How Christina Evans Conquered Chronic Pain with Cannabis, Yoga Therapy
Cannabis continues to build hope for those with life-changing illnesses–in sickness and in health.
As its medical components are further utilized and discovered, research and changes to statewide policies have rapidly progressed, promoting the plant’s widespread benefits.
Christina Evans, Medical Cannabis Patient, and a resident of British Columbia, Canada, recently shared her uplifting story and success in treating Syringomyelia-a rare spinal cord disease-with cannabis.
At just 31, and after seven years of odd symptoms, Evans received her diagnosis in 2013. Her ongoing symptoms included several neck injuries, full body numbness, and intensely frequent pain throughout her limbs and joints.
After scans confirmed Evans was suffering from degenerative disc disorder, followed by an emergency MRI, her doctors were finally able to pinpoint the source of her pain.
The MRI showed a cyst filled with fluid located in her cervical spinal cord.
“The cyst–called a syrinx–destroys and deteriorates the spinal cord by elongating and expanding over time,” Evans shared.
“It causes permanent destruction of the nerves, which can result in pain, paralysis or paresis, weakness, and stiffness in the back, shoulders, arms, or legs. [The syrinx] can also cause various issues such as headaches … bowel control issues, sweating and abnormal body temperature.”
Due to its location on her spine (c6-t1), Evans’ syrinx often causes sensitivity in her ears:
“Sometimes it sounds like everything is underwater. There is a ringing [in my ears], and even my own voice will cause agony.”
Evans had experimented with various methods of treatment since receiving her diagnosis, though there is currently no known cure for this rare, idiopathic disease:
“I am considered inoperable… You can’t just remove a syrinx from your spinal cord. If I were to lose mobility and need a wheelchair, then a shunt can be placed to continually drain the syrinx, in hopes to stop it from enlarging. But that’s all science has come up with for now. My neurosurgeon told me I need to “pick my own path”…Ha! What on earth does that mean? I soon learned no one really knew how to treat me … I am usually the first patient in [doctors’] careers with Syringomyelia. My invisible illness makes it look like I am faking my pain, embellishing symptoms, seeking pills … but I was determined to continuously try and reduce all the medications. My symptoms were becoming worse by every passing month … I was deteriorating fast and hated how everything was making me feel. So my doses kept going up, although I didn’t want them to. I was desperate for relief. I was depressed and angry. It was hard to think about my future.”
With hope to find further relief and unsuccessful attempts, thus far, Evans began researching alternative methods of treatment.
“6 months after [my diagnosis] was the lowest point in my life. I was mentally struggling, feeling guilty that my kids have a sick mom. I was tired all the time. I knew I wasn’t giving them my best … I wanted to be better for them and for my husband. I needed to start some form of exercise but my list was limited … I needed to do something gentle. My GP highly suggested Bikram hot yoga, so that night, I took my first class. That was the day I finally started to fight back and take some control.”
Evans said she was hooked after just five classes. She loved the way her body responded to the heat and postures. She was sleeping better, felt her energy returning, and even reduced the dosage of her pain meds.
Although she was feeling better, her condition continued to worsen. She began to feel the toll her symptoms and prescriptions were taking in her body, especially during her classes.
“I have received a dozen types of painful, deep injections in all parts of my spine, trying to combat the pain … I was struggling to make the short walk to my children’s school, I couldn’t chase them around anymore … By dinner, it was like I was nine months pregnant, waddling around due to the pain,” she shared.
“It was constant sciatica pain, all day, every day … My recent nerve root injections were no longer working to mask it. I was at maximum dosage for three of my six prescriptions. Surgery was scheduled for fall 2015 to repair my bulging disc, in hopes it would help reduce some of my pain, since there were no other viable options. I had another long wait for an updated MRI ahead of me [and] my pain was [indefinitely] at a 10 … This was going to be tough.”
While spending countless hours on research for alternative pain relief, Evans said she kept stumbling onto stories about cannabis oil.
She discovered that people who suffered from many illnesses were treating their symptoms with the oil, and experiencing amazing results.
“[Cannabis] was always at the back of my mind. I was at a standstill with my doctors. … So I decided it was time to start taking the oil. I took my first dose on March 17th of 2015. I really felt I had nothing to lose by trying it,” Evans said.
Evans began the doses with no guidance from her current doctors. She stated that her biggest influence was Rick Simpson–a pioneer in medical cannabis, and creator of the renowned RSO (Rick Simpson Oil).
After thorough study of his website and video, “Run from the Cure,” she followed his suggestions on how to start building her tolerance and take the oil safely.
She started with a dose size comparable to a grain of rice, administering it once she woke, with a second dose to follow at 3pm:
“I put the oil on my tongue and drink it with a hot beverage. That helps melt the oil down my throat easier to hide the taste. Also, a hot drink activates the THC for good pain relief. I kept this dose for about a week. The only side effect I felt was an increased heart rate, which felt like having a good cup of espresso. I would stay busy and often cleaned my house. Then I eliminated a dose, so I was taking just one morning dose, and slowly increasing it over time. The dose I’ve maintained for several months now is .10 gram, which is about the size of a blueberry.”
Evans said she felt the effects of the oil within three days. Her sleep patterns and overall energy were improving, and by the first week, she already noticed a decrease in overall body pain.
By week eight, she had completely weaned herself off 3200mg Gabapentine; 300mg Tramadol; 300mg Effexor; 75mg Baclofen; 1000mg Naproxen, and a significant decrease in her Robaxacet script.
“The cannabis oil really helped with withdrawal symptoms, especially from Effexor. I had gone off of it before, and it was hell. By 16 weeks, I no longer felt the effects from my prescriptions … It just got better every passing month. I haven’t had one of my usual weekly migraines in seven months, and my headaches are light and reduced to just a couple per month. My brain fog has lifted and my anxiety and depression are completely controlled … No more painful spasms and hardly any nerve pain … No more night sweats or restless legs … No more hot flashes. I still get numbness and weakness in my arms, but my overall body pain has been greatly reduced.
During Month 7 of her new treatment plan with cannabis oil, Evans finally received the MRI, greatly anticipating her results.
“My results showed that my syrinx had shrunk in length and width. My disc degeneration was reversing. My bulging discs were starting to heal and my neurosurgeon said my yoga practice is pulling the disc back to normal position in the spine. I no longer need surgery … He’s fully supportive of my Bikram practice and cannabis oil use, and was thrilled at my progress.”
Three months later, Evans was experiencing pain-free days, something she never thought to be possible.
Now, nearly two years after beginning treatment with cannabis, Evans is thankful to share her own success story.
“Life has really changed for the better. I’m thriving more than ever. Hardly bothered by any symptoms. Flare-up days are mild. I just need to remember to take it easy and be gentle to myself.”
In addition to being a full-time Mom, Evans was also excited to share that she’s back to working part-time–the first time she’s been able to work in over seven years since the symptoms of her illness took hold.
As she looks to the future, Christina believes she’s found her path to healing with both cannabis oil and hot yoga. In addition to working again, she plans to pursue training to teach yoga–her newfound passion–and help others with chronic pain by sharing her story.
“I haven’t needed a doctor once since starting the oil. I haven’t have a single injection or so much as popped a Tylenol … I am so grateful for this second chance to enjoy life.”
Article Written by Leah Kennedy