My Journey with Crohn’s & Cannabis: How I Got My Life Back
Pain. Gut wrenching, cramping, terrible pain. I had it all the time. Even if the pain was a low hum, I had it all the time. Soon it became so bad that I would wind up in the hospital every week just to be sent home saying I had a “virus” or “IBS”. Stomach pain is so subjective, it seemed the doctors didn’t believe me. I couldn’t keep food down and was down to 97 lbs. I knew something wasn’t right. A virus doesn’t last this long on and off. I developed severe anxiety not knowing what was going on or how to control it. Life was completely spiralling out of control.
Within a few months, I had finally been diagnosed with severe fistulizing Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and bacterial factors.
It can affect any portion of the intestine from mouth to anus but most commonly infects the small intestine. Similar to an auto-immune disease, it is a chronic inflammatory disorder, in which the body’s immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract possibly directed at microbial antigens. The swelling and inflammation cause blockages which makes it difficult to eat, can cause bleeding and severe pain. Common symptoms are abdominal pain, fever, bloody diarrhea, and weight loss but it also can cause skin rashes, anemia, arthritis, inflammation of the eyes, and overall exhaustion. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease but symptoms can be managed with medication and quite often surgery is required.
The diagnosis was devastating but also a relief. It wasn’t in my head as so many people had tried to suggest. It felt good knowing the root of the problem so I could work towards getting better.
However, I wasn’t prepared for the myriad of emotions I was going to experience. First grief, then came anger, feeling sorry for myself and finally acceptance. It was difficult to accept how I was going to live my “new life”, one with a chronic illness with no cure. All the efforts by my doctors and myself to try medications and diets did not work to control my symptoms. I was still sick. My new reality hit me like a ton of bricks, I was never going to be the same. I started to identify with “being sick”, learning about the illness consumed my life because I had no life otherwise. I was 27 years old, I couldn’t keep up with what my friends were doing. I couldn’t go out, eat or drink with no cares. I spent most of my time alone not feeling well. Don’t get me wrong, my friends and my husband were an amazing support system, but I didn’t want them to resent me for being held back by my illness.
By this point I found out my intestine was so damaged by years of inflammation from undiagnosed disease that my only option was surgery.
A portion of my small intestine was only open the size of a pin. Food and sometimes even water couldn’t make its way through, causing severe pain. It was blocked so badly that I was at risk of toxic megacolon – where air or food can’t push through so it bursts and spills contents of the intestine into the body. They had to cut out the scarred piece of intestine. The wait for the surgery felt like an eternity. I was on a high dose of prednisone to control the inflammation and it had its own set of terrible side effects. It is a corticosteroid that’s side effects include acne, “moon face” ie. swelling of the face, body hair growth, insomnia, thinning skin, sweating, dizziness, and the list goes on. Between that and the pain from the actual disease, I was miserable. My confidence had plummeted and I was depressed.
The pain killers I was prescribed were nasty – Percocet, fentanyl, tramadol. Highly addictive drugs that basically make you comatose. I couldn’t live on those.
Not only that but the narcotics would mess up my sensitive digestive system which was something I didn’t need.
Feeling lost and with nowhere to turn, I tried an alternative – medical marijuana. It did everything I needed it to do – controlled pain, helped with sleep and appetite. All natural with no residual side effects.
I could get out again – I started yoga, I was able to socialize because I wasn’t constantly consumed with pain. After I had my surgery, I also used it to control pain while I was recovering. Not having to use a ton of narcotics which caused constipation was huge when recovering from bowel resection surgery. It also helped increase my appetite and controlled pain and discomfort to get a good night’s sleep. I truly believe it supported me in a healthy, fast recovery.
I have been in clinical remission ever since and that was 7 years ago. There have been a few slips along the way, but I have learned what works for me so I can get myself back on track to feeling good. I am on medication to control the Crohn’s disease but medical marijuana is a big part of my success. It offered a natural alternative to harsh prescription drugs. Often there is not one thing that will work to help with chronic diseases or conditions, it is a combination of things that you find out work for you as an individual. For me, medical marijuana helps to control stress and helps me sleep which I know are two big triggers that can cause a Crohn’s flare-up for me. I am thankful to be living in a time where we know so much more about the cannabis plant and I can tailor my treatment to my needs. Strains high in CBD are known to control inflammation, so it is exciting to know that with legalization imminent that more research will be done and who knows maybe even a cure for chronic inflammatory diseases likes mine.
This brings me to why Kanabé was born. Plain and simple, I started experimenting with topical creams and oils because I didn’t like to consume via smoking or eating cannabis.
When the first body butter was created, it worked so well to help with the cramping pain that I had other ACMPR patients try it. It got rave reviews, so we started experimenting further with other creams, tinctures and aromatherapy. Our vision is that people can supplement some of their traditional therapies with this new healthy, natural alternative. It helped me get my quality of life back, maybe it can help you too.
— Krystal, Co-Founder of Kanabé & Marketing Manager of Experion Wellness