Kevin Strombel: A Family United by Cannabis
Kevin Strombel, 26, has had a complex medical history and association with cannabis since his teenage years. His brother Tim is the Director of Media Development for Cashinbis, an online multimedia platform that covers the business side of the medical cannabis industry. In 2011, the two brothers lost their father to cancer, an event that inspired both of them to pursue their professional passions. Since his father’s passing, Kevin has become an award winning Chef in San Diego, CA and Tim has pursued his dreams in the world of media and entertainment. While they may have ventured their separate ways over the years, the two brothers share a bond with their father that was created through the impact of medical cannabis. Kevin Strombel recently took the time to tell us about his journey and exactly how that bond became so strong.
Written By Kevin Strombel
Lambs bread, Leda Uno, Blue Moonshine, Purple Kush. To some these names merely represent different strains of cannabis. To others they are more specific, containing different levels of Indica or Sativa properties. But to me, they are memories. Each smell and taste reminds me of a time when a father and son would spend their time together, not just growing and enjoying cannabis, but bonding over a shared passion that would forever bind them in love and memory.
My father was an amazing man. He was a family man who prioritized his children above all things. He coached almost every sport his kids played. He made sure we were all well fed, often going into work early to make sure he could be home to cook dinner for all of us when we finished with our busy schedules. Together, both he and my mom fought hard to make sure their kids were the best they could be. It was only after my high school graduation that he revealed to me that he was an avid cannabis user. It was a surprise without a doubt. How could a man who did so much with his life, raise such an amazing family, maintain such an amazing job, be the type of person that he was, also be an avid cannabis grower and advocate?
Each smell and taste reminds me of a time when a father and son would spend their time together, not just growing and enjoying cannabis, but bonding over a shared passion that would forever bind them in love and memory.
I was taught in school from an early age that cannabis was a gateway “drug”, and that the use of such would only lead to further drug abuse. That education continued in high school as many students were expelled for possession and use of cannabis. There was a stigma around cannabis, and I believed every bit of it. I believed that those who used cannabis were drug users, and I thought less of them for it. The societal stigma affected me to my core, and I never believed or understood any arguments advocating the use of cannabis, medical or recreational. However, my beliefs were forever changed the day my father sat me down and told me of his passion for cannabis. His passion was inspiring, and knowing the man he was, I could not help but absorb the love he had for cannabis.
From that day on, I engrossed myself in cannabis culture. I used cannabis on a daily basis. I read everything I could; the many versions of the Cannabible my father owned, books on growing cannabis, and scientific research on the multitude of effects of cannabis. My father and I had nightly conversations encompassing all topics of cannabis, but I most enjoyed our brainstorms on how to improve our own growing operation. We believed that our indoor organic set-up could easily surpass any cannabis we would purchase at any local medical cannabis shops. We sought out to grow a product that we could enjoy on a daily basis. We grew cannabis not to make a profit or win awards, but to share in a bond of creating something magnificent. Our goal was simple, but what I would experience in the next three years would, in many ways, forever shape the person I am today.
I have had a rough life when it comes to medical problems. At 6’6 it should come as no surprise to know I have had issues with my body. When I was 16, my mom noticed my left shin had progressively bowed out a bit more than my right. I played football at the time, so she would often rub night cramps out of my leg. An x-ray revealed a large tumor, roughly the size of three golf balls lined up, growing in my shin. The plan was to take some bone and bone marrow from my Iliac Crest and fuse it with cadaver material. The procedure was a success, and I was able to play my senior year of football. However, throughout the year I began to notice my left foot was numb, from the toes to my Achilles. Another procedure was performed, effectively destroying any hopes of a football career. I spent four months in a wheelchair, and was given a Vicodin prescription for the pain, 6 pills a day for 6 months.
Once we settled in, my father and I began crafting our new growing set-up. We spent days brainstorming ways to configure our new space – everything from the wooden frame light mounts to ventilation and humidity control. We went to local hydroponic shops and researched the most effective indoor organic growing methods.
Once recovered, my family decided to move to Temecula, California. My brother lived in San Diego at the time, and sister lived close by our new house in Temecula. The family being close together was very important to my parents, and I couldn’t argue with being close to such an amazing city. Once we settled in, my father and I began crafting our new growing set-up. We spent days brainstorming ways to configure our new space – everything from the wooden frame light mounts to ventilation and humidity control. We went to local hydroponic shops and researched the most effective indoor organic growing methods. Every night we conversed over a bag or two of vaporized cannabis. We looked forward to these nightly conversations and together we designed the perfect set-up.
I began to split my time between San Diego and Temecula. I had a girlfriend who went to UCSD, and of course my brother lived in La Jolla. We spent our time going to the beach, exploring the city, and I loved meeting new people in a new place for the first time. Since I had no place to live at the time, I slept on the floor of my brother’s room. One morning I woke up, and the scar on my hip from my first surgery felt odd, like someone had pierced something deep into the bone. I looked down and saw a chunk of bone sticking out of my scar, a bit unnerving to say the least. I removed the chunks from the hip, placed them in a zip-lock bag, and went to the hospital. I was back at a hospital in Temecula a few days later. It turns out a sinus had developed in my scar tissue because of some bone chips from my Iliac Crest, and it seemed to be an easy fix. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
My first procedure revealed a MRSA infection, one of the deadliest, deep in my hip. I spent three weeks in the hospital, pumped full of intravenous antibiotics and morphine. I was sent home with more pain pills, and was told it would only take a few weeks to recover. My father used cannabis during his recovery, and I did the same, replacing my narcotic pain medications.
Around the same time, my father was diagnosed with skin cancer. He had a few melanomas on his face and torso, which were swiftly removed to prevent spreading. While he was recovering, I was going through the worst period of my life. My first procedure revealed a MRSA infection, one of the deadliest, deep in my hip. I spent three weeks in the hospital, pumped full of intravenous antibiotics and morphine. I was sent home with more pain pills, and was told it would only take a few weeks to recover. My father used cannabis during his recovery, and I did the same, replacing my narcotic pain medications.
One night I woke up with an excruciating pain all along my left side. I had severe hematoma, and my left hip area was dark red and hot. I was rushed to the hospital, where my staples were removed as clots of blood spilled from my wound. Safe to say it was quite an intense experience. My wound remained open, still bleeding, as I was sent home to rest and recover. I fell asleep on our couch as my friends, who were visiting at the time, and family kept good spirits, attempting to make me comfortable. I woke up to a pool of my blood soaking into the couch, and a look of shock on all those who were present. There was nothing that could be done besides getting to bed, placing three towels under my left hip, and trying to stay positive and get some sleep. As I settled into bed, I began to wonder if this would be my last night, would I survive this or would I die right in this bed from bleeding? As these thoughts raced through my head, my father walked in with a huge bag of Purple Kush. A calm look swept across his face as he handed me the bad and reclined back in a chair next to my bed. I could only imagine what could be going through a parent’s face seeing that look of mortality on the face of their child. There he stayed, filling bags of Purple Kush until I fell asleep. Cannabis got me through that night. I had 4 surgeries done since then, and I continued to use cannabis to replace the need for narcotics.
As I settled into bed, I began to wonder if this would be my last night, would I survive this or would I die right in this bed from bleeding? As these thoughts raced through my head, my father walked in with a huge bag of Purple Kush. A calm look swept across his face as he handed me the bad and reclined back in a chair next to my bed.
Once recovered, I moved down to San Diego to live with my brother. On a visit back to Temecula, my parents delivered some intense news. My father’s cancer had spread to the nerve bundle of his left shoulder. He had a Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in his right chest wall. The doctors believed it best to remove his right arm and part of his chest wall as a way to hopefully remove as much of the SCC as possible. I decided to move back to Temecula so I could help as much as possible. My main help involved cooking whatever I could to make it an easier recovery. Having been bed-ridden myself, I knew how much a well-cooked meal helped recovery. I enjoyed a bag or two of cannabis with my father, and then I would make him a fantastic meal. I became obsessed with cooking during this time, and I told my father if he only had 100 meals left, I would make each one to the greatest of my ability.
The decision to take his arm and chest wall came too late; The cancer had spread throughout his skin cells and chest wall. It looked like acid was dripping on his torso, slowly eating away at everything in its path. It took a physical toll on my father, and an even greater emotional toll on our family. I provided my dad with hourly bags of Indica with the hope to ease his pain, while I used cannabis to keep focused on cooking and maintaining a positive attitude. I could tell cannabis helped him sleep, and also allowed us to stay close together by sharing in something we had both loved for so long. Even when he could no longer talk from the tumor in his Lymph Node, I could still tell he enjoyed our bag time together.
I could tell cannabis helped him sleep, and also allowed us to stay close together by sharing in something we had both loved for so long. Even when he could no longer talk from the tumor in his Lymph Node, I could still tell he enjoyed our bag time together.
My father passed away on September 19, 2011. I was playing my drums after enjoying a bag of blue moonshine when my mother came into my room with a look I would never forget. I knew he had passed, and went upstairs to be sure. His pulse had been feint for a few days, so I took the stethoscope and placed it on his heart. He was gone forever, but I found myself not overcome with sadness or depression. I was happy… honored.
The experiences we shared were not normal by any means. They were special. How many people can say they spent three amazing years so close to their father in the pursuit on something so great? We weren’t always close while I was growing up, but those last three years we developed a bond that far surpassed anything I could have hoped or imagined. That year forged who I am as a person. I became a Chef and made a successful career from merely learning to cook for my sick father. I gained a perspective that few have, and the use of cannabis provided the foundation for who I am today.
I have had a few more procedures on my leg since then. My achilles has been replaced and lengthened twice. My second toe on my left foot has been broken and fused together twice, no longer able to bend. I have severe nerve damage and progressive nerve death in my left leg. The pain is often unbearable. Any other person in this condition would never dream of hiking parts of the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and Zion national park, but I am a member of two hiking groups in El Paso, Tx. I hope to complete the John Muir trail in the next two years, and cannabis helps me live the way I want to live. From lotions, to edibles, and the occasional puff or two, cannabis has helped me through every difficult period in my adult life, and has allowed me to achieve amazing things. Best of all, the taste and smell remind me of my father, and that is the greatest gift cannabis can give.
What words can you share with Kevin about his story and experience with cannabis?