Monday, April 8, 2013

Annette Funicello: Beauty with a Beastly Disease

Annette Funicello, the Mousketeer that Roared, has died at the age of 70 of complications from Multiple Sclerosis. Before she died, she had lost her ability to speak and had long withdrawn from public life since learning she had MS in 1987.

Studies show that a large percentage of MS patients use cannabis for their symptoms. I'd heard a rumor years ago that Funicello was one of them, but was not able to confirm it.

Researchers have been finding for decades that cannabinoids hold promise for treating MS. "In addition to symptom management," wrote one team of researchers in 2003, "cannabis may also slow the neurodegenerative processes that ultimately lead to chronic disability in multiple sclerosis and probably other disease." Source (p. 52).

MS attacks women more often than men. Another beloved actress, Teri Garr, also suffers from MS. She and Funicello worked together on beach movies when Garr was a dancer. Dawn Wells, who played the wholesome, dark-haired Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island (a role possibly modeled on Funicello), was caught with pot in her car in 2008.

Meanwhile, UCSF researcher Dr. Donald Abrams, who has studied cannabis in AIDS patients, won approval and funding for a clinical study on sickle cell disease and cannabis. The study was based on a successful mouse study that found cannabis not only is helpful with symptoms of sickle cell, it can halt the progression of the painful disease.

The study was to begin April 1st, but is now a victim of the federal budget sequestration.

There has been a paucity of studies on cannabis and sickle cell. A PubMed search yields only one:  a British team found in 2005 that 36% of young adults with sickle cell in their study had used cannabis in the previous 12 months to relieve symptoms associated with SCD. "We conclude that research in the use of cannabinoids for pain relief in SCD would be both important and acceptable to adult patients," the researchers wrote.

In the United States, approximately 1 in 500 African-Americans and 1 in 1,200 Hispanic Americans are born with SCD. Sister Somiyah, a longtime activist from LA, was a sufferer who was repeatedly harassed by LAPD over her medical marijuana garden.

In recent years, reports NORML, health regulators in Canada, Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom have approved the prescription use of cannabis extracts to treat multiple sclerosis. But in the US, we are letting our sisters suffer, especially those brave enough to provide medicine.

In Tuolomne County, Sara Herrin, RN, and her sisters are being persecuted for operating an above-board medical marijuana collective called Today's Health Care. Sara has been a registered caregiver for over 30 years and was Tuolomne County's Director for the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of the Sierra for 7 years. Their bank accounts have been seized and Sara has lost her home of 22 years. They are in desperate need of funding for their legal defense. Go to and search for "Save the Sisters."

UPDATE: May 5, 2013 - Charges were dropped against the Tuolomne sisters!

And then the sad news that Chrissy Amphlett of the DiVinyls has died at age 53. Amphlett also had multiple sclerosis, and when she came down with breast cancer, couldn't avail herself of radiation treatments due to her MS. Known for their monster hit "I Touch Myself," one of the Divinyls' later songs, 1996's "Human On The Inside," was covered by VIP Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders. Amphlett appeared with a cane at the 2011 ARIA Awards.

In a recent report, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the Federal government's National Institutes of Health (NIH), stated that marijuana "inhibited the survival of both estrogen receptor–positive and estrogen receptor–negative breast cancer cell lines." The same report showed marijuana slows or stops the growth of certain lung cancer cells and suggested that marijuana may provide "risk reduction and treatment of colorectal cancer."

UPDATE 5/25:
Hemp Seed Oil Associated With Improved Clinical and Immunological Parameters In Multiple Sclerosis Patients

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