. A bone density scan I had previously had in 2017 had revealed mild Osteopenia, so I attributed the pain in my pelvis to that condition and I did not consult a Doctor.

I did not want to rely on long term conventional painkillers for my hip because I was concerned they could aggravate the Varices threat which later down the line proved to be correct and also my liver, so I researched CBD oil as an alternative pain relief.  This was no easy feat, and an expensive one, as I discovered that many brands and strengths below 1000mg did not have any effect at all on my pain. However, after two months of trailing different types I did find a CBD full spectrum (no THC) 1200mg product that instantly relieved the pain, but I had to take frequent dosages to completely control it. But it did so effectively.

In November 2019 I fell ill with an unidentified infection which caused much pain in my lower left abdomen. Despite various tests, doctors were unable to diagnose the nature of the infection, which resulted in three different courses of antibiotics being prescribed, over a period of two months. I ceased CBD oil at this time as I didn’t know if it would interfere with the medication and therefore resorted to conventional pain killers to alleviate both the abdominal pain and the chronic pain in my right hip.  Sadly, the infection did not go away and after two months of this excessive pain I was rushed into hospital in January 2020, with severe internal bleeding in the stomach and upper digestive tract.

Secondary cancer diagnosis & prescription medical cannabis treatment 

The internal bleeding was treated successfully and the intravenous antibiotic I was given in hospital seemed to clear up the mystery infection. However, during my week of hospitalisation a scan of my abdomen revealed bony metastases (secondary breast cancer) in my right pelvis and lower spine. Unbeknown to me this had been the cause of the chronic pain in my right hip. So despite my breast scans remaining clear it appears the cancer had resurfaced in my spine and pelvic area.

Following a consultation with an Oncologist I agreed to take a different Endocrine treatment (Letrezole), to manage the cancer going forward. I also resumed the CBD oil for the pain relief. I am unable to take conventional pain killers due to the Varices, so I realised that if the cancer got worse I would potentially need a stronger CBD medication to control any increased pain, which is what prompted me to look for a private, qualified medical cannabis consultant.

A breast cancer nurse assisted me with this task and I was introduced to Dr Liz Iveson, a member of the Society’s expert committee. Since March 2020 I have been taking prescription Bedrolite CBD oil to manage the chronic pain in my pelvis. The medical CBD is stronger than the self-medicating CBD oil I had taken previously, so I require a much lesser dose to achieve the same level of pain control.

I now take the Letrozole endocrine treatment, which luckily I have not had an adverse reaction to, and the medical cannabis for the pain relief. My three monthly checks and blood tests show that the cancer is being effectively managed.

Successfully managing pain with prescription CBD

I personally have not experienced any side effects from either non medical or medical cannabis. Though I sleep much better at night as a result of CBD, it does not cause drowsiness during the day, so it does not affect my ability to drive safely. Also my ongoing blood tests and scans show that it is not interfering with the endocrine medication I take.

To sum up my experience with CBD oil, it allows me to enjoy a pain-free, full life rather than a painful existence. I very much enjoy walking as a means to relax; with CBD oil I can walk 6 or 7 miles easily with no problem at all. Without CBD oil I struggle to walk a mile and I limp quite profusely, even getting into a standing position is difficult.

CBD treatment makes a huge difference to the quality of my life, keeping a positive attitude does too. I refuse to dwell on how many years I will live with cancer. I do not want to waste my life thinking about the day I will die. I enjoy my life and intend to continue doing so.

As a last point I would like to counter argue the placebo effect that some label CBD with. In my early days of research I had to try various brands and strengths of CBD until I found one that worked. This was extremely time consuming and very costly. If, I had been of a placebo mindset, trust me I would have settled on the first brand I tried and saved myself a whole lot of time and money!

I can only sing the praises of medical cannabis from my personal experience, and would urge anyone suffering chronic pain to at least try it. You may be surprised at what a beneficial difference it can make to one’s quality of life and mental well being.

Thank you for reading my story.

Sue Evans is a member of the Society’s Patient Committee.