Legendary surfer/explorer/traveller (and Crescent Head Classic Over 70s champion) Kiwi White at home in South Australia. Never one to hold back in the surf, Kiwi is taking a stand for medicinal cannabis. Pic: Rob Lang
22 October 19
Keen surfer Kiwi White eyes the waves from afar these days. Debilitating pain and fatigue from mesothelioma — cancer of the lung from asbestos exposure — keeps him on the shore.
Diagnosed in May, the stoic 75-year-old from Eyre Peninsula says he’s not afraid of dying, just “dying in agony”. He says the pain can be foetal-position crippling. “There are days where I just can’t take it anymore.”
Among the arsenal of pain killers including heavy duty morphine, is medicinal cannabis oil from an unknown friend of a friend.
“It seems to help the pain without having to take the opioids,” he says. “There is still a little bit of pain but it’s tolerable.”
Like many who shared their experiences with the Sunday Mail for this special report, Mr White can’t understand why medicinal cannabis is so hard to get via legal channels.
“I think it’s ludicrous that there are not more doctors prescribing it — it absolutely ridiculous.”
Mr White says despite the support of his medical team to use medicinal cannabis, he was forced to look elsewhere after his GP said he was not licensed to prescribe it.
His case is not unique.
Ordinary South Australians — like suburban mums “Cleo” and “Nadine” — are driven underground to find pain relief, mostly for cancer or to end debilitating nausea from chemotherapy treatment.
The pain is so extreme they gamble the odds of a $2000 fine for possessing cannabis products in SA.
“Nadine” (not her real name) is recovering from breast cancer and says medicinal cannabis helped her complete a debilitating 16 rounds of chemotherapy three months ago.
“The pain doesn’t go away; the nausea doesn’t go away and you know there is no way out because the toxic chemo making you feel so rotten is saving your life,” she says.
Within 15 minutes of applying one tiny drop of yellow oil under her tongue, Nadine says her nausea symptoms were halved, within three hours her appetite was back, and after 24 hours she was in the kitchen cooking potato bake — she hadn’t eaten a good meal in days.
“I did not feel ‘high’ — that component was removed; it did not change my personality or function at all — it just subsided the nausea and the pain to the point that I could function like a normal human being again.”
Medicinal cannabis was not offered to Nadine to manage pain by her GP or oncologist.
“Cleo”, a mum of three children under 13, says she does not know who made the medicinal cannabis given to her by a friend to help her through breast cancer treatment, but she is grateful they have taken the great personal risk to make it.
Cleo (not her real name) says her oncologist was OK with her using medicinal cannabis but that he could not prescribe it because Cleo did not meet the TGA criteria.
“We are pumping our bodies with poison to kill cancer — our hair is falling-out and you’re telling us that a natural substance is an issue? Please stop insulting our intelligence — we are not smoking bongs around an Xbox.”
The risks are considerably higher for those “good Samaritans” using internet recipes mixed in laundries and kitchens behind closed doors across suburban Adelaide to make others feel better when nobody else will.
They’re exposed to criminal prosecution for possession of and manufacturing a controlled drug for supply.
The current legal case of Adelaide woman Jenny Hallam, due for sentencing next month, has made Australian headlines. In 2017, police raided Hallam’s home and seized 35 plastic syringes and 212 capsules of cannabis oil and equipment to manufacture the oil.
Acutely aware of the legal consequences, Adelaide man “James” (who spoke to the Sunday Mail under the condition of anonymity) manufactured medicinal cannabis paste for his father — a prostate cancer patient who was undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
James had researched the benefits of medicinal cannabis after traditional treatments were failing.
“I was driven by the hope that this would help my dad,” he says.
“He was at that point of desperation and was willing to try anything and I thought if you’re trying to put me in jail for trying to save someone’s life then good luck to you.”
James, in his 30s, says his father never tried the medicinal cannabis — he died the night James was making it.
He’s since helped others though — family and friends of friends, mostly cancer patients either going through treatment or in terminal phases — by providing the medicinal cannabis that was meant for his dad.
Like most good Samaritans, James doesn’t ask for payment and he says the feedback has always been positive.
- AUTHOR: REBECCA DIGIROLAMO
- SOURCE: ADELAIDE ADVERTISER