After being told she wouldn’t see out 2017, mum-of-one Luzita Hill declined all treatments being offered to her by the National Health Service – opting instead to use something which had helped her before.
She says: “I was not scared this time round. I’d been here before and I knew there were things that would help.” Luzita, 51, of Kent overcame breast cancer in 2012 after undergoing surgery, whilst also using cannabis creams and oil to deal with the side-effects she encountered after radio and chemotherapy sessions.
She believes the cannabis had also helped shrink an inoperable tumour which had developed in her shoulder. As a result, for the next three years, she was able to return to work running her own holistic therapy business from her Kent countryside home. But, she was left distraught in March 2017, after learning a new primary cancer had metastasised. She was diagnosed with terminal Stage 4 lung cancer and was given three months to live.
“I was told my options would be surgery, involving the removal of two-thirds of the lung, then chemo and radiotherapy. But I declined surgery, it was a small lump and I decided to try a different approach.
“I’ve had some terrible and long- lasting side-effects of the chemo and radiotherapy from the previous breast and lymphatic surgeries. All but five of my teeth fell out after treatments in 2012, and I was told the new chemo would destroy my jawbone, the strongest bone in the face, and I’d lose my remaining teeth, which are very important to me.
“Essentially I have no vein access in one arm, and the other arm is not suitable as all the lymph nodes were removed. “This makes it incredibly difficult to have blood tests and scans, and worries me if I ever need to use the veins, if I have an accident, for example.
“I’m still holding off on this treatment. I’m not going to have any whole body toxic treatment again.” Luzita had started using cannabis infused into a coconut cream which she rubbed on her shoulder, on the recommendation of, and the supply of a friend. Latterly she has used it as an oil, sometimes in a tincture and sometimes from a plant.
She continues: “You start taking something which you know will help, which is what I did. The cannabis was part of a whole regime change. I lived better, took regular massages, exercise, hypnotherapy, and worked on keeping my head straight.
“The consequences are death, but it helped my sanity having some hope. I’m still here, I’m still well, all the side-effects I was told I was going to get as I was deteriorating haven’t occurred, so something is definitely helping.
“And I can’t say it’s anything other than the cannabis, really. It’s very difficult to be told that you’re going to die. It’s very hard. But, as yet, the condition has not changed. It’s two years on and the the lung cancer has not grown. I’m a living cannabis trial, one with no placebo or time frame to it.
Luzita welcomes the shift in attitude of the Government and the general opening up of the debate on the use of medical cannabis.
“As a cancer patient, and one of thousands who could benefit from its more widespread use, it is madness, and patients are being denied access to it because the doctors say this is rubbish; it’s no good for you.” However she is confused, like many, of the way in which it will be prescribed.
“Will I be offered it, I don’t know? But that’s OK. I have what I’m taking and I will continue to take it. It can’t be denied, what I’m saying. I will continue to use it.”
From a position of scepticism Luzita’s integrative health team have bought into her belief that cannabis has been the key to her on-going vibrancy.
“Everyone is fully supportive. I’ve letters of support from all the specialist staff helping me. During my most recent appointment they said that it was obviously not doing any harm, but went on to say it could not be prescribed to me because there is no evidence that is does any good for cancer. But, since then things have changed, they seem to be changing every week, so we’ll see.”
Luzita and her husband Terry circled the date June 3, 2017 into the family calendar – the day she refers to as her ‘expiry date’, the date when her three month time window terminated.
“It was the the date we would not speak about, my husband spent most of the day staring at me in a quizzical fashion! I survived! So it also became the day when I decided I would start doing some scary and new things.”
The first of these adventures was going to a talk, on her own own, on the use of medical cannabis run by a support group with Prof David Nutt of Imperial College London. Luzita returned invigorated:
“It was amazing, it was such a different conversation to the ones I’d been having; the ones where the medical professionals would simply roll their eyes at me.
“It had got to the point where I was asking my MP to do something about my health. This is pure madness; it should be my GP – not my MP – who’s looking after my health.”
Following last November’s underwhelming law change, many cannabis advocates are hoping the new guidelines – to be released in October – will make access to cannabis on the NHS much easier. However, over two years on from learning her cancer had returned, Luzita is feeling chipper and strong.
We spoke the day after a long, taxing 10-hour day, which involved a six-hour drive to attend the funeral of a fellow patient. She’d spent the day in the company of, what she likes to refer to as, her fellow ‘survivors and thrivers’ – almost all living in limbo while the UK’s legal position is clarified.
She said: “People are still too scared to tell their doctors, for various reasons, but we think if we can all stand as one, it will help us all. “We are still viewed as criminals, and many are still scared of the law.
“Most people have their doctors on their side, obviously, I’m lucky that I’ve got all of mine backing me, now. My GP’s saying whatever I can do to help, tell me, but I don’t know and, as yet, he doesn’t know. That’s where we are currently at.
“It’s not that the help isn’t there, but many are too scared to ask for it, because they are still doing something that’s illegal. And as the law changes many worry that it won’t affect them, they won’t have access to the drugs they want and they will still be criminals.
“But, when all’s said and done, we are not. We are not criminals. We are still patients, and we are simply people looking for help. If we can live with a cannabis prescription that would be perfect, but if not we will continue to live as cancer criminals.”