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24 year old uses cannabis to treat endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and more.
Rachael Depew was desperate for relief when her cannabis journey began. Endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and multiple mental health conditions had nearly taken over her life before she found a healing strategy that worked. Rachael's story shares how powerful medical cannabis can be even in the most painful circumstances.
Since the age of 15, Rachael had been struggling with intense pelvic pain and aches throughout her entire body. In the early stages of her health complications, she was diagnosed with endometriosis and later PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Last year, at age 23 she was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia. A mix of physical and mental health conditions left her nearly unable to walk and mentally unstable. She anxiously worried about the future and wondered if she would even be able to make it down the aisle on her wedding day. Rachael could not escape the constant pain and negative emotions associated with her conditions.
Rachael moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Utah when she was in high school. Since then, she has completed cosmetology school and specializes in fashion colors as a hairdresser in Salt Lake City. When she is not behind the salon chair, Rachael loves watercolor painting, participating in Utah’s plentiful outdoor activities, and spending time with her beloved dog. Unfortunately, her health conditions were making both her career and hobbies unenjoyable.
What does it mean to have endometriosis and fibromyalgia?
Endometriosis is a gynecological condition that affects the pelvic and lower abdominal regions of the body. Tissue lining the uterus is misplaced, usually occurring on other reproductive organs outside the uterus. Hormonal changes each month often cause the tissue to bleed, become inflamed, and produce extreme pain in the pelvis. Many women can relate to the uncomfortable feeling of cramps when menstruating, but for patients with endometriosis, the pain can be unbearable. Aside from physical discomfort, endometriosis is one of the three major causes of infertility in women, raising mental distress for any female.
Fibromyalgia on the other hand is not limited to one area of the body. The disease may cause pain and tenderness in any region, making it very difficult for patients to move freely without discomfort. Additional symptoms of fibromyalgia include fatigue, digestive issues, depression and anxiety, headaches, and pelvic pain.
Rachael being diagnosed with both health conditions led to a great amount of mental suffering. Her symptoms from both endometriosis and fibromyalgia overlapped, creating an environment where she was forced to struggle without a cure.
Life before medical cannabis
Rachael was prescribed mild pain pills such as ibuprofen and harder drugs like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone as her conditions worsened and the pain intensified. Her family urged her to try everything she could before turning to cannabis, which is a common reaction given the relative recency of cannabis legality in Utah. Rumors stemming from familial religious beliefs scared Rachael, mostly because she did not want her treatment method to become an unhealthy addiction.
Initial pain-relieving methods were causing more harm than good. Rachael was experiencing severe reactions from prescription pills such as irregular bowel movements, stomach ulcers, poor mental health, nausea, additional gastrointestinal issues, and even hospitalization. She was also facing extreme drowsiness that made graduating from cosmetology school seem impossible at the time. It got to a point where she could not work or pay her bills, forcing her to move back in with her parents. At the age of 24, these were far from ideal circumstances. “I was getting more miserable by the day. I needed some kind of relief,” Rachael said.
A healing opportunity
Cannabis was a last resort for Rachael after traditional medicine was not working with her body, nor relieving her symptoms. She was ready to break free from the chronic illnesses that had consumed nearly all of her adulthood. “There comes a time when you need to be selfish. Take care of yourself and put yourself first. Because that's how you are going to live your whole life,” she says.
Because she did not want to be seen as a drug seeker, Rachael found asking a doctor about cannabis to be one of the hardest parts of her journey. She found the courage to ask her gastroenterologists if she could try this alternative solution. Luckily, Rachael’s physician was open-minded about the process, giving her comfort and peace of mind. The steps following her initial appointment were easier than she anticipated, and she received her Utah medical cannabis card within a few weeks of her consultation.
The stigma around cannabis was frightening, but so was the thought of living the rest of her life in extreme pain. Rachael decided to begin medicating, despite the way her family or the public may perceive her.
Shortly after incorporating cannabis into her wellness routine, Rachael began to notice positive changes. Her pain and discomfort began to dissipate, even while slowly reintroducing physical and social activities into her life. “With cannabis I don't get the negative side effects of pain pills, but I get the same relief,” she says. Finally, at age 24 she is able to experience a normal adult life. Rachael has returned to work and enjoys participating in activities she could not previously handle. After being a medical cannabis patient for nearly two years Rachael has seen major improvements in her mental health and overall has a more positive outlook on life.
Cannabis in the workplace
By making cannabis part of her daily routine Rachael is able to get through a normal 8- hour workday with minimal discomfort. The effects of cannabis allow her focus more on clients' needs and less on her pain. Rachael recommends being upfront with employers and medicating responsibly to ensure a clear mind throughout everyday tasks. She believes using cannabis should be treated like any other prescription medication, vitamin, or over-the-counter drug. “Cannabis is not the nightmare that everyone makes it out to be,” she says.
Rachael’s experiences at WholesomeCo
After obtaining her Utah medical card, Rachael began utilizing the services at the dispensary in Utah, WholesomeCo. She is always amazed by the friendliness and wealth of information provided by the pharmacy staff, “I feel like I go into WholesomeCo and I don’t know anything, and by the time I walk out I know everything I need to know about all the strains I ask about,” she shares. Rachael’s favorite products so far include cartridges and edibles. Carts provide quick pain-relieving effects and edibles provide her with a discreet extended-release feel.
Just like any prescription medication, Rachael notices when she does not incorporate cannabis into her wellness routine. Medical cannabis has allowed her to function as a normal adult and get her life on track. The Utah medical program has provided Rachael with an accessible and natural way to heal that is less destructive to her body, lifestyle, and well-being.