One Woman’s Journey: Managing Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, Cannabis for Pain and Beyond

by | Jul 19, 2022 | Haygood Happenings | 0 comments

Cannabis has many therapeutic benefits: appetite stimulation, reducing inflammation, easing anxiety and stress, and more. Similarly, cannabis has antiemetic properties that can ease nausea and vomiting, especially for people undergoing treatment for cancer. Its potential for providing relief from pain and discomfort are significant without many of the harmful side effects of pharmaceutical pain medications.


At Haygood, we’re eager to share the stories and testimonials of people who’ve experienced the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. Meet Madison, a young woman living in Oklahoma who found incredible relief using cannabis throughout her journey with cancer.

Madison’s Story

Madison Irby was never a recreational cannabis user. She found relief from healing properties of cannabis, however, amid one of the most challenging periods of her life—while she was undergoing treatment for breast and thyroid cancers beginning at age 19.

“I was going through a double mastectomy and in extreme pain. Reconstruction is a brutal process and is considered an amputation of the chest wall,” Madison says. “As I dealt with the multiple side effects of pain medication, including blurred vision, constipation, and nightmares, my mom suggested I try cannabis.” 


While she initially resisted, Madison agreed to try cannabis and found incredible relief for her pain and discomfort with fewer side effects than the pain medication. She says it’s helped her not just with the side effects from chemotherapy but also throughout immunotherapy and hormone treatments, measures her medical team has taken to reduce the chance of cancer recurrence.



A Challenging Diagnosis

Madison has faced many challenges since her initial cancer diagnosis at a young age. She carries a genetic mutation to the PTEN gene, which is a tumor suppressor, that greatly increases her risk of certain cancers, including breast and thyroid cancers. Her medical team encouraged her to undergo a bilateral mastectomy, though it was challenging to find a surgeon who would take on her case at such a young age.

When she turned 20, Madison was able to undergo a mastectomy. During the painful recovery, she was living in New York where medical cannabis was legal at the time, though she was unable to pursue medical cannabis or Marinol due to its federal status and given her husband’s military insurance.

“I started using a CBD salve, which helped with some of the pain,” Madison says. But it was a scary experience with pain relievers that drove her to pursue other options, including Haygood’s Goodies products.

“The pain management my physicians were able to offer me felt lethal—the side effects, especially when combined, were too dangerous. I never want to be intoxicated from my pain management. I want to be in control,” Madison says. “At that moment, I felt like my prescribed pharmaceuticals had taken away my control.”

Goodies as the Gateway: Sharing Her Success

Madison found Haygood and Goodies on Instagram, and she was intrigued by the potential of delta 8 for pain management and relief. She continues to use the Haygood salve and has found it’s helped her scar heal and fade overtime. 

After going through multiple treatments for cancer and procedures for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms, Madison wanted to share with others the cannabis products that helped her along healing journey. 

She sought to support other people who may face similar hurdles in pain management while undergoing cancer and was eager to share the Goodies. She created Beyond the Breast Kits, a nonprofit that shares in-kind donations of supportive cannabis products, including Haygood’s vape pens, that have the potential to provide immediate pain relief for people living with cancer.

“We provide custom care kits, with the support of our sponsor cannabis organizations, for free to people undergoing chemo, radiation, lumpectomy, mastectomy, or immunotherapy treatments—you name it—related to breast cancer,” Madison says. “I never used cannabis before my cancer journey, and it honestly saved my life when I was dealing with significant pain.”

Against the Grain: More than Pain Management

In addition to living with a PTEN mutation, Madison was recently diagnosed with autism, something she didn’t expect.

“I realized a lot of the time I was medicating with cannabis I may have been in sensory overload,” she says. “Cannabis has helped me for more than just pain management—it helps me calm down and reset.”

For multiple years she has been prescribed an ADHD medication—a stimulant—and since her neuropsychiatrist adjusted her diagnosis and treatment plan, she’s found incredible relief not being on a stimulating medication living with autism spectrum disorder.


Finding Purpose in Her Journey

In addition to managing her nonprofit supporting others on their cancer journeys, Madison is excited to start working as a mastectomy fitter to guide other people facing a mastectomy with the most appropriate prosthesis and postsurgical support products.

“I’m so excited that I get to do my dream job—I get to help people every day,” she says. 


As a young person dealing with overwhelming diagnoses and treatments, Madison remains upbeat. Her sharp sense of humor helps her adapt to challenging circumstances and find hope in her work. She remains passionate about increasing access to the healing benefits of cannabis for anyone undergoing cancer treatments.


“Traditionally prescribed pharmaceuticals certainly have their place in a treatment plan,” Madison says. “But natural products, such as cannabis, can be the gateway to significant pain relief without the side effects of traditional pain medications.” 


She’s excited about the potential for medications like Marinol, an FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoid medication, as an avenue for receiving the benefits of cannabis. Similarly, she’s experiencing a change in the stigma around cannabis use, even in the cancer community. 


“There’s a stigma around young people who use cannabis recreationally,” Madison says. “While many of my peers use cannabis to get high, I’m using it to avoid taking more than 50 pills a day. Using cannabis can be as simple as being able to keep food down for the day.”

Cannabis has many therapeutic benefits—read more about it on our blog.

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