Tracy Dean has never been fond of conventional medicine. So when the 45-year-old was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, the path to a plethora of pharmaceutical prescriptions was an inevitable future. Or was it?
“I’ve always been pretty holistic, so it was very hard for me to trust the whole system, but I did,” she says. “I had to do six rounds of chemotherapy. I had an aggressive type of cancer called HER2/neu-positive. Basically what that means is it’s a small mass, but it grows at a very fast rate. Had it been found when I was 10 years younger there would not have been a cure for it because the FDA didn’t approve a drug that I was able to get now called Herceptin.”
For treatment and pain management, Dean says she was prescribed everything from antidepressants to Percocet, Oxycodone, Valium, Xanax and more. “I don’t want to call it like a factory, it’s just I don’t know how else to explain it. If you talk to 50 girls, we are all on the same things.”
That rote approach of taking pill after pill to treat the side effects of chemotherapy didn’t sit well with Dean. “Chemotherapy is like the worst hangover, the worst jet lag and the worst food poisoning all at the same time. And you have 18 bottles of prescriptions to try to mask all that stuff, on top of the poison that’s already in you! I knew chemotherapy was key to my treatment but the pill regimen — I was a big fan of not doing that.”
It was a friend from Colorado who suggested Dean try medicinal marijuana edibles, that come in the form of gummy candy, rather than use pharmaceuticals to deal with her pain and the effects of chemotherapy.
Dean had tried cannabis recreationally many years ago but didn’t enjoy it. “I tried it, but wasn’t a fan. It burned my throat and I didn’t like that. So I knew there was no way I was going to smoke it.
“It took me three weeks to get up the courage to take them [the gummies]. I was scared. It’s funny that I was more afraid of the holistic than the poison they were giving me. But I was constipated, I had had the mastectomy, I was doing chemotherapy — everything hurt. I couldn’t eat, I had lost a lot of weight so I finally decided to try them. It was amazing! The candy would help me very much relax and go to sleep, take the edge off any kind of nausea.”
In fact, the edibles were so relaxing that Dean had the tendency to forget about some of the challenges associated with breast cancer. “I remember when I first started eating edibles, watching an infomercial late one night about hot rollers and I thought I have to have those hot rollers. It wasn’t until I stood up to get my credit card that I passed a mirror and remembered I was bald now and couldn’t order hot rollers for hair that I didn’t even have,” Dean recalls with a hearty laugh.
“I was so not in pain and relaxed and it was a great feeling. I remember thinking I love these things,” Dean says of the gummy edibles she used for six months during the worst of the chemotherapy. “I would wake up and not be groggy. It’s very hard when you are in a pain pill funk. That is one of the very big positives about medicinal marijuana is I could function that next day and not be in a cloud.”
When Dean initially started her treatment, she opted for a unilateral mastectomy. But this past summer she made the personal choice not to expose herself to more risk and had a prophylactic mastectomy, in turn, dropping the return rate of her breast cancer to four percent. What have also dropped are the prescriptions thanks to a daily regimen of the cannabinoid CBD.
“A very dear friend of mine is the owner of a company called CannaVest. He immediately sent me a very generous package of something called CBD, which I had never heard of before,” Dean explains. “Straight CBD feels like you have taken an Ibuprofren 800. It almost feels like an anti-inflammatory. I take capsules to go to sleep at night and I have a spray I put under my tongue.
“I can go an entire day without feeling stoned. I already have chemo brain so I couldn’t be stoned with chemo brain, too,” she says, laughing. “[I use CBD] if I have pain and it takes away stress. I do things to get my body strong again like exercising and it takes away the soreness.
“I can’t imagine that I didn’t have [CBD oil] from the beginning. Besides the medicine that I needed for treatment—not the additional medicine they prescribed—it got me through everything.” From CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties to battling pain, Dean has found relief from stress and anxiety-related insomnia as well.
“Sleeping pills are pretty brutal because it’s hard to wake up the next day. I take about a 25mg capsule of CBD oil. I weigh about 120 pounds and it just takes that edge off,” she explains. “Ibuprofen 800s are extremely hard on the stomach, they’re not good for you. I’ve replaced them completely, and am not taking the Ibuprofen anymore. My last surgery was three weeks ago and besides the morphine button in the hospital, I went home and just used CBD!”
Dean splits her time between Las Vegas and Laguna Beach, where she chose to be treated at UCLA and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian. “I have a studio on the ocean in Laguna, so it was easier for me to heal here than Las Vegas because I didn’t drive a lot,” she says.
To keep friends and family up-to-date on her recovery and progress, Dean started a Facebook page called ‘Team Tracy D.’ “I do as much as I can for the cancer world and I share my story and journey with as many people as I can help,” she explains. She’s also helping others with her Tracy Dean Skincare, which is 100 percent pure virgin coconut oil. Ten percent of proceeds are donated to cancer research.
“As far as I am concerned I am good,” Dean says with regard to her prognosis.
“Now I am an advocate for all of it. I just wish there was more education. I believe in [cannabis] so much and so many people haven’t heard of alternate treatments. Health insurance doesn’t pay for this stuff, and it just sucks. The fact that you can’t get it [cannabis] legally or that it’s not covered by your insurance, but you can get oxy for $4 — that is very weird to me,” Dean says.
“Ninety percent of oncologists will not even listen to anything holistic, anything to do with marijuana. I’m sure they will jump on the bandwagon as it gets popular, but the fact that it has to become popular to do what’s best for the patient, not the money-making field that they’re in, would be a blessing.
“I’m hooked on trying to be as healthy as possible,” Dean relays. “My hair is growing back now. I swim, I paddleboard, I walk. I just try to live my life as healthy and calmly as I can. I have an addictive personality, so I love the benefits of CBD—I love the marijuana, too. The edibles were fantastic and amazing for cancer patients. I’d recommend it 1000 percent.”