MERLIN, Ore.–“I wanted to die.”
That’s how Jessamyn Way said she felt immediately after she delivered her fourth baby in 2009. It should have been a happy moment, but clearly, it was far from.
“The headache was just so horrific that it didn’t matter to me to live anymore,” Jessamyn said.
The Merlin woman had experienced horrible headaches throughout her pregnancy, but it wasn’t until right after delivery that doctors discovered she had a ventricle brain tumor. Jessamyn was rushed to the hospital for emergency brain surgery and was given a five to 10 percent chance of surviving.
Doctors told Jessamyn if she did survive, it was unlikely she would be able to walk or talk normally.
Fortunately, Jessamyn beat those odds. She survived the surgery with all of her motor functions intact. But the relief didn’t last long.
SUFFERING FROM EPILEPSY
As is common with most brain operations, Jessamyn was left with postoperative epilepsy. The stay-at-home mom said she was forced to spend the majority of her time in a dark room with pillows over her head to avoid lights and sounds that would trigger seizures.
It was hard on her, but she says was especially hard on her children.
“[My son] had to call 911 and have them take me away one day cause I fell to the ground and was doing my thing. That’s hard for a 10-year-old,” Jessamyn said. “I taught my youngest boy, who was 3 at the time, I taught him how to call 911 for me.”
Jessamyn said she would suffer as many as 15 seizures a day, lasting anywhere from five to 30 minutes. And that was while taking her prescribed anti-seizure medications.
“Unfortunately none of the medications they gave me worked. Or I’d break out in hives and be allergic to them,” Jessamyn said.
Four years later in 2013, a doctor’s visit revealed things could get worse. Jessamyn’s doctor found another cancerous tumor in her brain stem, a place it could not be removed.
“Most people will live for a maximum of six years,” Jessamyn said she was told by the doctors.
But Jessamyn said she had enough of living life in the dark. Instead of sulking in the horrible diagnosis, she sought out a new treatment.
SWITCHING TO MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Jessamyn said a friend had encouraged her to try medical cannabis for her seizures in the past. She was hesitant at the time, but after learning of her new tumor she was desperate enough to try anything. After learning more about the medicinal benefits of cannabis, and learning how to grow and create a strand that would work for her, she started taking a few spoonfuls of cannabis oil a day along with her regular medication. Jessamyn said she was shocked by the results.
“I was diagnosed with IBS and GERD and Fibromyalgia and sleep issues that being on all those other medications had done. As I backed off the pharmaceuticals and upped the cannabis, everything started getting better,” Jessamyn said.
Jessamyn claims the cannabis also helped her stay focused on a healthier diet and lifestyle, which lead to shedding more than 100 pounds.
Feeling healthier and suffering fewer seizures, Jessamyn felt more confident to try for something she really wanted; Another baby.
She was successful in getting pregnant but said she lost the baby just one month in. She hadn’t even made it to the doctors yet. The second time, she had to have the fetus removed because it was not forming correctly.
Jessamyn was heartbroken but realized trying to conceive while still taking several painkillers a day was not ideal.
“I did this whole entire change and went fully on the cannabis. I got better. And we decided to try one more time,” Jessamyn said.
Nine months later, a perfectly healthy baby girl named Ahyoka was born on March 9, 2016.
Jessamyn’s pregnancy was closely watched by doctors at the University of Washington. Most doctors would advise pregnant women to stay away from cannabis, but Jessamyn was a special case.
“They saw my backgrounds and they saw that I had lost babies on the pharmaceuticals and that pharmaceuticals had not worked for me. They said, ‘Whatever you’re doing right now is working and they’re good. Don’t Stop,’” Jessamyn said.
With the help of cannabis oil Jessamyn was able to deliver Ahyoka and shortly after, another healthy baby girl named Anya.
The oil was working so well, Jessamyn decided to move to Merlin because Oregon has less restrictive rules than Washington when it comes to cannabis and better weather for growing the plants.
While Jessamyn enjoys her new home, she said she is upset at the fact that she feels “trapped” to the cannabis-friendly states. Even more, she lives in fear that the federal government will take away her medicine completely.
In January 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions lifted an Obama-era policy that kept federal authorities from cracking down on marijuana in states where it is legal. So Jessamyn decided she was going to sue Sessions.
“[Sessions] needs to understand that this is not a drug. This is a medication that keeps people like myself alive,” Jessamyn said. “Him taking this from people like myself is frightening and harassing.”
Jessamyn has attended several town hall meetings held by Oregon senators to share her story and ask that they will stand up for medical cannabis.
A medical nonprofit out of Washington called HRA Squared heard about Jessamyn’s story and is not only supporting her emotionally but financially. They are currently in the process of setting up a donation page for Jessamyn’s attorney.
“She’s a remarkable story, let alone a remarkable woman. And the scientific evidence is irrefutable,” said S. Rowan Wilson, a cannabis advocate and founder of HRA Squared.
Wilson said she is prepared to help Jessamyn with her fight against sessions because “the government should not be prohibiting what we chose to put in our bodies.”
Jessamyn is hoping her lawsuit will give her a chance to share her personal experience with both Sessions and the nation. Her ultimate goal is to change the stigma surrounding medical cannabis.
“It’s not just an unusable drug that I’m getting high on. It’s a medicine that keeps me alive. And without it, these two amazing little girls would’ve never been born,” Jessamyn said. “It’s not a drug. I don’t do drugs. I don’t even drink coffee.”
Jessamyn also hopes to help pave the way for a federal government that is less restrictive on medical cannabis. She said that over the years, travel has become more convenient for Americans with disabilities and medications, but not for those who rely on medical marijuana.
“I can’t get on a plane with my oil and go talk to [Sessions] myself,” Jessamyn said. “Those laws need to change. I need to be able to go wherever I want to go and be just like any other American citizen.”