My Story: Cannabis and Cancer

It’s no secret that in the last 12 months CBD, better known as cannabis oil or hemp oil, has people in awe of its potential health benefits. As amazing as it is to read about these life changing benefits provided by a solution like CBD, it’s even more amazing to have first-hand experience watching the benefits of CBD take place in someone’s life. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I’ve watched three very important men in my life benefit from CBD / cannabis oil, while having cancer, in two different ways.

In this blog, I’m going to share my personal experience with cancer. Cancer and I have a dense history. I’ve lost my father, best friend, and step-father in the last 14 years from this horrible disease. In all three situations, cannabis and cancer played a major factor to all of their cancer stories.

Cannabis and Cancer

Of course, by now, we’ve heard about the solutions medical marijuana can provide to a cancer patient. The solution is no longer an “alternative” but a very real and consistent practice with cancer patients across the United States.

Back in January of 2000, my father Mars Harper was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. He got sick with meningitis one winter, and - after a multitude of tests - my family received the news all families fear hearing: your father and/or husband has cancer. Hearing the news your father is terminally ill is a gut-wrenching reality; I can’t accurately formulate this reality into words. My whole family’s world was say the least.

My father, who was a loving husband and father of five, decided to go down the grueling path of chemotherapy. He felt this was his best option for survival, or - at the very least - the longevity to spend more time with us kids. One thing I’m not sure many people take into consideration when weighing the options of chemotherapy is the quality of life you’ll sustain once treatment starts.

I’m not here to discount chemotherapy, although the older I get I don’t fully believe in it’s results and techniques. I’m fully aware chemotherapy has helped people. This is my story, not my company sparking a war against FDA approved medical treatments.

If you’re unaware of chemotherapy, it’s a torturous thing for any human to endure. I commend anyone who’s brave enough to go through its treatment. Also, to be clear, on this site, we will never judge nor recommend anyone to a specific type of treatment. We encourage all of our health community members and readers to find THEIR solutions to any type of medical treatment they might need - not to mention consider the recommendations from their doctors and family.

My father rigorously fought cancer for three tough years. In those three years, his battle was up and down. Shortly after my father started his chemotherapy and radiation, my father started smoking marijuana to keep the negative side effects of chemo down. Keep in mind, this is the early 2000’s and being prescribed medical marijuana was not yet heard of. At least in my father's case, it was never offered.

My father and our neighbor, who I’ll leave unnamed, illegally grew marijuana in our backyard for three years. This was the only way my father could get any type of alternative medicine for his cancer.

When on the phone with my mom the other day, talking about my father's treatment, she mentioned something interesting. My father and her actually asked the doctors if they could get prescribed marijuana. Obviously, the answer was no, but the doctors prescribed my father Dronabinol, or - as it’s frequently referenced - Marinol. This fact is very important and it can’t be overlooked; it specifically aligns with WeThinkHealth’s mission.

Dronabinol (Marinol) is the FDA’s man-made cannabinoid. Dronabinol is a gelatin capsule, which contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Ironically enough, Dronabinol’s purpose is supposed to help with nausea and weight loss caused by chemotherapy.

Speaking solely from my own thoughts and opinions - it looks like the FDA tried to replicate the benefits of CBD into a man-made form to package it up and sell; that branded attempt is what we refer to as Dronabinol. If you look at the big picture, I believe there’s a cycle going on via big pharmaceutical companies. The cycle, which my father victim to as well, goes goes like this:

Cancer patient → recommend chemo → get chemo side effects → recommend Dronabinol → Cycle repeats

Again, the above layout is just my opinion. There is ZERO fact check to it. However, from a big picture perspective looking in, it all makes sense, and it truly makes you wonder.

Like I mentioned, I’ve lost three very close individuals to cancer - my father, good friend, and step-father. My father, who I just described, passed away in 2003 when I was 13 years old. My friend Jake was next, in 2010, when I was 21.

Similar to my father, Jake had a very rare case of colon cancer. The odds of getting colon cancer before 40 years old is ridiculously low, and - for whatever reason - my friend Jake was part of that small percentage. Before he even turned 21 we all knew he was terminally ill.

Unlike my father, I don’t know specifics with Jake’s cancer treatment. Although, I do know, like many, he also got his ass kicked by chemotherapy. One of my last memories of Jake was getting to spend some time with him at his apartment a few months before he passed away. We hung out and watched movies for about four hours. Throughout the evening, he smoked marijuana the entire time. I specifically remember him saying, “This [marijuana] is one of the few things that helps me.” To be sure, this was largely attributable to the therapeutic benefits of CBD / cannabidiol / cannabinoids associated with the cannabis plant.

Cannabis Oil and Cancer

My last story about cannabis and cancer is in regard to my step-father Rob. Ironically enough, it directly involves cannabis oil and how it was used as an alternative treatment for him.

Rob was diagnosed with his cancer January of 2015. At the time, I was 25 years old. When we first learned about Rob’s cancer, we weren’t really sure how severe it was at that point. Rob had cancerous tumors in his liver and spine.

A few months went by, and once again my family saw the dreaded picture that was being painted. My step-father Rob was terminally ill.

Rob’s fight wasn’t like my father’s. His cancer spread a lot quicker, and the only thing Rob really had outside of his family was limited time; there wasn’t much he could do in terms of fighting his cancer.

Rob also decided to opt-out with respect to chemotherapy. He didn’t want to endure the hell most people go through with chemo. He decided to live-out the last six to eight months of his life the best he could with a holistic health approach.

This was the summer of 2015, and if I’m being completely honest, I hadn’t heard of CBD at the time. One day, my wife and I decided to go have breakfast with my step-father, Rob. While he was getting into the passenger seat of our car he was in immense pain. You could tell the sudden movement of going from standing to sitting was giving him a pain we couldn’t possibly understand. His skin was irritable, and his entire body hurt. He ached all over. At that moment, he asked my mom if she brought his “cannabis cream” because that’s the only thing that calmed him down and eased his pain - alluding to both the anxiety and pain benefits of CBD oil. She gave him his cannabis cream and he applied it to his sore spots, which seemed to help his pain rather quickly. The value of the cannabis cream was immeasurable.

My step-father Rob, a few weeks before he passed away. Funny enough, wearing the only shirt that felt good on his skin.

(Picture above is my step-father Rob, weeks before he passed. Funny enough, wearing the only shirt that felt good on his skin. Which became our family inside joke.)

I’d never heard of cannabis cream up until this point. Later on, my mother had told me my brother and her were making homemade “marijuana cream” as she called it, because that was the ONLY thing that seemed to help Rob’s pain. Although, in Rob's case, his cannabis cream had high dosages of THC - looking back, what he really was getting benefit from were from the cannabinoids themselves, which activated his cannabinoid receptors (more about receptors below).

Long-story-short, Rob’s only relief in his last six months while living with cancer was from cannabis. This wasn’t directly related to CBD oil specifically, but the benefits were very similar. Having spoke with my mom once again this week about Rob’s story, she once again reassured me that his cannabis cream was one of the greatest gifts he had when it came to dealing with his cancer.

A Few Simple Facts about CBD

Our bodies have what are called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors impact multiple physiological and psychological processes that occur within our body. When Rob was wanting his cannabis cream, he was actually looking to activate his receptors since they have a direct impact on how your body feels.

CBD is unique because it doesn’t interact directly with your cannabinoid receptors, CBD1 and CBD2. Instead, CBD actually keeps your receptors working at full capacity, which increases the function of all the other cannabinoids that impact your body. CBD plays as your receptors’ antagonist of the receptors’ agonists. Confusing, we get it. For a full guide on what CBD is, click here.

My Personal Conclusion

Most people believe things happen for a reason, and it’s safe to say I fall under that category. I’m one of those people.

Looking back, and reliving my father’s illness, thinking about my friend Jake, and writing down Rob’s story, makes me believe there’s no such thing as a coincidence. Obviously, 13 years ago when my father passed away I had no clue I would be a Co-Founder of a company with the following mission: to educate the general public on alternative health benefits, and one of those solutions is CBD. Who would’ve thought our company and my personal story would one day align? Cannabis and cancer have both been part of my story, and now are both part of our company’s mission.

Cancer is always personal; it doesn’t discriminate. Anyone who has been impacted by this terrible disease can relate. I feel optimistic about the great research that’s going on currently regarding cancer. If I’m being honest, I also feel a major sense of overwhelming resentment and frustration when it comes to big pharma trying to create customers opposed to a cure; it’s a scary and disappointing reality I’m discovering. Many medicine companies don’t have a clear mission at hand; it’s a warped reality fueled by money, power and greed. We as a health community must stand up and fight against it.

We’re fortunate to live in the age of the Internet where research and connectivity lives at our fingertips. I encourage everyone to look for alternative solutions, and not settle for a canned solution when it comes to your health. It’s time to change the way we think.

We think health.

Thank you to all who read my personal story.

James Harper

Co-Founder, WeThinkHealth


WeThinkHealth cannot make any concrete medical claims about CBD's medical uses so if you do decide to take CBD, please be sure to inform your doctor or health practitioner, especially if you are taking other medication.