Kirstie Tittensor’s doctors can’t believe the improvements in her health since she was prescribed cannabis
Kirstie Tittensor’s battle with her health began 10 years ago, after a tumor was found on her spine.
The mum-of-two underwent several operations and due to damage to her peripheral nerve, was later diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
CRPS is thought to be one of the most painful conditions known to the medical profession. Patients experience severe, continuous and debilitating pain, which often only affects one part of a person’s body but sometimes, and in Kirstie’s case, it can spread elsewhere.
There is no cure for CRPS and Kirstie didn’t qualify for any of the available treatments or drug trials.
“CRPS is nicknamed the suicide disease because it is so painful and brutal, my whole body would swell and burn, “says Kirstie, now 42.
“It got to a point where I was in that much pain that I did contemplate suicide.”
Kirstie had a career she loved working with young offenders as a behavioral therapist, but she had to give it up as her symptoms became too severe.
The condition started to affect her in other ways too, leading to more health complications.
She was diagnosed with pernicious anaemia, a condition where the body cannot make enough healthy red blood cells because it doesn’t have enough vitamin B12. As a result she would need regular blood transfusions, her immune system was severely weakened and her kidney function was only 69 per cent.
But things didn’t end there. Four years ago she underwent treatment for a tumour on her sinus cavity, and in March 2021 after she began experiencing headaches and vision problems, a third was found behind her eye.
The tumour is known as a Choroidal osteoma, it’s extremely rare and doctors have warned Kirstie that it will eventually take her sight.
This was when Kirstie made the decision to look into a medical cannabis prescription.
“I’ve always used cannabis and I’ve had to access it illicitly in the past, but you don’t know what you’re getting,” she says.
Kirstie was prescribed a combination of CBD and THC flower and oil at Sapphire Medical Clinics.
It took her around three months of trial and error to find the right dosage for her, but now seven months on, the effects are remarkable.
According to her GP, Kirstie’s recent blood tests showed no signs of pernicious anaemia, her T-cell levels were high and her kidney function was in the normal range of 89 per cent.
In addition, the tumor in Kirstie’s eye, which was fast-growing at the time of diagnosis, has remained the same size, leaving her hopeful that she may retain her sight for longer with the use of medical cannabis.
“My GP wasn’t encouraged about the cannabis at first, but after six months I had a blood test and got a call from him in utter disbelief,” says Kirstie.
“He printed off 10 years of my blood work to take home to check, because he was so shocked. I’ve been immune suppressed for years, but my T-cells were high and there wasn’t a single sign of pernicious anaemia.”
Kirstie’s quality of life has been transformed too.
Three years ago she was on 23 different prescription medications, including a fentanyl patch. Now she takes a maximum of three tablets a day.
“I know everybody is different, but it’s changed my life,” says Kirstie, who chose to go cold turkey off her opioid medication three years ago.
“When you’re on morphine and opiates you spend a lot of time in bed, missing out. I didn’t have any quality of life, I was in bed drugged up. It’s been that way for years. Now I feel like I have been woken up.”
Kirstie says a small dose of CBD:THC oil, under her tongue, can help ease her pain within eight minutes.
“Even when I’ve had a morphine IV it’s not worked that well,” she says.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still get pain and discomfort and I have rough days, but they’re nowhere near as bad as what I have suffered for the last 10 years.”
For the first time in a decade Kirstie feels like herself again, and has even considered being able to go back to work in some capacity.
“Prior to becoming ill I loved my job, and I loved the person I was. I have the feeling for the first time in 10 years that I want to go and do something,” she says.
“Everyone is commenting on how much better I’m doing. My daughters are 20 and 16 and they can’t believe I’m doing things that I haven’t done for years. At the weekend we went to a spa. I have not been to a spa in years and it was so nice to do something normal.”
But Kirstie’s newfound quality of life is under threat again. A recent cut to her benefits means she is unsure how much longer she can continue to afford her private prescription.
“It’s getting to a critical point for me in affordability,” she admits.
“My parents have helped me out financially with my prescription, but they can’t do that forever. With the cost of living soaring and benefit cuts, it’s made my situation really difficult.
“I’m panic-stricken, I worry about not being able to afford it all the time. If I run out will my tumors start growing again?”
Despite Kirstie’s doctors all agreeing that cannabis is working well for her, they are unable to prescribe it on the NHS.
“I have seven or eight different consultants and five of them agree that cannabis is helping,” she says.
“They keep telling me I save them over £500 a month on the NHS by coming off all these tablets. Why are professionals afraid even though they know it’s working?”
Kirstie adds: “After a decade of surgeries and hundreds of different medications, nothing has worked. But cannabis does and it’s so cruel not to prescribe it to people like me on the NHS.”