by Nicole Lambert
I was 11 when I started my period, in the backseat of our family car, on the grueling 1000+ mile return trip from my grandparent’s house. I honestly can’t remember if I knew what was happening or not, but I remember the pain. This first dance with the devil set the unfortunate tone of all the many, many months that followed.
"Another benchmark in the years to come that would be full of missed occasions, too sick to go, too sick to care..."
I remember at 13, going with my family to see a movie. I was in agony. It was an early summer day, and the heat from the sun made the backseat warm. I laid against it; my first heating pad. Even though it barely made a dent in my pain, it helped a little, and I was grateful. I begged to stay in the car, just wanting the heat, wanting it more than the movie we were supposed to see. Reluctantly, I was allowed to. Another benchmark in the years to come that would be full of missed occasions, too sick to go, too sick to care.
Eventually my mom took me to our family doctor who, after coming up empty handed on a reason for my symptoms, dismissively determined I was depressed. Well…yes, yes, I was, but that did nothing much for my cramps. It was suggested I go on birth control to see if that helped; and it did, for a while at least. The repercussions of my chemical intervention was a whole new set of problems. Full of fluctuating hormones that my body did not like, I threw up almost every morning before school. I joked and called it my morning sickness. In time that evened out, and I had many years of “ok” periods. The monthly cramps were still pretty brutal, but manageable, and I loved the convenience of knowing where I was in my cycle. Maybe the birth control would have kept helping, I’ll never know. At 19 I got a blood clot in my eye, resulting in permanent vision loss. I would never be able to take birth control pills again.
"Now I felt like I had a constant UTI. I had a strange, and very uncomfortable stretching and pulling sensation in my abdomen, and the pressure baring down from inside was just miserable. I even tried standing on my head once, just to see if I could get relief that way..."
The focus returned to managing the pain. Midol turned into Tylenol-3, then Vicodin, muscle relaxers, and benzos. Nobody knew what to do with me, so we took the “throw all the pills at it” approach. I continued that way for several years, floating from doctor to doctor, trying to find someone, anyone, to give me some answers. Now I felt like I had a constant UTI. I had a strange and very uncomfortable stretching and pulling sensation in my abdomen, and the pressure baring down from inside was just miserable. I even tried standing on my head once, just to see if I could get relief that way. I didn’t lol. At this point, I had conceded that this whole thing was all in my head. I told myself that, every single day. The doctors kept saying “nothing’s wrong, nothing’s wrong”, and I was so exhausted, I just accepted it.
“There’s nothing wrong with me!” I would lie to myself with conviction, despite the fact that my periods were so heavy now, with great big clots. Like eggs to be lain by the hour. This is gross, but I hate having to use the restroom in public during my period, because it’s virtually impossible to come out of the stall without blood on my hands. It’s just so much, and so messy! The pain started to get worse again, very concentrated in the area of my right ovary. Still, I tried to ignore it. I was walking 2-hours every day on a treadmill, but the ovary pain made it harder and harder, until I stopped altogether.
Finally, I was fed up enough to find a specialist. I was so doctor-phobic at that point, but I can honestly say this woman was worth the hour and half drive it took. The first thing she did was hug me and let me know she was there to listen. She told me she was going to do a transvaginal ultrasound, something I hadn’t had before, and we were going to look over in the direction of my pain. As soon as she touched the spot, I screamed and came off the table. She looked at me and said, “you have endometriosis, and I think it may be attached to your appendix.”. She sent me over to the hospital to have contrast dye scans. I felt guilty and stupid being there. Why was I doing this? I was obviously just being overdramatic! That may sound absurd to some people, but years of being told there's nothing wrong with me, despite there obviously being something very wrong, has permanently altered my perception of myself. I'm my own worst gaslighter, and it's something I still struggle with on a daily basis.
"I had a name for my monster, but no idea how to fight it..."
The results were in, the good news, my appendix was a-okay; the bad, welcome to life with endo! I had a name for my monster, but no idea how to fight it. More pills? Sure, if I wanted to continue the numerous side-effects, including IBS with constipation that was another hell to manage altogether. I could do surgery, but I was shocked to find more times than not, it’s only a temporary fix. I felt a different type of hopelessness and confusion, all wrapped up in a great big ball of fury, with no idea what to do.
Coincidentally, my daughter Heather was in college at the time, and of course the conversation of marijuana came up. I had smoked it lots as a teen, and loved it, but that was pretty much the end of that. I hadn’t smoked in over 20 years. She was pre-med (suffering from her own endo), and interested in its many medicinal properties; which I initially laughed at. I mean, it’s weed, you smoke it, and you get high. That’s its purpose, right? It had always been mine anyway! lol
That actually feels weird to even type that out now, knowing what I do. I had zero clue how much my life was about to change in more ways than I could imagine.
"I eagerly took it, not knowing what to expect. What I got was total body relaxation and pain relief so great, that I seriously couldn’t speak..."
We watched a few news specials about using marijuana as medicine, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. How had I not heard any of this before? I was in awe watching the effects take hold; stopping the seizure of a child in its tracks, quieting violent tremors of a Parkinson’s patient, even treating cancer in some cases! Surely, if this miracle plant could do all of that, then maybe it could help me too. I learned about Rick Simpson, and something called FECO. I started pouring over YouTube videos, learning how to do extractions. Countless hours spent on message boards and forums, asking questions and taking advice from individuals with knowledge I could only hope to possess one day. I devoured every piece of information with a passion I had never felt. This felt right. It felt good. It felt, hopeful. A lot of trial and error later, I had my first capsule containing a bit of FECO. I eagerly took it, not knowing what to expect. What I got was total body relaxation and pain relief so great, that I seriously couldn’t speak. I was in such shock and awe, lost and so grateful in the moment. I couldn’t even remember the last time something didn’t hurt, but in that moment, I felt nothing but melting muscles. I felt cushioned, like I was surrounded by cotton, all the sharp edges rounded. I fell asleep crying a little, happy tears.
Eventually I came across my first MagicalButter Machine. For those unfamiliar, it’s this incredible electric kettle looking appliance that infuses cannabis into butter and oil. Amazing! I gathered supplies and waited, maybe, somewhat impatiently, for Heather to come home from school for the weekend. Finally, the day came! We re-read all the instructions, started the process, and waited for the “magic”. About 2-hours later we had ourselves some cannabis-infused oil, woo-hoo! A lot of it, in fact…It was at this point we realized we hadn’t actually planned on what to do with said oil. We called a friend, “make brownies” they said. Awesome idea, but none of those ingredients on hand, so that’s a nope. We sat there, silently staring at this vat of beautiful golden oil, then looked at each other. We were so disappointed, like a kid on Christmas with no batteries for their new toy. Lol It was sad. We started laughing hysterically at ourselves, and then Heather said, “IDK, just rub it on something that hurts!” Wow. This is one of those moments in life that “duh” just doesn’t seem to cover. I was so focused on the smokable/ingestible side of cannabis, topicals had just not entered my world at that point. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the simplicity of it. You put flower in oil, rub it on yourself, and that helps pain? Yes, yes it did. I took some of the warm oil and slathered it all over my abdomen. Almost instantly my cramps were just gone. I thought I was crazy, I thought we were both crazy. I had to be, nothing works that well! I started rounding up willing family and friends, incredulously asking them to try it and see. I fully expected it not to be the same for everybody else as it had been for us. Placebo effect? Folie à deux? All seemed more possible than the simplest answer; cannabis works.
"It’s helped to heal me not only in the physical sense, by making my life with endo so much more bearable; but in a mental, spiritual sense as well..."
The first to report was my grandmother. She has arthritis in her hands which causes them to draw. She was almost weirded out by the fact that when she rubbed it in, they immediately started to relax, allowing her to straighten her fingers and flatten her palm. Witchcraft? Lol, maybe. More stories kept coming, and eventually it was undeniable; this stuff works, and it really is like magick.
That was it for me, I was in love! I got to *know* the plant, finding myself in complete reverence, with a strange need to protect it. When treated with the respect it deserves, cannabis is a plant with the capacity to love you back. It’s helped to heal me not only in the physical sense, by making my life with endo so much more bearable; but in a mental, spiritual sense as well. It’s opened so many doors, making it, at least for me, a “gateway drug” of sorts. I’ve stepped across the threshold of plant life, and I don’t plan on going back. In fact, I plan on taking a few of you with me.
Written by Nicole Lambert
May 15, 2021