When people are diagnosed with life threatening illnesses, they often search in desperation for anything that can help.
Today, as part of “Cannabis: Medicine or Menace”, Investigative Reporter AASMA DAY talks to a Lancashire dad who claims he cured his cancer using “Breaking Bad” style homemade cannabis oil.
Sitting in his kitchen heaving in utter misery, Dave had spent the last eight hours being sick after undergoing chemotherapy.
He had reached the point where nothing was coming out and he was too terrified to eat or drink.
An old friend walked in and seeing Dave’s torment, threw a cannabis joint at him saying: “Here, smoke that.”
This was the moment Dave claims he first realised the healing powers of marijuana.
The doctor asked what I was using instead and I told him ‘cannabis’. The doctor threw his glasses across his desk and looked at me like I was crazy. But my wife told him straight she had seen with her own eyes what difference the cannabis had made.
Dave, 42, who lives near Preston and doesn’t want to reveal his real name for fear of repercussions, recalls: “Chemotherapy and radiotherapy left me with horrendous side effects.
“My skin burnt so much, it was flaking off in chunks and it charred like charcoal.
“I couldn’t touch anything as my fingers were so sore it felt like electric shocks down my fingers.
“No words can describe how incredibly sick the chemotherapy made me feel.
“The worst thing was waking up the next morning knowing you are still going to have more sessions.
“They should use chemotherapy for torturing people.”
Dave, married for 15 years with a 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son, was a graphic designer with his own business when he was suddenly diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2008.
He recalls: “I began suffering really bad lower back pain, but thought it was a bit of an infection.
“I worked long hours and often worked solid for 18 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week and wasn’t eating or drinking properly.
“In the beginning, I didn’t think there was anything serious wrong.’’
Thinking it was a kidney infection or kidney stones, Dave went to the doctor and was referred to hospital for investigations.
Dave, who was only 36 at the time, was told he had Stage 4 bowel cancer, which is when it has spread.
Dave says: “I felt shocked, angry and full of disbelief.
“Doctors told me I needed chemotherapy and radiotherapy and suggested I had a colostomy bag fitted.
“I said no to everything at first. However, my wife panicked and talked me into having the chemotherapy and radiotherapy.”
Dave suffered badly with side effects to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
He says: “After a few weeks of taking chemotherapy tablets, it became a physical battle to get them down me knowing how poorly they were going to make me.”
Dave’s consultant knew he desperately didn’t want a colostomy bag so referred him to have internal radiotherapy using a converted skin cancer machine.
The chemotherapy and radiotherapy shrank Dave’s tumour from the size of half an apple to the size of a pea and the internal therapy reduced it to nothing.
However, the side effects meant his skin was burnt black and was painful and peeling.
Three months after the internal chemotherapy, a check-up revealed the cancer had returned.
Dave was then referred to a surgeon who carried out a laser treatment to cut the tumour. However, it was unsuccessful.
Dave says: “I was in so much pain, I ended up in a wheelchair for seven weeks.
“My surgeon told me the time had come to have the colostomy bag.”
Dave had the colostomy operation in 2009. It was a 12-hour operation and he was in hospital for 15 days.
After he had recovered, he went for more chemotherapy which made him extremely poorly.
Dave explains: “It felt like the chemotherapy was taking me to the brink of death before bringing me back.
“I had all sorts of side effects including my face drooping like I’d had a stroke and chest pains which felt like a heart attack.
“I suffered knock out nausea which left me unable to do anything.”
It was at this point of abject misery that Dave’s friend offered him a joint of weed.
Dave, who admits he smoked cannabis since the age of 14, says he had stopped using cannabis completely when diagnosed with cancer.
But at that moment, he thought: “What have I got to lose?”
Dave remembers: “I was pumped full of all sorts of poisons with chemotherapy and tablets and had a cupboard full of pills which weren’t helping.
“My friend suggested I smoked the joint to help with the nausea. By the time I had smoked three-quarters of it, the nausea had started to subside. He passed me another joint, so I smoked that too. Within five minutes of smoking it, I was rooting in the cupboard for biscuits.
“It was the first time I had wanted to eat in a month. Before that, I had no appetite and my weight had dropped to nine-and-a-half stones. My wife walked in and saw the positive effect of the cannabis.
“She gave my friend £100 saying: ‘Go and get as much as you can for him.’”
Dave cleared his cupboards of medication and took two carrier bags full to his doctors telling him: “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Dave recalls: “The doctor asked what I was using instead and I told him ‘cannabis’. The doctor threw his glasses across his desk and looked at me like I was crazy. But my wife told him straight she had seen with her own eyes what difference the cannabis had made.”
Dave began using cannabis daily smoking it or eating it.
Dave and a friend started researching the health benefits of cannabis and discovered cannabis oil worked for many people. Dave says: “I had an opportunity to buy some from Spain, but they wanted £900 and all my money had gone because of my cancer.”
Dave discovered someone with knowledge about cannabis as a medicine who put him in touch with a man who specialised in helping people with medical conditions by giving them cannabis oil for free.
Dave describes cannabis oil as “like honey but thick and tarry and sticky like glue.”
He says: “I was given a syringe of pure cannabis oil and started taking some of it every day.
“The first time I ingested it, I just put a blob on the back of my hand.
“It properly purged me and at first, I was sick and foaming at the mouth.
“But it was a different sickness to the chemo. It was like it was cleaning me out. I was constantly high and felt like I was on another planet.
“However, it wasn’t like smoking a spliff for pleasure.
“It felt like proper medication making me better.
“It took me about two weeks to get used to it.”
Dave’s aim was to flood his body with cannabinoid at a cellular level and he ingested around 140g of cannabis oil over three months.
He then stopped the oil for 12 months. However, when he went for his next hospital check-up, doctors discovered the cancer was back on his left lung.
Dave had three operations on his lungs after the cancer kept returning.
When Dave had recovered, he began taking cannabis oil again. He says: “I noticed that when I was on the cannabis oil, everything was fine, but when I came off it, things went wrong.
“Cannabis oil was also spiritually mood enhancing. I felt balanced and normal.”
Dave then experimented on himself. He took cannabis oil as much as he could daily for three months before his regular scan.
He then stopped the oil completely for the following three months.
Dave says: “After smashing the oil for three months, my scan showed I was clear of cancer.
“But when I stopped it completely for three months, the next scan showed a hot spot on my right lung suggesting the cancer was back.
“Doctors said they would keep an eye on it and to come back for a scan as usual in three months.
“So I went back on the cannabis oil for three months. At the next scan, I was clear again.
“I repeated this experiment three times and each time I came off the oil, there were signs of the cancer coming back.
“But as soon as I went back on it, I was clear again.”
Cannabis oil is now part of Dave’s life and he takes capsules of the oil daily, just like a vitamin.
He also cooks with cannabis and eats it in homemade fudge, brownies, flapjacks and even sauces and salad dressings.
Dave says: “Cannabis oil has given me my life back. I am now cancer free and believe cannabis has saved my life.
“People should be allowed to grow whatever they want without fear of prosecution.
“I think everyone should be allowed to grow cannabis if they want to self medicate.
“I would like to see cannabis widely used as medicine.”
Err on the side of caution: expert
Professor John Ashton, President of the Faculty of Public Health said: “It is human nature for people to look for things to believe in when they are ill.
“People tend to use alternatives to medication either in the early stages of their illness or later on when the medicine they are on doesn’t seem to be working.
“Out of desperation, they may turn to a trial drug or something herbal.
“However, in this country, we have a highly regulated approach to medicines and what is allowed to be prescribed. Medicines are subjected to very rigorous tests.
“On the other hand, there are non conventional things like homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. By and large, these are not tested.
“People need to be careful about using medicines that have not been through the full testing process and find out more before they start using them.
“They also need to be wary of buying things over the Internet as they might not be pure or be contaminated.
“The company GW Pharmaceuticals has a licence to research the derivative from cannabis.
“They are pursuing a research path into cannabis to bring products to market which show medicinal benefit.
“We are waiting to see if products coming out of this research will have benefits and become part of mainstream medicine.
“I think it is very important people don’t go turning to untested things.
“We have systems in this country to protect people against substances that have not been properly tested and may have side effects.
“People should always take the advice of their GP or consultant before going off and going unusual things.
“My advice is to be careful and err on the side of caution when it comes to using remedies that have not been tested.”