First it was a cough. Then it was bronchitis. Then it was time to say goodbye to Michelle Aldrich.
The year 2011 was supposed to be a good one for the 66-year-old. That June, she and her husband, Michael, were feted with a lifetime achievement award by High Times magazine for their four decades of work on marijuana legalization. Yet something was off. She was smoking a lot, maybe more than ever.
And she couldn’t get high.
In the fall of that year — a bad time for the local marijuana movement, as the federal Justice Department began shutting down hundreds of California medical cannabis dispensaries — Aldrich went in to see a series of doctors for what she thought was a flu that just refused to go away.
After six weeks of progressively worse diagnoses — flu became bronchitis, which became pneumonia — a CT scan revealed the cause behind the “heat” she felt in the middle of her chest. A tumor, “poorly-differentiated non-small cell adenocarcinoma.” In other words, stage 3 lung cancer.
Lung cancer is a killer, with nearly 70 percent of new cases resulting in deaths, according to statistics published by the National Cancer Institute. “I thought I was going to die,” Aldrich says from her Marina District apartment. But she didn’t. And now, she is busy telling anyone who will listen that, along with diet and chemotherapy, a concoction of highly concentrated cannabis oil eliminated her cancer in less than four months.
She was diagnosed in January 2012; by April, CT scans revealed that the tumor had shrunk by 50 percent. Her surgeon at California Pacific Medical Center removed what was left of the tumor that May. (CPMC did not return calls by press time.) She isn’t “officially” cured yet — a cancer patient needs five years of cancer-free living to beat the disease — but her most-recent scan, on March 27, was all clear. Her doctors — one of whom noted the effect of “homeopathic treatments, including hemp oil” to reprogram the cancer cells to kill themselves — “are floored,” she says. “They’ve never seen anything like it.”