Aside from the rapid-succession shocks of:
1) being diagnosed with breast cancer,
3) in two years,
4) before age forty,
I don’t think anything surprised me more than the sheer number of suburban-mom friends who offered me marijuana for my chemo treatments. But, one after the other, they rolled up in their mini-vans, toting mini-coolers full of lasagnas and paper bags full of fat doobies.
Shh! That’s illegal in Maryland. Don’t narc on your friends! Actually, it’s not illegal.
That said: it’s also not legal. The legislators in the Maryland State Assembly passed a bill in 2012 legalizing marijuana for chemo patients. But, because they are cowards, they made the legislation enactable after the next election cycle, leaving Maryland’s cancer patients in the weeds, as it were.
Cancer patients can, however, have our doctors prescribe something called Marinol: the pill form of the active ingredient of pot: THC. If there was a pill commercial for Marinol, it would feature a bald person, like myself, gnawing on a block of cheese with while drooling, and telling the camera: “This shit rocks. Ask your doctor if Marinol is right for you.”
I didn’t like Marinol. While it did induce the munchies – forcefully — it didn’t ease the nausea. On Marinol I was able and willing to eat an entire bag of potato chips with sour cream and onion dip. That could be considered good if you find yourself in the circumstance so common to cancer patients but so bizarre to civilian bystanders: a food aversion and a doctor unwilling to further your treatment if you lose more weight. So, success, right? Not exactly, because on Marinol I couldn’t count on keeping those chips down. And once you’ve tossed those chips, they are off your edible list for good.
At the time my friends started showing up at my house with ganja, my list of acceptable foods had been narrowed down to the Beige and Starchy food group. Bagels. Bananas.
Not exactly. Despite my friends’ hearty recommendations, pot posed a problem. The first few days after chemo, you are dealing with nausea, pain, fatigue, and mouth sores. Smoking pot would help the nausea, but flare up the mouth sores. I couldn’t see the point of using pot to solve one problem if it was going to exacerbate another one. It would be like playing Whack-a-Mole with your symptoms: smack down the nausea, bang, get a hole in your mouth.
My friend Kerry, after listening to me whine about my dwindling food options for several weeks, decided to act. Kerry could be described as my least drug-familiar friend. She’s what you’d call a “square,” if life was the movie Grease. (And if I ever wake up one day in the movie Grease, for the record I want to be Frenchy.) Kerry knows nothing about cannabis usage, except that it happens, and that sometimes, she’s heard, it happens in brownies.
“Wouldn’t that be great?” she asked, as we scurried around my house preparing to leave for my fourth chemo treatment. Kerry had taken the day off work to drive and keep me company during my infusion. She was packing lunches for us even though I warned her she was wasting her time on mine.
“I don’t know,” I said. “You know how challenging it is to bake just regular brownies.”
“Uh, sure,” she said, nodding and smiling. My friends are somewhat mystified by my baking disability, which may be caused by my aversion to following directions. “But you know what? I bet I could figure it out,” Kerry stated firmly, because she is an upbeat, can-do kind of person, whether she is fixing you a peanut butter sandwich or finding a way to facilitate your illegal drug use.
Settled in at the hospital’s infusion center and using the free wi-fi, we soon discovered YouTube is a national treasure for videos on how to make pot brownies.
Although we’d brought a pile of DVD’s, watching pot-brownie-making videos was all the entertainment we needed.
The chefs featured in these videos were highly qualified and visibly experienced in their craft. We shrieked as one lady unsuccessfully tried to pronounce word the word “cannabis” while struggling to balance a too-heavy iron skillet over an open flame. “She’s going to drop that on the dog’s head!” Kerry shrieked. “I can’t watch this!”
My nurse, Joann, poked her head through the curtain.
“Everything all right in here?”
Kerry and I slammed shut the laptop. In an instant we’d reverted from adult women to our middle and high school selves, our faces assuming the studied expressions of innocence that hadn’t fooled any adult, ever.
“Just watching a –” Kerry started.
“Scrabble,” I finished.
“Sandwich,” Kerry added, holding up our lunch tote.
Nurse Joann nodded slowly, and backed out of the curtained cubicle.
We opened the laptop and continued our remote education on pot brownies.
Here is what we learned:
1) Pot brownies are not as straightforward to make as you might think.
2) You can actually buy something called “pot brownie mix” online. Pot, strangely, is not included.
3) The fumes from first part of cooking the pot brownies could get you and/or your pets high. Don’t take a nap without turning off the stove!
Have fun baking, bald girls, if that’s your thing, but check out your state’s laws first, and don’t set yourselves or your pets on fire.