When I was a little girl, I really wanted to be a doctor but I didn't want to go to medical school because it would take too much time. Specifically, I really wanted to cure cancer. Perhaps this was related to the fact that when I was six months old I had a rare blood virus that required multiple blood transfusions and a spinal tap, and my mom described the months sitting in the pediatric oncology unit of the hospital surrounded by infants and small children with cancer and their parents. I could not imagine a sadder place to be.
When I was thirteen years old, I persistently called oncologists and asked how I could volunteer my time or help at the hospital to get a head start on my career, but no one had any options for me. Finally, I received a phone call from Dr. Arthur Ablin, a doctor at UCSF Hospital. Dr. Ablin kindly explained that until I was a trained physician, I could not interact with patients, but I could get involved in non-profits related to my interests. I became the youngest member of the Marin Cancer Product, a grassroots organization searching for the cause of the disproportionately high cancer rates in my hometown of Marin County, California. The first thing we did was walk door-to-door to over 100,000 households in one day and surveyed Marin residents about their histories, occupations, household products, and any incidence of cancer in their families. One of the questions was about cosmetics and personal care products, and as a makeup-obsessed eighth grader, I could not understand the link between beauty products and cancer. I quickly learned that the cosmetic industry was unregulated and most of my favorite products contained industrial chemicals that had not been tested for safety, some even linked to cancer. I was totally devastated. I knew I had to fight back, but I didn't know how. Maybe, I thought, if women joined together and demanded safer products, companies would listen. Ten years later, here I am, still figuring it out.
One other relevant detail is that you could call me a "cannabis enthusiast." Growing up in Northern California, it is practically in the air I breathe walking down the street. Of course cannabis should be regulated and deemed illegal for minors, but overall I believe that marijuana is a plant (literally) with unrealized health benefits and potential for healing. So naturally, I made it my latest dream to create organic body care products infused with cannabis oil. I spent last summer in San Francisco experimenting with the highest-quality raw butters and oils and developing products inspired by everything I learned from my precious time working at S.W. Basics.
The results were fascinating: somehow, the cream I whipped up in the kitchen was able to heal and immediately eliminate all pain from a bad burn, completely get rid of a headache, and soothe sore muscles instantly, while also moisturizing the skin. The only thing I was missing was a reliable source of the highest-grade and cleanest cannabis oil, which is concentrated marijuana in the form of an oil, made popular by Rick Simpson's open-source guide on how to make it and the personal accounts of many who insist the oil has put their cancers in remission. I began collecting all articles I could find about the potential link between cannabis oil and cancer, frantically sending them to my skeptical family members, and my even more skeptical friends in medical school with the subject line: "OMG weed cures cancer!" They responded that I was probably stoned, and the authors of the articles were probably stoned, too. (Admittedly, I most likely was, which made it even more unbelievable!)
Then I found an article that was published in San Francisco Weekly Newspaper in April of 2013 called, “‘Miracle’ Cannabis Oil: May Treat Cancer, But Money and the Law Stand in the Way of Finding Out.” A picture of Constance Finley, the main subject of the article, was on the front cover of the newspaper. Constance has been making cannabis oil for five years. Her story goes something like this:
At the age of 44, Constance became very ill with an undiagnosed autoimmune disease and was housebound for ten years. A few years ago, she nearly died from a prescription drug called Humira that was used to treat her condition. Out of complete desperation, she began researching alternative medicines that could help her chronic pain and inflammation and discovered cannabis as a potential option. Though extremely hesitant at first, she tried cannabis and it immediately helped with her pain and insomnia. Her results were so remarkable that Constance enrolled at Oaksterdam University, where she studied cannabis cultivation and taught herself how to make cannabis oil. She spent years perfecting her oil recipes and ratios, and now she makes some of the best cannabis oil in the world out of her home laboratory with the help of a few assistants. She has been using her oil, called Constance Pure Botanical Extracts, to effectively treat hundreds of people with cancer, Lyme disease, epilepsy, ADHD, PTSD, and a variety of other health conditions. Constance operates fully legally, requiring an in-house visit or delivery by car only in California for people with a valid doctor's recommendation.
I met Constance at her house on December 31st. I was immediately moved by her warmth, her witty sense of humor, and her sustained sense of calmness as she navigated twenty thoughts and phone calls at once. She immediately opened up to me, sharing the stores of people she saved from terminal cancer. These are the stories that give you chills, the stories that sounds too good to be real but you hope are true because they just give you hope in humanity. Constance explained that for years she was in hiding, scared of the cannabis industry and her innate responsibility to change it.
Because the public is still so doubtful of the benefits of marijuana, most cancer patients that find Constance are at the last stage of their illness, without any other treatment options to keep them alive. She said she learned primarily through trial and error (and not sleeping for years,) but in time she was able to find the perfect ratios of her oil to help hundreds of people. Many well-known oncologists now refer hundreds of patients to her for treatment, and two different groups of doctors are researching her oil. Unlike cannabis oil used in edibles and for recreational purposes, Constance's Pure Botanical Extracts Oil is produced and sold for medicinal purposes only. Her focus is cancer. She had a 96% efficacy rate in treating 26 patients with Stage 4 cancers, and she works with about 130 patients at a time. Constance receives hundreds of calls and emails every singly day from individuals and their families all over the world who believe she is their only hope.
Constance Finley is not your typical cannabis entrepreneur. She has a masters degree in clinical psychology, spent many years working as a clinical psychologist and college professor, and then began a long career in finance and accounting. She has the confidence of an investor and the care of a mother as she speaks with persistence and elegance. Constance is my hero, in every sense of the world. She makes me proud to be a woman. I am in awe of her and I am so excited to work with her one day.
And guess what? I'm not scared of cancer anymore. I'm not scared of evil corporations. I'm not scared of anything. Because fearless women like Constance are leading the way into a better future for everyone.