Faced with the prospect of death, Lucie Pagé chose life when she unwittingly discovered the healing effect of cannabis.
Words: Venessa Dace
Imagine a bottle of champagne... Elegant. Beguiling. Pop the cork and a million starry bubbles rush upwards, somersaulting then exploding into a velvety, irreverent fizz… a sublime mix of beauty and energy.
Meeting author Lucie Pagé is a lot like opening that bottle of bubbles: her effervescence is disarming.
“Cannabis saved my life,” she tells me during our long-distance call. Lucie is in Quebec and divides her time between Canada, her motherland, and South Africa – “the place that has my heart”, she says.
As a young journalist commissioned to cover Nelson Mandela’s release, Lucie visited South Africa for the first time almost 30 years ago. Serendipitously, she interviewed Jay Naidoo, who was general secretary of COSATU at the time, and fell in love with his integrity (“He’s also a very sexy man!”). Their budding friendship blossomed into marriage and today they have three grown-up kids.
But life has not been without major challenges for Lucie, who suffers from a severe, and potentially fatal, form of menopause. “I almost died three times… My hot flashes can last up to five minutes each, and are sometimes so powerful, I vomit,” she explains, adding that her night sweats can be so intense, she sometimes has to wring her bed sheets out in the morning.
That’s if she sleeps at all… “Two hours a night, five or ten minutes at a time,” she cries. “I’ve been so sleep deprived, I’ve had accidents - running into walls, falling down stairs.” Once she lost four-and-a-half kilograms in five days and landed up in hospital.
On a scale of zero to 10, Lucie’s symptoms top the menopausal jackpot at a whopping 10! “My doctor told me he’s surprised I’m still alive!” Ironically, the hormone replacement therapy prescribed to squash her sweats could have killed her, too. “The oncologist warned me about suspicious activity that had developed on my ovaries and told me to stop the hormones. But I was a mess without them,” she says.
Dysfunctional and depleted, Lucie began a desperate search for relief. She tried every cure imaginable – homeopathy, Chinese medicine, meditation – and dosed herself daily with a mind-bending cocktail of antidepressants and sleeping tablets. “I was like a zombie – a profitable one for the pharmaceutical industry.”
Her life changed the day a friend brought marijuana muffins to Jay’s 60th birthday party. Lucie ate one and says she felt nothing… “No buzzing. I wasn’t stoned.”
The proof in the proverbial pudding happened the next morning when she awoke feeling bewildered: she’d had a full night’s sleep; her sheets were dry; no hot flashes!
The moment she realised the muffin was to ‘blame’ for her liberation, Lucie savoured one every night for the next five nights. When they were done, her malevolent cacophony of symptoms returned with a vengeance. “The very next day, I asked my son to go get me some dagga,” she says. “I felt terrible; I was chancing my son’s freedom for my health.” Lucie remains incredulous at the insanity of this prospect: “I wasn’t hurting myself, or anyone else, and yet I wasn’t allowed to use it?”
Despite the distance, her passion is palpable. “I’m an investigative journalist; I’ve done my research,” she exclaims. “Science has categorically proven that cannabis is one of the world’s most important medical therapies. Historically it’s been used for thousands of years. In fact, it’s been illegal for less than one percent of the time it’s been used.”
As an upshot of her research, Lucie found herself in an underground group of about 1 000 people, all of whom use cannabis to treat some kind of disease or ailment – often with amazing results, she says.
“Cannabis saves lives. It’s greed that kills. That’s why I wrote the book.” Lucie is referring to her latest novel Sex, Pot and Politics, crediting “the inanities of politicians”, which she spent decades collecting, as a fertile source for her political satire.
It’s a parody that places cannabis as the protagonist. “The state of the planet is so sad, I decided to laugh about it, though my cannabis research comes through in the dialogue,” she explains. “If leaders really had the health of the population at heart, they would stop demonising a plant that can save lives, as well as the planet.”
Lucie believes in fighting for social justice. “It’s not right that we have to choose between suffering or going to jail.” Her fight to integrate medical cannabis into the healthcare system is a fight, she explains, for our right to health.
And it is our right to choose how we want to heal. If you had the choice between gambling with death or leading an extraordinary quality of life, Lucie asks, what would you choose?
“I know I owe my life to cannabis. Me and so many others.”
You can pre-order Lucie’s book here
* The KushKush Stories platform allows individuals to express their personal stories and opinions about cannabis. The views expressed belong to the author or person interviewed and are not necessarily shared by KushKush.