by Ashley Sartin Story
While my life had, by no means, been a “bowl of cherries” leading up to November of 2015, my life was very much like most everyone else I knew. Then I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. CRPS is a condition caused by damage to, or a malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems. Symptoms include prolonged and excessive pain with changes to the skin color and body temperature accompanied by swelling in the affected areas.
For me this meant that my hair on the right side of my head fell out and it felt as if someone was using a blowtorch on my scalp. The CRPS spread throughout my body to the point that, ultimately, both my legs, my right arm, and various internal organs, felt as though they were on fire.
The prescribed treatment by a neurologist and pain specialist was a pharmaceutical cocktail that damaged my liver so severely that after a year of “treatment” for CRPS my doctor advised me that I had approximately six months to live. As a mother of two small daughter with a third on the way, I faced the staggering prospect of leaving them motherless. To say that I was in a very dark place would be a huge understatement.
It was then that I met a fellow “CRPS Warrior” who lived outside the USA. She was successfully treating her condition with cannabis and suggested that I investigate cannabis to treat my CRPS. In the course of this investigation, I met the man who would become my husband . He was my mentor first, giving me a thorough education regarding all things medicinal cannabis. I owe my very existence to him to this day.
Still, the prospect of using cannabis to treat my CRPS presented a moral, legal, and logistical dilemma to me. Living in Oklahoma meant that in order for me to get the treatment I needed, I would have to ignore the law in order to live a normal life and be a mother to my children. To paraphrase a popular saying – “The struggle was real.” After some earnest soulsearching, I chose life, and committed to facing any possible consequences.
I determined that I would become an “expert” on all things cannabis. I read a mountain of articles, watched hours of videos, and spoke with people who were much more knowledgeable than I so that I could think and speak intelligently on the benefits of cannabis. I discovered that there is a system in the human body that revolves around “cannabinoids.” It is called the “endocannabinoid system.” This system is critical for all mammals. I learned that cannabinoids have a role to play in prohibiting and/or treating essentially every disease that threatens us. A lack of these cannabinoids fosters an environment that makes us susceptible to disease, whereas an abundance of cannabinoids creates an environment that inhibits disease.To my pleasant surprise, I also learned that cannabis is non-toxic, which means that a person cannot overdose on cannabis, unlike most pharmaceuticals.
Though I was experiencing some relief from my CRPS, I knew there was something missing. In the midst of my journey to fight my CRPS, a truly amazing thing happened. I met someone who shared with me the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was mercifully drawn to Jesus Christ and, by faith, committed my life to Him. I believe The Lord then showed His kindness to me in two very significant ways. First, He taught me from His Word, the Bible, that while, of course, it would be wrong to murder someone in a malicious, premeditated way (Exodus 20:13), that same commandment also calls upon me to protect my own life and the lives of others. Second, Oklahoma passed State Question 788, which legalized the use of cannabis for medical purposes. These two tremendous providences freed my conscience to pursue my CRPS treatment through channels recognized by government authorities and to share my knowledge and experience with others who are suffering needlessly.
The point is that we shouldn’t have to wait until a medical condition becomes resistant to manmade synthetic prescriptions before we can consider alternatives. Why not begin with natural, God-made substances first? If I treat my medical condition with only synthetic drugs and opioids then I am NOT doing all that I can to preserve my own life as well as the lives of those for whom I am responsible. If I find that a condition that does not respond to medicinal cannabis then, and only then, will “Big Pharma” be considered as a potentially viable treatment option. It would be wonderful if more and more doctors would begin to think this way.
The Bible states that all human beings are made in the image of God and that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) While this has many implications, one of them must be that our endocannabinoid system was designed by God as well, the same God Who created the cannabis plant for our benefit. I am grateful that rather than having had my funeral a couple years ago I have, instead, had an awakening – physically, mentally, and, most importantly, spiritually. I have a lot to learn, both about the benefits of cannabis and the blessings of following Jesus, but I am so thankful to God that now I am able to do this in the light and not in the dark.