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Over the past few weeks I have had an increasing amount of break through pain. At first I wondered if I was imagining it, but after a couple of weeks I realised I was not. After my body adjusted to the low dose of morphine tablets I began taking in October last year, I had come to take being free from pain and what I call discomfort for granted, but now the pain was resurfacing. Just over a month ago I decided to add another option to dealing with the pain – medicinal cannabis in the form of an oral spray called Sativex. Recent changes to the process of applying to have this as a legal option for cancer patients who are experiencing pain, loss of appetite, nausea and significant weight loss meant that it was now a straight forward process for my GP to fill in the required form and obtain permission from the Ministry of Health to prescribe it for me. Unfortunately, as with other pharmaceutical industry drugs, it is obscenely expensive. However I decided to fork out an initial dollop of money and give it a go. In New Zealand, Novartis, an international drug company based in Switzerland is the drug company making millions out of supplying Sativex.

One immediately noticeable benefit was a big increase in my appetite which has resulted in my putting on nearly 3kgs. And I feel stronger and better for it. It is also very effective in getting rid of the break through pain. The one drawback is that I am currently only able to take it once a day. Twice a day and I get horribly stoned. So it is obviously quite potent. Either that or I am extremely sensitive to the cannabis used in the manufacture of Sativex. It took my body a couple of weeks to adapt to the dramatic side effects of morphine which then disappeared, so maybe it will take me a few weeks to get used to Sativex, and I will then be able to use it twice a day.

I am now also using Sevredol as another option to deal with the break through pain, taking it once or twice a day as well as the slow release 10 mg M-Eslon capsules I take every morning and at night. My oncologist put me on M-Eslon once I had adjusted to taking morphine in the form of the faster acting Sevredol pills.

As the break through pain has now become a daily event I think I will need to increase the dose of morphine when my current prescription of M-Eslon runs out. I need to do carefully as I want to stay as alert and focused as I am now.

It is good to have options, as all drugs have unwelcome side effects, and we cancer patients have to work hard on finding the ones that work best for us. I also appreciate that the current government has seen fit to start removing the barriers to patients having access to medicinal cannabis, and that I have a GP and an oncologist who are both very supportive of my trying Sativex. I am also most fortunate that my oncologist is probably the only oncologist in New Zealand who has led Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of Sativex, so didn’t freak out when asked to help with applying for me to try this drug.