Cannabis Patient Story: Wendy (part 3 of 3)
Hope and Empowerment
When I was a child, my father attempted to instill in me the belief that hope was a ship that sank. I found this notion absurd, for I had always felt different from the rest of my family. While they envisioned a life centered around staying put, settling down, and raising a family, I craved adventure and a broader understanding of the world. My aspirations were rooted in education, self-reliance, and positively impacting the world.
As fate would have it, in the events of my life, I fell seriously ill, and during that trying period, my father's words seemed to grow in unsettling truth. Yet, deep down, believing in his outlook was skewed in my mind and not credible due to his poor actions toward me during my childhood.
Tools From Childhood Trauma
At the tender age of eight, I discovered I possessed a gifted IQ, and I realized that I often surpassed the understanding of the adults around me. I learned to navigate life on my own terms, breaking free from the limitations imposed on me and persevering against all odds. Learning to do this at a young age proved valuable as I dealt with my illness later in life.
At this stage in my health and wellness journey, as my health improved, I began to view hope as a lifeboat—far more fitting than my father's sinking ship metaphor. I understood that I had control over my destiny and the power to steer my life in a desirable direction. I had learned to define empowerment and live into it, building the road as I lived life and giving it meaning.
My wellness journey brought unforeseen improvements, and I could now walk on a treadmill, swim, cook wholesome meals, and enjoy time with friends without feeling sick. Reflecting on the countless pharmaceutical drugs I had been prescribed, I realized that blindly following the doctor's plan would likely have killed me. The cycle of illnesses caused by pharmaceutical drug overload was an eye-opener. I had developed physical and mental dependence on these drugs and didn't even realize it. It troubled me how mainstream medical practitioners seldom discussed lifestyle choices or alternative remedies to pills, tests, and surgeries. Moreover, the treatments I sought for my sense of well-being, including cannabis, were not covered by insurance, making them attainable but at a financial burden.
One day, while watching television, I became infuriated by the pharmaceutical companies’ drug advertisements bombarding me. It felt like they were directly marketing chemicals to the public, utilizing the same subliminal seduction and marketing tactics as consumer products like Coca-Cola or peanut butter cups. This realization intensified my frustration, and my journey of self-discovery transformed into a passion for helping others break free from the limitations of conventional medicine.
Bulldozer Health, Inc.
The burning desire to make a difference also resonated with my son, Antonio. At 14, he eagerly stepped up to help me establish a nonprofit organization that I named "Bulldozer Health." Together, we embarked on a journey to facilitate access to cannabis recommendations and other "alternative" health methods while educating and inspiring people about proper health and the remedies that had worked wonders for me.
With Antonio's technical expertise, we swiftly set up a website and social media pages, connecting with like-minded individuals enthusiastic about joining our cause. We organized a conference call that garnered the participation of 30 people from across the country, all eager to contribute to our vision of empowering people to take charge of their health.
Realizing the importance of spreading awareness about pharmaceuticals, cannabis, alternative health, and lifestyle choices, I decided to venture into the media realm. Despite having no background in this field, I knew that my voice had the power to reach people and inspire hope and positive change. Years of spiritual growth and healing had revealed my gift for healing by using my voice, and I knew I could use it to influence others positively.
The Bulldozer Health Show
Armed with a few initial recordings, I started "The Bulldozer Health Show" podcast. My wife Angela and I had been reconnecting, and I asked her to get involved since she was a producer. It was time to return to Arkansas and see what was needed there anyway.
My eldest son, Jacob, bought my plane ticket. Angela and I met and started working on recordings at The Fayetteville Public Library. That's when she came up with the idea of making it a tv and radio show, too. I contacted Fayetteville Public Television (FPTV), and they loved the idea of helping us make a tv show. They were very supportive and helpful (and remain so to this day). They had the equipment, the skills beyond what Angela knew, and volunteers interested in the project. It was perfect.
We started producing the show at FPTV. I was the host, and Angela assumed the role of producer. We had leveled up. The show soon caught the attention of radio stations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Arkansas, giving me a broader platform to share the message of Bulldozer Health.
In time The Bulldozer Health Show had six seasons, and the last one aired on KNWA-TV (NBC) in Fayetteville. Mainstream television! They had to air it at midnight because of the cannabis and alternative health content, but they did air it. Having our show aired on television was an honor for Angela, me, and everyone involved in Bulldozer Health.
The Wendy Love Edge Show
After the last show aired, we dabbled in some content ideas and finally settled on a live radio show. We called it "The Wendy Love Edge Show." In 2011, shortly before I became ill, I added Love to the middle of my name. I wanted people to say the word and see it often. As a spiritualist, I knew that love was the answer to every possible question, and I wanted others to realize that too. In a short time, people were calling me Wendy Love Edge. When I began my journey, I had no idea I would be delving into media or doing any of the things I am doing now. It was fitting to name the show this.
The first few seasons were hosted by myself and local comedian Topher Kogen. That show informed, inspired, entertained, and truly created a community. We started live on kpsq.org 97.3 FM in Fayetteville and quickly developed an audience. We soon outgrew their studio because we were bringing in wellness and alternative health guests, cannabis guests, and a band live in the studio each week. The space was small and cramped at times. When I contacted FPTV to bring this show back to that TV studio, they had much confidence that the show would grow further and have an audience there.
As Bulldozer Health gained momentum, I took the stage for "Health Talks," public speaking engagements where I narrated my transformative story and encouraged others to embrace their well-being journey. I started saying, "Take back your health, America," at the end of every talk, asking the audience to repeat it. And repeat it they did, loudly and with enthusiasm. The energy created was amazing, and it helped drive me forward.
The passion within me to help humanity was alive and thriving. I was learning many new skills, from event management to public speaking, and continually gaining knowledge about cannabis and alternative health. It was all exciting, interesting, and rewarding. The establishment of our nonprofit status in the spring reinforced our commitment to educate, inspire, and provide access to alternative health solutions.
Over the next six years, Bulldozer Health flourished and served the public through a combination of podcasts, radio shows, TV appearances, and a concert tour featuring 35 musical acts across four states. The tour was called "Take Back Your Health America." It was a great way to inspire people and create community. Our collaborations with alternative health providers, cannabis doctors, and growers allowed us to provide free medical visits for cannabis recommendations, share cannabis medicine and herbal remedies to those in need (where legal), and sponsor alternative health visits for those who couldn't afford them.
We even developed a community garden to offer free organic vegetables to those facing hardship in four states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Arkansas. I was in Massachusetts still, and though Arkansas was far away, that was the state I had gotten extremely ill in. It was important to me to share our message there.
In 2019, Bulldozer Health proudly organized Fayetteville, Arkansas' first 420 festival, celebrating holistic health and well-being. It was called "The Green Heart Festival." The energy created by the inaugural festival was amazing, and more volunteers began to get involved. As the chief volunteer and queen of Bulldozer Health, I had to ensure that I still cared for myself and balanced my volunteer work by regularly doing everything I spoke about. It was a balancing act for sure as things were growing.
However, the outbreak of the worldwide pandemic in 2020 brought unforeseen challenges, forcing us to cancel our planned 420 festival for Fayetteville on April 20, 2020.
The End of Bulldozer Health
As a grassroots organization, it became apparent that we couldn't sustain Bulldozer Health any longer, and with a heavy heart, we closed the nonprofit at the end of 2020. The journey had its ups and downs. Overall, it was a fantastic experience that brought many volunteers, ideas, and attention to the cause. Our impact on countless lives filled us with immense pride and fulfillment. The passion for making a difference in the world remained alive within me, and I knew that my journey, though transformed, was far from over.
Much like Bulldozer Health, my health journey provided ups and downs over the years. I was able to keep my pharmaceutical drug list in my control. Asking questions about side effects and interactions for any drug they want to prescribe is my norm. I say no to them often, and sometimes with challenges from the doctor. It doesn't matter to me if they disagree. It's my body and my life.
Any doctor that doesn't agree with cannabis use or who tries to tell me smoking joints isn't good for me won't stay on my medical team because I know that it was medical marijuana that saved my life and continues to create the homeostasis necessary for my health and wellness. And not only that, smoking flower improves the asthma that I have. Not vaping, of course— smoking. There are studies to support this.
The truth is, I believe I have a cannabinoid deficiency. My body never feels right without some added cannabinoids. It's the key that unlocks my actual health and wellness. The power is truly in the plant. I have learned that due to long-term Federal prohibition, many people have a cannabinoid deficiency. When they learn about the possibility of improved health and wellness with cannabis medicine, or medical marijuana, they are often compelled to try it. I hear the same story from people over and over. When they start to use the medicine, they finally feel like their body is working right. They finally have some hope.
Wellness is truly a winding journey, not a straight line. There's no magic cure, including cannabis, even though it is an excellent medicine for many ailments and has killed no one. But still, it isn't for EVERY body. It requires self-modification, exploration, and education to get the right blend that works optimally. And pharmaceutical drugs still have their place. We must not throw the baby out with the bath water where that is concerned.
I continue on this journey, including healing all of the trauma that has affected me so profoundly. Cannabis has also assisted me with that, as she opens my mind to new possibilities and calming the PTSD and anxiety symptoms so I can heal.
Time to return to my profession
Twelve years passed from the day I left work as an occupational therapist, so ill that in a short time, I was in a power wheelchair and unable to care for myself. It was time to attempt to go back to work. I nervously looked up what I would do to get my occupational therapy license back in Arkansas and Massachusetts.
I had moved back to Arkansas full-time, and Angela and I got back together a few years before the worldwide pandemic started. First, I tried to get my Arkansas OTR license. Arkansas did not make it easy to get back my license, though. I completed many hours of continuing education and got recertified by our professional organization, but still, they wanted more.
The Universe is always working in my favor.
Since my Massachusetts license had only lapsed for four and a half years, it was easier to reinstate that one. I then obtained a job as Director of Rehab in a facility. It was shocking that they hired me as Director, but they told me I had plenty of previous experience and, more importantly, energy since I had yet to work through the first two and a half years of the pandemic. Many people were burned out in healthcare then, and I was freshly stepping back in. That was attractive to employers and a reminder that the Universe always works in my favor.
After being home nonstop for two years due to the pandemic, just leaving the house was a little daunting. I had to keep encouraging myself and reminding myself that it was time. To make it easier, Antonio flew to Arkansas to make the trip by car back to Massachusetts. Being in my home state to attempt this was a blessing and helped me transition to a worker. I was so excited!
Once there, I moved in with one of my best friends, and I was back to work in a short time. Though my body was tired every night, I was so honored and excited to be able to work again. Though I desired it, I never thought I would attain this level in my journey. Since I have always been a perfectionist, living up to my own standards was one of the hardest parts, along with having to be somewhere on time every day and meet others' expectations. Many people told me it would be just like the old adage about riding a bike, and soon it would be easy for me to work as an occupational therapist and rehab director. That was very true.
The health system is still broken.
Unfortunately, the issues with the health system have worsened, and many of my patients were on giant lists of pharmaceuticals. Cannabis was not an option due to the ongoing Federal prohibition of the medicine. It was all more frustrating than ever with everything I'd been through. And I couldn't talk about it. This conundrum made me realize that mainstream medicine wasn't where I would stay over the long term. But for now, it was essential to learn, gain current experience, and keep moving forward.
I had hoped that Angela would follow me back to Massachusetts and we would live there. For several reasons, however, it didn't work out for my family to stay in Massachusetts. I returned to Arkansas and went back to attempting to obtain an Arkansas occupational therapy license. Finally, they issued my license, and I felt relieved. I had earned it and was ready to find a job at home. The home was feeling good at that time. All that I had hoped for was happening right in front of me.
Angela was so happy that I came back. I think she was worried I might not return. It was challenging on some levels to do so. However, Fayetteville's art and music community is quite alluring, and I missed it. I also missed her very much. Our relationship isn't a straight line either. But love is always present and soothes the aching hearts of two people suffering from illness, trauma, and heartache. Our love and marriage bind us as family, which is very important to me.
I'm still working on balancing cannabis use, working, and my health issues. It's pretty intense dealing with all the different diseases, remaining forward-thinking, realizing my capabilities, and establishing my limitations.
Lessons learned from being sick
Disability and illness have taught me many things:
- Each day truly is a gift. Have some fun, no matter what challenges you face.
- We are in charge of a good deal of our health. Be empowered. Take charge.
- Learning about and healing trauma is essential to health and wellness.
- Cannabis, along with the remedies for health, including positive thinking, using pharmaceutical drugs when the benefit outweighs the risk, nutrition, exercise, and adequate rest, is vital.
- Health and healing do not happen in a straight line. The journey always continues, and even at a low, all is possible.
I meet people who were helped or touched by Bulldozer Health constantly in person and online. Every time, this makes me smile. I learned much about media through the Bulldozer Health Show and The Wendy Love Edge Show—now called The Edge Show. And it was my honor to serve, educate and assist others via the nonprofit as I continually learned to heal myself.
In 2021, The Edge Show won the best TV, radio show, and podcast in Northwest Arkansas by The Idle Class Magazine. Angela and I couldn't have been more proud. I was also given The Patient Choice Award at The Cannabis Awards presented by The Mike Wise Show. I've been asked to appear on countless podcasts, radio, and TV shows and speak at HempFests and other festivals. It's nice to be recognized, but more importantly, it makes my heart feel full and happy that people want to listen, be inspired, find their voice, and improve their own health and wellness.
Hope is a bridge.
I didn't anticipate the impact of my journey on those who are disabled like me. I think sometimes people only see what disabled people cannot do. I am still disabled. My body has limitations, and my mental health poses challenges as well. Maybe it's the Occupational Therapist in me, but I can't help but turn that around and find my abilities, creating more as I go for a more enriched and full life. I'm eternally curious and have managed to remain an optimist.
I also believe that cannabis helps the mind create and see possibilities, so she is my constant companion. I haven't always made perfect decisions in this life, but I have had the best lessons, many of them from while I was ill and facing my own mortality. My best decision was to become empowered in my health and wellness.
Because by becoming empowered, anything is possible, and hope is a bridge to a happy and full life.