A TBI Stole My Joy, but Cannabis Returned It


Nikki Lawley, a New York State resident, has always been a proud and diligent worker. She was employed as an HVAC filtration salesperson, later starting her own company. Later, a casino dealer, and most recently, as a pediatric nurse. Nikki suffered two traumatic brain injuries (TBI) during her younger years, but it was the third TBI that suddenly changed everything. In a heartbeat, her life changed from one of optimism, vibrancy, enthusiasm, confidence, and extroversion, to one of constant pain, withdrawal, depression, and hopelessness.

While I was trying to help administer a routine vaccine to a young boy, I was head butted and thrown against the wall, suffering a third TBI and cervical instability in the process. My TBI has caused cognitive deficiencies, confusion, memory loss, anxiety, and pain. I found myself unable to work, unable to interact with others, and in a very dark place. None of the numerous traditional medications I’ve tried helped, and if fact, their ghastly side effects left me even worse off. I had long since reached the end of my rope, when, on a whim, figuring I had nothing more to lose, I turned to cannabis. 

Little did I know that this seemingly mundane plant would save my life and hope. Cannabis helps alleviate my pain, reducing it from unbearable levels to more manageable ones, and empowering to me to live my life again.

I’ve has struggled to find the type of cannabis that works best for me and to have legal access to my medicine. Before the pandemic, I was regularly traveling from Buffalo, NY to Ontario, Canada for legal access to cannabis to medicate myself. Since the pandemic, it’s been impossible to go to there. I have a storage unit in Niagara Falls, Ontario with my cannabis and have not been since shortly after the world shut down with the pandemic. I’d been forced into an entire new way of getting medicine that has been untested and with random names. I recently visited Nevada and it was amazing to have access to tested and real cannabis again.  I was heavily considering relocating to Nevada as a medical refugee until March 31, 2021 when New York legalized adult-use cannabis and agreed to expand its medical program to include smokeable flower and homegrow within six months. That’s very encouraging.  

“Cannabis helps alleviate my pain, reducing it from unbearable levels to more manageable ones, and empowering to me to live my life again.”

My preferred cultivars are those high in terpenes limonene and pinene. “Mac” is a cultivar I’ve found to be rich in both of these terpenes and I prefer hazes to kushes. Shango, a cultivator in Nevada, has had a strain that consistently is awesome for my symptoms. It is called “Adub”. I feel so sharp and focused after using this and it has easily been 10 different times I have tried it with the same amazing results.  Cheese cultivars are also effective.  

Smoking is the only effective means I’ve found for consumption. Anything that involves first pass metabolism doesn’t work due to weight loss surgery and lack of a gallbladder.  CBD and THC are fat soluble compounds and without a gallbladder which helps the body to break down and absorb fat from food, I struggle absorbing anything fat soluble. I feel no effects or such limited effects with large doses of medical edibles it makes it cost prohibitive and if I get no relief at 500mg of THC, it seems pointless to go any higher than that. I’ve tried vaping whole flower without the same effects I get with combustion. I have tried over 450 cultivars in several legal markets as well as in Canada. Cannabis is my medicine and I am so grateful it gave me a quality of life back.

 I share my story and journey with many; I’m a member of multiple online support groups for individuals that have suffered head injuries and serve as an active voice in the cannabis communities. I hope my story inspires others to never give up. 

Learn more about Nikki Lawley and her journey.

Editor’s Note: This patient story has been written and submitted by a cannabis patient. CannabizMD has been released from any and all claims as to its content and is not responsible for any medical and/or clinical use claims.

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