My name is Beth Cramer. In 2017, at age 49, I was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer. I live with my husband and son in the Hudson Valley and spend my time writing and creating independent films. I had just returned from a two thousand mile road trip to see the solar eclipse with my 13 year-old son and went to see a gastroenterologist for my heartburn. The doctor handed me a stack of Prilosec and a script for a CT scan. While I had no symptoms relating to cancer, that scan revealed it was aggressive. My book “Why Didn’t I Notice Her Before?” documents the humor and headache of my experience as a mother, wife, sister and daughter through this diagnosis. Here is an excerpt.
“Bye, Marijuana Lady,” Noah, my 13-year-old son, shouts at the woman biking away from our house. Moments ago this woman, “Marijuana Lady,” and I were locked in my home office discussing a cannabis protocol to help me through my illness. Now I am stoned and praying she does not hear Noah’s catcalls. A nurse oncologist turned cannabis advocate, president of a Cannabis Nurses Association, and “Glinda the Good Witch” in my cancer fairy tale, also happens to be my neighbor.
Since first diagnosed, I have had a revolving door of friends gift me with high-quality products in the form of vaporizers, dose pens, tinctures, edibles, and joints. My small apothecary is lined up on the coffee table for “Marijuana Lady” to examine. After 45 minutes of background, she gets down to business. Like a craps dealer at Vegas she swipes bottles to the left, joints and vape pens to the right. Raised eyebrows and a grunt tell me which goods pass muster and which don’t. With each cut I feel the pangs of money gambled away on a losing hand. I knew I shouldn’t have bought that weed from the anonymous woman I met at the infusion center who passed me a bag of nameless joints. That guy in Kingston who sold me oil he labeled “house blend” did seem shifty.
It comes time for Marijuana Lady to show me how to operate the vape pen. She takes an enormous hit and indicates that I mimic her. Within moments, the room starts spinning. My guest becomes a two-headed monster. I’m afraid to speak and my anxiety increases ten-fold. Admitting this does not feel good surprises her. She unabashedly tells me of her immunity to the effects. How much research has she done, how much can she tolerate, I wonder? Her credentials no longer seem valid, but I’m stoned and remind myself that I’ll question anything. She eyes two joints labeled BLUE CHEESE. “A good one?” I ask. She warns me against using it, but has no problem taking the joints for herself. As she pockets my Blue Cheese and other unidentified oils, I wonder where they will end up. Later I find out that Blue Cheese, a scarce but treasured strain, helped her through menopause. Nice trick: get me stoned and steal my best shit.
She recommends I take a hit of pure CBD to counteract the psychoactive effects of the THC and sure enough, it works. This is an amazing piece of information. If you feel too high you can always neutralize it. My vision stabilizes just in time for Noah to return home. No sooner do I recuperate than the door to the office flies open. “It reeks of pot.” Noah claims. How does he know?
Flashback to Noah finding a stash of green bud in my closet. This was after my diagnosis. Although I had a medicinal excuse, I panicked. My poorly judged, think-fast response outed my brother-in-law, his uncle, as my source. Noah’s face morphed into Edvard Munch’s The Scream while I ransacked my brain for explanations.
Waving the Tupperware of green bud in the air, Noah huffed around the room in hot-faced judgment. He was busy linking any unusual past behavior with my “habit.” He was angry that I had not confided in him about my usage.
If Noah catches me having a glass of wine or enjoying a bit of chocolate he lectures, “You’re not taking care of yourself, Mom! You have cancer. You shouldn’t be drinking!” True to form, I always feel guilty and concede to his argument, which proves my weakness, allowing him to call me out the next time for what he regards as cheating. Over the last several months, Noah has gone soft on marijuana. He began researching its chemical compounds and healing properties to understand how it might help me. I am proud of him for his ingenuity and possible future in the growing cannabis industry, but concerned by his curiosity.
Whenever I get angry I hear my doctor’s voice telling me it’s important not to get agitated. Parenting a teenager and staying calm is an oxymoron. Working with Noah on his homework, my impatience hit No. 10 on the Richter scale. All I could do was rub my hand and back and forth over my smooth head, a comforting habit I picked up once I went bald.
“Mom, you have two veins popping out of your forehead. Seriously, you should see it. Go look in the mirror. Am I making you that stressed?” Noah asked.
“Yes, but I love you.”
“Well, why don’t you go smoke some pot?”