History and Illness
I have worked with not-for-profits since the 80’s, having co-founded Victory Storehouse, Inc., a benevolence ministry that strived to meet the needs of our county’s poor. During that time, I also founded a food pantry association that coordinated the efforts of pantries over a three county area.
I currently live in St. Louis, though that has not always been my home. I was born and raised in Herculaneum, Missouri. The Doe Run Lead Smelting plant, its smoke stack and constant noxious discharge were an ever-present reminder of the toxic chemicals that my friends, family, and of course, myself, were ingesting every hour of every day.
It was there in Herculaneum, while remodeling our home, that I was exposed to very high levels of lead, cadmium, and arsenic, bi-products of lead smelting. Dust, scattered and airborne by company trucks passing on the street, contaminated the yards, then tracked and blown into the old house over decades, harbored in the walls and carpet until I disturbed it. Soon after I became very ill.
After an exhaustive line of expensive medical tests at the hands of the best physicians and specialists St. Louis had to offer, my condition was labeled “Fibromyalgia with severe migraines”. Hardly a suitable description for the agony I suffered daily.
Most weeks, I experienced two to three moderate to severe migraines. Each migraine was like a mini seizure, with a little more of my long term memory disappearing with each episode.
Pharmaceuticals did little to control the headaches. Consequently, my migraine specialist injected me with experimental medications, with horrific results.
My stomach was constantly upset; from the illness and the continually changing regiments of prescription drugs. The pain, weakness, and confusion made it impossible for me to work. I had to leave my certified welder and pipefitter position with Ameren, our local electric utility, my computer consulting business, and close our much needed benevolence ministry and food pantry.
Later, we lost our cars, our home, and eventually our marriage. In 2001, my eldest daughter passed away unexpectedly from the illness that has affected my whole family, including my two surviving children, my now, ex-wife, and just about everyone we knew there, in our home town.
During that time, Herculaneum was on local and national television regarding the large number of varied illnesses due to the pollution that the local industry had created. My ex-wife and I, along with other residents, were featured on local news programs and on the CBS News Program 20/20.
In 1997, I went on full disability. It was also that year that I discovered information regarding cannabis and its treatment for Fibromyalgia. What followed was anything short of miraculous. After just a few weeks of dosing with cannabis, my long term memory began to return – a bonus I didn’t expect. The pain from the Fibromyalgia lessened substantially. After a few months, my migraines became largely non-existent.
I have now been a medical cannabis patient for over fourteen years. My memory has continued to sharpen with the years. The only difficulties that I have encountered with my health have occurred when my medicine was not available. A year ago, while rationing my meds, I had my first full blown seizure.
Up until 2006, my involvement in the medical cannabis movement was limited to writing on the web and contacts with state Representatives and Senators. In April of 2006 I left Charleston, South Carolina bound for San Francisco, California with a group called Journey for Justice 7. I drove a support truck and was the on-road coordinator for the project, which featured three bicyclers. The lead biker, Ken Locke, who founded this project, is also a medical cannabis patient. Our purpose was to educate people across the country about the benefits of cannabis for the treatment of the chronically ill. That was also when I began collecting the testimonies of medical cannabis patients, their family members, and physicians on video.
Following 4 1/2 months on the road, I spent another two months in North Carolina collecting additional interviews, returning the following two years to continue the work. I have also collected patient testimonies from all over my home state of Missouri and surrounding states. I contributed to the writing of Missouri’s medical cannabis Bill and also organized and lead patient delegations to our state capital to lobby for its passage. Our Medical Cannabis Compassion Bill will be re-introduced this December.
Currently, I have conducted over 150 interviews. Many of my video can be viewed on my YouTube channel, (www.youtube.com/cannabispatientnet).
Many, many more wait. Daily, I am contacted by the chronically and terminally ill from every state, indeed, even around the world. My interviews can be seen embedded on web pages all over the country, most particularly, the new Patients Out of Time website. I also use these testimonies in my writing on my Blog, (www.cannabispatientnetwork.com) and will be featured on the new CPN website that I hope to introduce soon.
Most recently, I have made a number of trips to neighboring Nebraska where I have worked with Patients Out of Time’s Ralph Smith and my brother, Ervin Dargan to help the Monson family. Dana, who suffers from cancer and DeJay who is plagued by epilepsy, have been devastated by the drug war. Along with their five children, on their rural Nebraska farm, they have persevered in the face of persecution on the part of a corrupt Sheriff’s department.
In Iowa, I have interviewed two of the remaining four Federal cannabis patients, participants in the Investigative New Drug Program. Barbara Douglass and George McMahon are two special heroes of the medical cannabis movement. As a correspondent for Patients Out of Time, I covered two of the four Iowa Pharmaceutical Board hearings on the rescheduling of cannabis. During the final hearing in Council Bluffs, I testified on behalf of Cannabis Patient Network and presented the board with twelve of my interviews on DVD.
My association with Patients Out of Time affords me access to their wealth of science and medical research, an obvious compliment to my interviews with the chronically ill. Likewise, I support their efforts toward a common goal, educating our nation about the medical benefits of cannabis. They have inspired me to research the illnesses and injuries of those I interview; the pharmaceuticals that the patients have or continue to take, and results of their regular dosing with cannabis.
I currently have multimedia presentations in the works to show in the communities where I travel and DVD’s that will be available for general distribution as tools for educational and lobbying efforts.
I have the curious ability to gain the trust of otherwise reluctant chronically ill individuals.
I’m constantly looking for more of the chronically ill who would be willing to sit for an interview. I’m convinced that most people don’t realize the power they have in their personal testimony.
The vast majority of the chronically ill don’t know that cannabis is real medicine and that this God given plant could give them a better quality of life. That’s where we, the cannabis patients, come in. Its so simple that most activists can’t fathom it. All we have to do is tell the truth. Our own, personal story. That’s all. The world wants to hear it. They know that the drug companies are killing us. What they don’t know is that cannabis could very well save their lives, or at least, make them more tolerable.
I have interviewed patients with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, fibromyalgia, epilepsy, chronic-pain, migraines, breast cancer, lung cancer, testicular cancer, lymphoma, acoustic neuroma, skin cancer, brain aneurism, stuttering, PTSD, Crohn’s, lupus, chronic-depression and anxiety, other mental issues, Neuropathy of the feet, Neurological pain due to paralysis, and many more that I don’t venture to try to spell or pronounce.
The truth is in the telling. We are real people. We are a portion of the middle class that affects 100% of America, because every family has at least one member who is chronically ill. No one escapes it. And when that time comes to you, chances are, cannabis could be a vital part of your treatment.
– Mark D. Pedersen | www.cannabispatientnetwork.com
Extract from the Medical Cannabis Journal – http://medicalcannabisjournal.net/