Anastasia's story: 

Walking the tightrope of Cannabinoids and Opioids in palliative care

A year and a half ago my daughter was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 7.  She went in for a standard checkup with our family GP. He trusted my instincts as a mother that something was wrong. It turned out our beautiful baby girl had a year to live.

Our incredible relationship with our GP, Dr. Nicholas McCardle, meant that not only were we looked after during this most difficult time. More importantly, we were able to thrive.

We were able to deliver the most precious gift a parent can give a child with terminal cancer. The perfect death.

My father works in medical innovation and has contacts around the world. We knew that my daughter could receive the most cutting edge treatments available. But we decided instead of fighting a prolonged, invasive, and fruitless battle we would favour a kind end.  

Our relationship with our GP meant that he listened to us. 

This is so important. Dr. McCardle knew that we were meeting and speaking with the top DIPG doctors in the world. All he did was facilitate our care. And though that sounds simple. But it is the linchpin in delivering miraculous healthcare.

Dr. McCardle perfectly triaged care to allow us to perform an incredible end of life study. As parents, we were the only ones able to give consent. We read every study we could get our hands on. And like most cancer parents, we used cannabinoids to manage my daughter’s seizures and her depression, as she watched her body die around her. 

We knew cannabinoids were incredibly dangerous when combined with opioids, but did they have to be?

With the help of our GP we were able to use cannabinoids to strengthen the power of the opioids my daughter was taking, to not only reduce side effects, but maximise the quality of her palliative care. 

And unlike most paediatric cancer parents, we were relentlessly honest. We were told to keep it quiet, but I work with vulnerable children. I know social workers and government agencies have one goal in mind for our family, to keep us together and to keep us safe. And so we were honest and open , in order to keep our little girl with us for as long as possible.

At the time of her death, my daughter was taking only 2 milligrams of oral opioids. Unprecedented in a well managed end of life palliative cancer care. 

 As such, she had none of the negative side effects associated with high opioid doses. No suffering, no vomiting, nor psychotic episodes that accompany end of life morphine doses…

We were able to clinically use cannabinoids to strengthen the power of the opioids. 

Safely and effectively walking the tightrope of pain relief and addiction.

 Side effects, and loss of life. 

On May 22, 2022, we gave our daughter the perfect death, quietly in our arms, calmly and beautifully thanks to our incredible GP.