Medical Cannabis Patient Profile - Overcoming Pain and Stigma: Pam Edgar
Despite suffering chronic pain, PTSD, and MS, Pam Edgar hesitated to trade her prescribed cocktail of meds for cannabis due to the stigma associated with it. This is her story of education, acceptance, and relief.
Though small in stature, Pam Edgar is big in personality.
Pam Edgar, Medical Marijuana Patient
“Don’t use my whole name; no one calls me Pamela. I still haven’t grown into that one yet,” the Vancouver Island resident says playfully as she offers me a stool in her living room. It’s a cozy, womb-like space, intentionally bathed in low light and alive with the trill of her pet birds.
Now 56, Edgar has been managing chronic pain and trauma-related symptoms since she was a teenager.
“I was in a motor vehicle accident in 1975,” she says. “I was on the back of a motorcycle and I got hit by a car. I sustained four compound fractures, a severed femoral artery, and a broken pelvis. My left foot was up around my left ear.”
Initial recovery from the accident stole a year from her life. When she reemerged into society to resume her grade 10 studies, she remained highly medicated on a wide assortment of opioids, analgesics, and anti-inflammatories. Over time, Edgar was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and prescribed antidepressants. Soon enough, she noticed her perception and ability to think logically had become greatly impeded. Since she had not suffered any brain injuries in the accident, she came to attribute these cognition issues to her highly medicated state.
Struggling with her condition and the debilitating side effects of the drug treatments, Edgar shared her concerns with a few people close to her. This is how she was introduced to cannabis a potential medicine.
“I had a friend whose father was a Vietnam veteran who was using cannabis to treat pain and post-traumatic stress disorder,” she says. Whenever he overheard her complaining about her pain, her friend’s father insisted that she try cannabis as a way of dealing with it. Edgar, however, always refused because of the stigma attached to pot.
“I would get kicked out of my house, kicked out of my school, kicked out of the choir that was ever so important to me—no, I wasn’t going to do that,” she says.
Later, as Edgar tackled the daunting process of weaning herself off this cocktail of pharmaceuticals, her friend and confidant noticed her discomfort and pleaded with the suffering teenager to “at least try one toke.” So, just “to shut her up,” Edgar took that one toke.
“I could feel my body relax,” she says. “I could feel the control over my muscles coming back instead of the spasms I was used to.” Edgar walked unassisted up some stairs she previously couldn’t tackle without a cane and “walked across an uneven field with what seemed to be grace for the first time.”
“It didn’t last long, but it was there; it was definitely there.”
After that initial experience, Edgar took a toke whenever cannabis was shared. She began to utilize cannabis as a way of managing her pain.
Then, in 1988, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
By this point, however, Edgar was well-versed in the benefits of medicinal marijuana. She says she believes that her ability to deal with the symptoms of her MS came easier to her because of what she had learned from treating her motorcycle accident injuries with cannabis.
“I know the difference between nerve pain, bone pain, and soft tissue pain. I know what a ligament feels like when it’s too tight or too loose. I know what a muscle spasm is. I know the difference between muscle fatigue and muscle strain. What can I rest, what I have recovered from, and now what actually needs recovery,” she says.
She says opioids made her feel numb, but cannabis worked differently. For her, using cannabis helped isolate the pain, which then allowed her to self-manage it.
“I will smoke indica first thing in the morning because my muscles are tight when I wake up. So, I like to say that I walk my way into my day. When my muscles have relaxed and have allowed me to feel more pliable and more fluid in my motions, then I will smoke some sativa to increase that sensation. But I want to be out of that realm of pain first,” she says.
“Some people think that it’s sativa that helps with pain. It’s the THC that helps with pain. There’s a difference between sativa THC and indica THC to me. Sativa is a stimulant. I don’t want to stimulate what my body is experiencing. I want it to calm down.”
(Interested in hearing another story about a medical marijuana patient? Sophie’s Story: An Example of How Medical Marijuana is Helping Children Heal.)
Cannabis and Nausea
Edgar also says she used cannabis for nausea.
“One of the things that cannabis does—and I think it’s the only drug that successfully does this without side effects—is that it treats nausea,” she says. “Pain causes nausea for me, MS causes motion sickness. That’s two times normal nausea for me.”
Having spent the past 40 years learning to navigate the harsh realities of living with extreme trauma, pain, and chronic illness, Edgar felt she had to share her knowledge. For 10 years, she produced and hosted a weekly talk show called Living for the Health of It on a regional community radio station. Dedicating one show a month to the “cannabis question,” Edgar worked passionately to educate her community about the power of conscious self-management and the broad-spectrum benefits of cannabis therapy.
Edgar just recently retired her talk show. She says she is proud of the decade-long investment, but she’s ready to explore other avenues of cannabis education and she feels she’s well-qualified for the role of consultant.
“Now it’s time for me to get more involved with cannabis care—talking to health care professionals, helping them understand the benefit of cannabis for someone who is in physiotherapy, for someone who is dealing with PTSD. For me, I’m able to do all this and remain as active in my community—and engage with the community that I live in—and it’s all because I have access to cannabis.”