My name is Star Graves – I’m a breast cancer survivor

My name is Star Graves. I am a breast cancer survivor, successful retired finance director, mother, educator, medical cannabis advocate, minority business owner, proud grandmother and podcaster. 

I was a relatively successful person in the world. I had safely raised five children into adulthood. I had a great career in finance working for Fortune 500 companies, a large not for profit healthcare giant in Maryland.  My last place of employment a finance systems director at a Maryland State Department position. I traveled the world with my spouse and then cancer happened, throwing my world in a downward spiral. 

I was diagnosed with breast cancer April 2013. The news was crushing! When I heard the word cancer, every word afterwards was blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What !?! It was stage 2 & grade 3. Grade 3 is the most aggressive type of cancer. These cancer cells were working overtime in order to multiply and break off into new cancer cells as they invaded my body. 

June 2013 I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction although they only found cancer in my left breast. I did not want to be concerned about when or if the cancer would return. 

The surgery removed the cancer from my body. I was not required to have radiation or chemotherapy at that point. 

One week after my bilateral mastectomy, I was back in the hospital for emergency surgery because I had an infection which was life threatening. As soon as I recovered from that event I was rushed back to emergency surgery to remove my right expander because that infection was life threatening as well. 

“I WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE EIGHT ROUNDS OF CHEMOTHERAPY. THE CHEMOTHERAPY WAS SO DEVASTATING. I FELT LIKE I WAS LITERALLY DYING.”

As part of my recovery plan, my oncologist requested that I be tested to see the probability of a reoccurrence of cancer. It was found that I had a high probability of a reoccurrence therefore, chemotherapy was recommended as a preventive measure because I could have “cancer dust” in my body. As soon as my oncologist said “chemotherapy”, I started sobbing. Something innately told me that chemotherapy would not be good. 

I was supposed to have eight rounds of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy was so devastating. I felt like I was literally dying. I had sores wherever there were mucous membranes. I was not able to eat nor drink. I couldn’t hold down water. I was in such a weak and fragile state. 

Then on Nov 1, 2013, I went in for my chemotherapy treatment. They always test where you are prior to proceeding with your treatment. I knew for sure they would say I was too fragile to continue with treatment. This was not the case. An hour into the infusion I started feeling uncomfortable. The uncomfortableness quickly moved to extreme pain. I hollered out to the nurses , “STOP!!!”  The pain was so severe. The pain ran through my body like an electric current. The pain was always between 8 or 9 on a scale of 1 to10. The pain stayed with me four plus years, 24/7. 

I had so many surgeries to reconstruct my breast I lost count. Because of the trauma associated with the number of surgeries and chemotherapy, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, toxic myopathy, anxiety, depression, hypertension and insomnia. 

I was taking opioids like Oxycodone, Nucynta ER and even Fentanyl. At one point Methadone was recommended and I was in so much pain I actually considered it. 

Those four plus years were very dark and miserable. I am uncomfortable reflecting on that time but I realize this is why I appreciate so much where I am. I was taking over 20 pills a day when I was disabled. I even had kidney failure because of the excessive toxic medicines. At that same time in my life, I found out I only had one kidney! I was and am so blessed. That situation was also life threatening in hindsight. 

While on opioids I was miserable. People need to realize that pain killers don’t kill pain, they kill people when used long term! 

Fast forward, March 2018 I am faced with a separation and impending divorce. It was time to take control of my life. It was time to take charge of my health. I had already applied for my MMCC card prior to running to Florida for the winter. Winters in Baltimore meant devastating health issues. It was just easier to go to warmer climates where my symptoms were lessened. 

My application had been approved and I could start my transition off opioids with the assistance of medical cannabis. April 27th 2018 I was off all opioids! I was able to manage my symptoms with medical cannabis. Later, I realized that 100% CBD (no THC) tinctures were helpful in stabilizing my symptoms of inflammation, anxiety and depression. I use a product as a stabilizer and medicate with medical cannabis around that. It’s called “stacking”. Using different forms of consumption like topicals, transdermal patches, edibles and such. 

Since I regained my health I have been educating others, advocating for medical cannabis and patient rights. Out of that journey I created Star’s Galactic Podcast – a podcast from the patient perspective. This platform belongs to those courageous enough to be vulnerable and share the challenges and victories they have experienced with medical cannabis. These stories are shared in hope of inspiring someone else to take the time to be educated of the many benefits of medical cannabis. I am so into the cannabis lifestyle. I am healthy and happy trying to shine some love on others. 

Share your patient story and make a difference. Your personal patient or care giver story will help end the stigma surrounding medical cannabis and medical cannabis patients. Share Your Story.