OVIEDO, Fla. – Sarah Trask is a daughter, sister, wife and mother of two and, most importantly, a survivor.
"I'm a 32-year child brain cancer survivor. I have had four brain surgeries," she told News 6. “I have had a lot of scarring, and my side effects are epilepsy," Trask told News 6.
Epilepsy left her with debilitating seizures that can sometimes last for minutes.
"Sometimes, they go two to three minutes. It depends on -- I mean, I've gone through status (status epilepticus) through my life a few times, and those times have been very long. And status for those who don't know is when you’re having seizure after seizure, and you can't get out of it, and people can die from them,” Trask said.
Trask said she tried everything to make her seizures stop, including several medications a day,adding up to thousands of dollars a year in prescription drug costs.
Nothing worked for her until the approval of medical marijuana in Florida with the passage of Amendment 2 in November.
[Scroll below for a listing of physicians who have completed the low-THC cannabis continuing medical education]
“They were allowing the first few people in Florida to try the oil, and out of the 300, I was one of them,” Trask said.
The THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, comes in oil and caplet form, and it supplements four anti-seizure, migraine and emergency medications that she takes daily.
“I’m needing the marijuana on top of it to even help me more. I've become immune. It sounds crazy, but I've become immune to all the medication,” she said.
A built-up immunity means Trask's seizures come back faster.
“That’s why I need the marijuana, because at least the marijuana, you can keep on going up and up, and I don’t believe you can become immune to the marijuana,” Trask said.
Most people think it's pretty easy to get medical marijuana, but even with seizures this serious, the reality is it's not.
Things changed for Trask when her doctor sent her a letter explaining to her that she would have to find a new doctor.
So the clock would start all over until she found one, and once she did, that was only the beginning.
“You have to be a patient of that doctor for at least the three months, and you have to show that you are in need of it based on how frequent your seizures are, how extreme your seizures are. I was having anywhere from three to six seizures a month, so I was on the list. Some people who aren't as frequent, you don't get on the list, but I got on the list,” Trask said.
Without the medical marijuana, she is starting to have more seizures.
“Since I have had my brain surgery on my left temporal lobe, I have been having my seizures all on my left side, and they start on my left side, impact my whole body on my left side where I start the seizure, and then it moves all the way over to my right side,” she explained.
She is left with only one treatment option. It is a vagus nerve stimulation surgery that she hoped could help reduce the seizures.
“Every time either I have a seizure, one of my family members or whoever is near me will be able to take the wand and put it over my chest to stop the seizure or slow it and not make the seizure last as long or make it not necessarily stop but do that type of thing,” Trask said.
It's not guaranteed to work, but Trask had the surgery a few weeks ago, and she was able to find a new doctor.