Cannabis and Cancer: Kelly Hauf’s Brain Tumor and the Fight for Her Life

­ by Lindsay Rogers

kellyandrick copyKelly Hauf has everything she wanted: two beautiful daughters, a hard-working husband who held the respected position of assistant chief of the fire department in their city, and a successful career in book publishing. But in November 2013, at the age of 51, a routine brain scan changed it all.

Kelly’s journey started with that headache when she was 38 years old — the pounding in her head hurt severely — but the cause as to why it was happening had her doctor stumped. He recommended a CAT scan to aid in the diagnosis. Not much could have prepared Kelly for what they discovered: there was a 3cm tumor in the left frontal lobe of her brain, and immediate brain surgery was the recommendation.

But when Kelly met with the surgeon, he wasn’t quite so sure immediate surgery was the answer. Rather, the surgeon felt that the slow growth of the tumor and the lack of adjacent edema meant it would be safe to postpone treatment, and felt they could just closely monitor the tumor with an MRI every three months instead. So Kelly opted not to rush into treatment, and decided to postpone surgery instead.

For the next three years, Kelly’s family adjusted to the regular MRI monitoring. The routine scan every three months was just the couple’s norm as they raised their two teenage daughters, and for a while, everything remained stable.

The first week of September is usually a joyous time for Kelly. There are plenty of celebrations during that week, with her husband’s birthday falling the day before their wedding anniversary. But in 2003, Kelly spent her husband’s 42nd birthday in Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles for brain surgery. After they’d received the news from their last routine MRI that the tumor had suddenly grown by 25 percent, and it was time to take action, celebrations or not.

Things got even worse the following day, though. On what marked their 19th wedding anniversary, the pathology report came back with some good news — but also some not so good news.

The good news? The surgery was an apparent success, and neither radiation nor chemotherapy was recommended.

The bad news, though, was in Kelly’s prognosis. The pathology report confirmed the tumor was an Oligodendroglioma grade 2, and the nature of gliomas are to grow back over time.

But Kelly’s bill of health, and those never-ending MRI scans, which followed her out the doors of Cedars Sinai in 2003, stayed clean, year after year. And then, with ten years of clean MRI scans, things again came to a halt.

In November 2013, Kelly was 51 years old and at the ten year mark for clean scans when it was discovered the tumor had begun to regrow, and this time, Kelly’s brain surgeon recommended four to six months of chemotherapy. If that didn’t work, they would consider yet another brain surgery to clean up the regrowth. And again, just as she did with that very early diagnosis, Kelly opted not to rush into treatment. She decided to research all her options again instead.

But before Kelly left his office, the doctor prescribed an anti-seizure medication for the auras that had started to manifest as strong unexplained odors. He explained to Kelly that those auras are known as olfactory seizures, and — of course — Kelly began researching alternatives to this seizure medicine, too. That’s when she stumbled upon some information about Charlotte’s Web cannabis oil.

Not only was this oil being used to an a safe alternative to the medication she was prescribed, but she also found evidence, gleaned from studies out of Spain and Israel, that said other types of cannabis oil were also showing promise as a cancer treatment, and could perhaps be used as an alternative to chemotherapy.

“I was familiar with cannabis, but it was not a part of my life.  I read about how it helped a little girl name Charlotte when Charlotte’s Web oil was first discovered to help Dravet Syndrome, a severe seizure disorder. I began investigating it after I discovered that I was having olfactory seizures and I wondered if it might help instead of taking anti seizure meds. That lead me to the studies out of Spain and Israel that suggested that it may be a treatment for brain cancer also,” said Kelly.

But there was an issue to that alternative. Kelly, who lived in Oklahoma at the time, did not have legal access to cannabis. Her youngest daughter Jillian, however, was away at college in San Francisco, where medical marijuana was legal. But while Jillian was going to be coming home for Christmas, Kelly wasn’t ready to make any healthcare decisions yet. Her main focus was the holidays with her family.

“It was a very difficult and painful decision to leave my family and life in Oklahoma. At first we decided to go to San Francisco for information only, but decided to stay and do the three month treatment,” Kelly says.

kellyandrick2After Christmas morning came and went, Jillian and her father Rick were quite ready for Kelly to make a decision. So with the support and encouragement of her family, Kelly packed up the Christmas tree ornaments and packed up the car, and then headed off to California to explore cannabis oil as a cancer treatment. Rick took an emergency leave of absence from his job to be by his wife’s side.

Getting to California was just the beginning of their journey.

“I moved in with one of my daughters in San Francisco during my treatment, and she was one of my biggest supporters. Actually, both my daughters were very supportive of my choice. My parents, my husband’s parents, my siblings, friends, extended family, everyone I know was supportive of my decision to try this treatment. If they weren’t…I never heard otherwise,” Kelly says.

Making the decision to get started was easier the more they researched. Together, Kelly and Rick talked with doctors, met with members of support groups who were taking the oil. They read articles about successful brain tumor results with cannabis out of Spain and Amsterdam, and gathered information wherever they could.

But it was a paper on a study about the chemotherapy her doctor had recommended that really kicked Kelly into action. Kelly took the study to evidence that patients with tumors like the one she was diagnosed with appeared to get better at first with the chemo, but then the left over tumor cells would mutate and turn aggressive over time.

“Once I got to California, I met with a Medical Marijuana Doctor who had been practicing for 30 years.  He wrote me a script (Medical Marijuana Recommendation), but was not able to tell me what to do,” says Kelly.

“He suggested I use cannabis oil, what he called “Simpson type oil”, and he told me to start very small — one half a grain of rice — and to build up tolerance as quickly as possible. He said that I needed to be on about a gram a day.”

But Kelly had no idea who Rick Simpson was at that point.

“I went to the dispensary and asked for Simpson type oil. Quickly after that, a new friend emailed me some videos to watch, and one was “Run From the Cure” by Rick Simpson.  That is when I first heard of him and his story,” she says.

With no real guidance or standard protocols in place for medical marijuana dosing, Kelly was just relieved to find a recommended treatment regime.

“I was so happy to find a protocol to use so I just did that one. I don’t think there are enough studies out right now that can tell you exactly what to do, so I just picked one and went for it,” Kelly says.

“Hopefully, more studies will be done and refined soon, and we will know more on what a good dosage and protocol would be for each ailment.”

Kelly’s first dose of cannabis oil was nothing like she’d envisioned, though, and she certainly wasn’t prepared for what followed.

“The first night I tried the cannabis oil I had a three hour episode of rapid heart rate, trouble breathing (as in having to take deep breaths to get enough oxygen), inability to walk or stand, and uncontrollable jerking movements. Even though I never lost consciousness, I felt as if I was viewing the world through a tunnel,” says Kelly.

But it wasn’t all bad, mind you.

“It felt to me as if this plant was healing me on many levels, not just the physical. It seemed to bring up what issues I had, such as my fear, which made it more challenging than if I had just relaxed into it. It felt like the healing was taking place on levels that needed to occur before physical healing could take place. Before that night, I had absolutely no idea and no respect for the sacred healing of this plant,” she says.

She wasn’t quite ready to give up, though. Kelly was convinced this could work, and decided to give the oil another try.

“My instinct was to withdraw from the treatment, but instead I found the courage to try it again, taking it much more slowly this time, with the respect it deserved,” she says. “I think the realization of what I was taking on, and the magnitude of the potential, that gave me the courage to continue the protocol. This is not an easy treatment.  It is not fun or anything you would want to do recreationally. It deserves respect and much perseverance.”

Realizing the powerful effects of the oil, her next dose was much smaller — half a grain of rice — and of a different batch.

“I gradually built up my tolerance even though I continued to have much of the same symptoms, although not as intense or severe, I was able to relax and just be the observer in the process. I changed the oil I was using to a hybrid instead of a sativa,” Kelly says.

“My understanding is that an Indica is best for this treatment — however, I didn’t know this at the time. Instead of going to sleep, I was very anxious and needed to walk it off. This actually worked in my favor because I was able to walk around for hours which allowed me to take deep cleansing breaths and to add cardio exercise into my treatment walking up and down the hills of San Francisco,” she says.

“I lost at least 30 pounds with the change in my diet and the walking every day. My husband did too, so it wasn’t directly due to the oil.”

With an MRI scheduled in April, just 90 days away, the plan was to follow the Rick Simpson Cancer Treatment Protocol of 60 grams of concentrated cannabis oil over a 90 day period. However, when April arrived, Kelly had still been unable to reach the recommended gram a day. She feared the results would not be favorable since she failed to follow the recommended protocol.

And she was right. The report showed no change in the main tumor’s regrowth — however, where there had once been a smaller inoperable tumor in the cingular gyrus, a tumor doctors had been monitoring since Kelly’s first tumor surgery ten years prior, there was nothing to be found. The tumor was completely gone.

“We were amazed, and it gave us the encouragement we needed to continue the cannabis protocol,” Kelly says.

“When I wasn’t able to get my tolerance up in three months we decided to go back to Oklahoma and sell our house to get more money to continue my treatment. During that six weeks back in Oklahoma, I didn’t take the oil, so when I returned back to San Francisco, I had to start all over again building my tolerance,” she says.

“Fortunately, I had talked with a friend who had been working with children with seizure disorders in Colorado who were on the oil, and she told me about taking a supplement called Citicoline along with the oil to help the jerking activity I was having. This helped me build my dosage faster and easier when I returned to San Francisco to continue my treatment.”

During the next few months, Kelly reached a gram a day, and eventually worked her way up to two grams a day during the final two weeks before her next MRI, which was scheduled for the end of August.

“Once I got up to one gram a day, I was not able to function normally. I was at this dose almost two months before my MRI. The last week I was taking two grams a day. I was not able to complete a sentence before forgetting what I was taking about. My husband, Rick, took on my daily care,” says Kelly. “He cooked and juiced for me and brought me everything I needed. I would assume that anyone doing this treatment would be wise to have a caregiver that can help them get through the high dose part of the treatment.”

“I was taking 70 percent or more THC, with low CBD in a hybrid,” she says. “I wasn’t really getting too much of the psychoactive effects of the oil like you would think on those high doses, but just having trouble with my memory and ability to connect with people mentally and verbally. Interestingly, I also lost my appetite when I reached the very high doses — 2 grams a day.  I had to force myself to eat towards the end of the treatment. However, all of those symptoms gradually went away after I quit taking the oil.”

And then, in August 2014, about eight months after she’d begun the cannabis treatment, Kelly’s MRI — reviewed by not only a leading radiologist, but her neuro oncologist, and her world-renowned brain surgeon — showed that the only thing remaining of the tumor regrowth was scar tissue.

Kelly has now had a total of three clear MRIs – the initial all clear in August of 2014, a follow-up in December 2014, and the most recent from June 2015.

impression“So far, all that remains is scar tissue from my surgery back in 2003. Because these tumors are chronic and tend to grow back, I will always be living MRI to MRI, but the key word here is that I am living…and in great health with a great immune system,” says Kelly. “I was not left with my immune system compromised by chemo and radiation, which is the standard protocol for these types of tumors as well as other cancers.”

“This ratio is different than what I was taking for my treatment,” Kelly says. “It is a one to one THC:CBD in an Indica. I sleep well and feel well rested when I wake up. If I take one during the day, I do not feel any psychoactive effect at all. I have no adverse symptoms at all on this dose. For me, it was a gradual restoration of my memory and appetite, but both are back to normal now.”Kelly says she has continued to take a small daily maintenance dose of cannabis oil — one tenth of a gram — at night before bed since receiving her all clear last year.

In order to not only pursue but continue the cannabis oil treatment, Kelly and Rick had to sell their home and permanently relocate in California. They have now moved from San Francisco to the Sierra Nevada mountain area, where they currently reside.

“We have a daughter and two granddaughters in Oklahoma that were living a little over a mile from us that we were very close to. It was heart breaking to leave them knowing that my relationship with them would be forever changed,” she says. “But I had to keep reminding myself that it was better than dying and leaving them forever. A year and a half later, I am still grieving over not being there in Oklahoma to watch my granddaughters grow up every day. I miss them terribly and it breaks my heart not to be there with them, especially now that my daughter really needs my help with the recent heart attack of her partner.”

kellyanddaughters“We also had a network of close friends and family that we had to leave. It is very hard being away from our support network, but again, it is better than the alternative of not being here in physical at all. We love California, but we miss our family and friends every day. Because I am on a maintenance dose I can only go back to Oklahoma when I go off the oil, so my time there is very limited,” Kelly says.

Kelly’s doctors never really openly acknowledged to her that the cannabis was solely responsible for killing the tumor cell regrowth, but her oncologist encouraged her throughout it all to continue taking the cannabis oil and continue the using the other healing techniques she was practicing at the time.“I think it’s important to remember that you can just relocate for the duration of the treatment — 3 months — and at that point you will know if it is helping. You don’t have to do what we did and move and sell the house. You can go and establish residency by renting a place for a few months to try the treatment,” she says. “If it works, and you need to stay on a maintenance dose, you can deal with that when or if the time comes. The important thing is to kill the cancer cells as quickly as possible. Preferably before trying chemo and radiation because having those treatments can create more disharmony in the body which seems to makes the cannabis oil have to work harder and longer to create a homeostasis in your body.”

Kelly used the cannabis oil in combination with many other things, so there is no direct proof that cannabis was solely responsible for her success. In addition to cannabis oil, Kelly consumed a GMO-free organic diet, alkaline water from a Kangan water machine, and several supplements — including apricot kernels, black seed oil, and boswellia, just to name a few.

“Of course in light of all the people now trying it (cannabis oil) and it working I have no doubts. I had only heard of two others when I did my treatment, so it’s very reassuring to me now,” Kelly says.

And while she’s not an expert herself, Kelly does have some sage advice for anyone fighting the cancer beast.

“Rick Simpson says to keep the THC at least 70 percent and use an Indica strain,” she says. “I would double check this information to see if anything new has emerged. But the main thing to keep in mind is that if you have an aggressive cancer then you need to act aggressively and swiftly. Don’t get caught up in the details, start on the oil ASAP and then work on getting all the details arranged.”

cancersurvivor“I was lucky that my tumor was slow growing which allowed me the time I needed to try this other option. If the cancer is aggressive, I would assume you would need to move very quickly, and if cannabis is your treatment of choice, I would recommend getting started on it ASAP and to work on getting your tolerance up as quickly as possible. I would make sure the source is pure, meaning organic and free of residual solvents, and confirm that the product is what it is supposed to be. I would have the supply tested in a lab. I would investigate the latest information, because what I know may not be relevant anymore, because new studies are coming out every day,” says Kelly.

“There is one other thing I want to say,” Kelly says. “I am a believer that healing is a very individual experience. What works for one may not work for another. The reason being that we are all on our own paths and our journey and healing takes place on many levels as does our ailments. For this reason I am a uncomfortable with implying that this will work for everyone. We are all different and respond differently to treatments. I only want my viewpoint to reflect that this worked for me.”

She closes with a simple statement. “Many blessings to all. – Kelly”

You can also follow Kelly’s journey on Facebook.

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