Convinced of the Cure

A CULTURE Magazine EXCLUSIVE

Stan and Barb Rutner say cannabis saved their lives from cancer

 

Stan and Barb Rutner are no strangers to cancer. The married couple, both in their 70s, have run into it before. Barb battled bouts with breast cancer—twice. And about 20 years ago, Stan, a retired dentist with a thriving mini storage business, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “I just thought I had a cold, flu, type thing. That was it . . . I wasn’t thinking cancer at all,” Stan recalls.

Fortunately, after treating the lymphoma for about six months, it—like Barb’s successful battles with breast cancer—became a thing of the past. By 1989, it was a closed chapter. But in 2011, it came back.

Like before, it struck Stan in the lungs first. Manifesting as a persistent cough, a doctor later revealed cancerous nodes in the lungs that were the real culprits. “Yeah, [my doctor] was really diplomatic. He says, ‘You’re in deep shit.’ Or words to that effect,” Stan recalls. “Yeah, he didn’t sugar coat it at all,” Barb adds. As if that wasn’t enough, doctors later discovered that the cancer had metastasized to his brain.

Like before, the Rutners were able to successfully battle—and beat—Stan’s cancer. But this time, after going through chemotherapy and radiation, they wanted to find a natural medicine that would improve Stan’s quality of life and maybe even prolong it. Medical cannabis did all that and more, surpassing anything they could have hoped for. CULTURE spoke with Stan, Barb, their daughter Corinne and her husband John about this intense and life changing experience with cannabis.

Regarding the chemotherapy and radiation that Stan underwent in March and April of 2011 for the lung cancer, what were the downsides?

Barb: Nausea, fatigue, weight loss.

What tipped you off to the fact that Stan might have acquired brain cancer after you had already found the lung cancer?

Barb: His speech became labored and garbled. And when I called the doctor, she knew immediately what was going on . . . and then they did the scan.

While cancer is a very serious disease, both of your previous bouts with it provided you with some great perspective, correct?

Stan: While it was taken very seriously, there was also an element of “Here we go again.”

Barb: Yeah, I’ll interject something too. With both Stan and I, since we’ve been through cancer so much, cancer has become kind of a business with us. So, it’s sort of sometimes like business as usual. You know?

Stan: We’ve got another chore to do, or another wheelbarrow full of dirt to carry up. You know it was just a job to do and that was all we concentrated on.

The cancer and treatment took their toll on Stan, can you tell us how?

Barb: Short term memory loss . . .

Stan: Yeah, yeah. My handwriting is getting better but it was awful at that time, I mean it was illegible, totally.

Stan’s health and quality of life began to decline, even with treatment in full swing.

Barb: After that he was wiped out. He was very thin. So we finished radiation to his brain on June 25, and on July 13 he entered the hospital for the first time with radiation pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs due to radiation therapy), so pneumonia. There were three hospital visits during that time, and on the third they kept him for a week and started him on oxygen 24/7. And then he went into palliative care.

Things got bad. At one point, Stan was given six months to live?

Barb: Yeah, yeah, I accepted it. He went on to hospice, I mean if you could’ve seen him at that time you would’ve understood. He entered hospice on August the 12th. [Generally] when you enter hospice they know you’re diagnosed with less than six months to live. But, Stan was given only weeks to live at that time.

Throughout it all, the Rutners tried everything to beat Stan’s cancer.

Barb: During the course of his radiation/chemotherapy treatment, [Stan] also had Reiki treatments and acupuncture. And he did attempt to do creative visualization but found that he wasn’t very good at it (Laughs). I had used it extensively when I was having breast cancer and it worked very well for me, but it wasn’t working for him. But he did quite a bit of alternative medicine.

With Stan wasting away coupled with the grimmest of life expectancies, Stan and Barb’s daughter Corinne and her husband John started thinking outside of the box. Hearing that cannabis was an effective treatment for patients suffering from the crushing effects of chemotherapy and the wasting away and pain that is common with cancer, John and Corinne decided to give it a shot.

Barb: Corinne and John were becoming interested in medicinal marijuana but we were concerned that Stan was wasting away. He had lost so much weight and so we were anxious to get his appetite improved and help him with the nausea. So Corinne suggested daytime cannabis capsule infused with coconut oil; they’re yellow capsules that he started taking. He started taking those in early November of 2011 and in the beginning, he took about a third of a capsule in the morning, and it was about a week or two later that he was able to give up the extra oxygen that he had had 24/7.

Was there ever a concern about using a plant that some view as non-traditional . . . or consider an outright illegal drug by the federal government?

Barb: [Addressing Stan] You weren’t skeptical, were you?

Stan: No hesitation at all. Here I’m dying and getting nothing to change the course of things and so this thing has a pretty good track record in—what do you call it—in a non-medical world, so hey let’s try it. Got nothing to lose.

About a week or two later, after trying the cannabis-based medicines, did anyone notice improvements?

Stan: Everything improved.

Barb: He started gaining weight.

Stan: Sleeping better.

Barb: Getting stronger.

Stan: Yeah!

Barb, you’ve told me before how stark and significant the changes were in Stan as a result of his use of medicinal cannabis.

Barb: At one point, he was using a walker and then gradually he was able to help with loading a pickup truck and getting things moved. Now he walks up stairs, he does exercise classes, he doesn’t seem to get out of breath, and he takes naps most afternoons. But his strength is so much better than it was. It’s remarkable.

Eventually, after several months, a brain scan came back negative. No cancer. Same for the lungs?

Barb: On January 27, 2013 we received the results of Stan’s brain MRI in an email from his oncologist, stating simply: “IMPRESSION:  No evidence of recurrent disease.” The lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain in the summer of 2011 (and nearly taken his life) was GONE!

The doctor calls him a miracle man. We are deeply grateful to his “team” of doctors, friends and family, but we’ll always believe that cannabis turned the tide.

{Corinne and her husband John on Stan’s experience . . . }

Could you tell your father was getting worse?

Corinne: You know, I never saw it. He’s very healthy. Both my parents are young. My mom is 76 now, my dad is 79, but this was two years ago. February, my dad was diagnosed, but he looked great. 100 percent great, you would have never known, so when he told me it was a shock. I was surprised when he had a little bout with a cough, but it didn’t even seem to last very long. But he apparently took himself in and got a chest x-ray and they had said that they thought it was pneumonia, early stages, and when they cleared it up; they wanted to recheck him again because they saw some concerning spots.

Were you a medical cannabis patient at the time your father decided to turn to cannabis?

Corinne: I knew nothing about cannabis. I’ve always been one of the straight-laced people. So, if I didn’t have John, I have to say we would have never asked that question. We started my dad on a coconut oil infused capsule. We had heard you can freeze and cut them, so you don’t have to give the whole capsule. So you can actually cut those capsules and start out slow.

Looking back, are you convinced that cannabis works as an anti-cancer medicine?

Corinne: I’m 100 percent, no question. I believe that his brain tumor is gone because of the cannabis oil.

John: There is no doubt in my mind that cannabis pulled my father-in-law out of the wasting stages of cancer and enabled him to gain strength and in turn fight this horrible cell malfunction with success. While many would say that the chemo and radiation could have played apart, he would never have lived long enough to find out without cannabis oil.

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