The Chemo Diet


Note: Everyone’s experience with chemotherapy and cancer treatment is unique. The following is the author’s personal experience. 

On my first day of chemo, I was exactly the type of nervous you'd expect. It's kind of like the first day of school, but only if you went to a school where your classmates were super old and very sick. I had a long list of questions that kept running through my head. What does it feel like to have toxic chemicals injected into your body? How soon would I lose my hair? What does one wear to a chemo session? The answers all came pretty quickly (doesn't feel great; in about a month; sweatpants). My incredible nurse answered all of my questions and then asked one of her own: “Do you want a prescription for medical cannabis?”

She explained that I wasn't allowed to lose weight during my treatment and the cannabis would help keep my appetite up. It was the weirdest silver lining I had ever encountered in my life. For the first time ever, I was encouraged to smoke bowls and eat like crazy. The only catch was that I had to get cancer to qualify for this insane diet. Don't lose any weight? I took it as a challenge. I wanted to be the first guy to gain weight on chemo.

From that very first day of chemo until my last, I smoked a bowl as soon as I got home. I plowed through boxes of donuts and microwave taquitos like I had just broken out of Fat Camp. I ate ice cream for dinner and hot dogs for breakfast. For years, I had tried to convince myself to choose a salad instead of wings but now all bets were off. 

As week after week melted away, I was winning the game. My nurses were legitimately impressed that I was able to keep my weight up. Then the chemo wall hit me. No matter how stoned I got, I just didn't feel like eating. It actually wasn't the lack of appetite that was the problem – it was moving. That's the thing about chemo. It works cumulatively. The more treatment you get, the worse you feel. Your first few weeks don't even feel that bad. “This is it?” you think. “This is the big, bad, scary treatment everyone talks about?” And then a few more weeks go by and you realize you have to puke but getting to the bathroom seems like wayyyy too much effort so you just keep a plastic bag next to your bed. That was the point where I could still eat, but I had no interest in getting my ass over to the fridge. In those weeks, cannabis turned from miracle drug that gave me an appetite to miracle drug that made me forget about what was happening.

The most amazing thing about marijuana is that it's nature's greatest memory eraser. When you're going through something traumatic like chemotherapy, you want your memory to be as fuzzy as possible. I don't have the world's greatest memory to begin with, but weed made those entire three months of my life into a giant haze. I came up with a plan. I smoked with a vengeance on the nights before I had a long day of treatment. That way, I could wake up groggy and sleep my way through chemo the next morning. On days without treatment, I toned it down a little – but just a little. Truth be told, the only thing that made me feel like my normal pre-cancer self was smoking. Cannabis was my greatest ally in the fight against cancer. Well, maybe second greatest. I mean, come on, my highly-trained medical team clearly deserves first place.

My treatment lasted for three months. While my zealous desire to binge Ho-Hos every night went away, I can proudly say that I kept up my end of the bargain and stayed the same weight I was when I started. Looking back, I couldn't have done it without smoking those bowls every day. In a pot cloud of faded memories and discarded In-N-Out bags, I made it through a bout with cancer and lived to tell the tale. 

I'm back to trying to convince myself to choose salad over wings, but there's a super strange thing that happens to me sometimes. Once in a very long while, I actually miss those hazy days. I get nostalgic for the time when losing weight was bad and following my doctor's orders meant sparking up some Sour Diesel and ripping open a fresh bag of Sour Patch Kids. Then I realize I don't have cancer anymore. And I order the fucking salad.