Celia Behar is mom of two, a blogger, Life Coach Celia Behar Life Coaching, and trained therapist with a master's degree in counseling. Behar is President of The Lil' Mamas and writes on the blog- where she recently wrote a personal, heartbreaking story. We're here to share her story further because it's time we stop saying "cannabis" like it's a dirty word. Warning: get ready to ugly cry.
"I've been trying to get my sister, Julie, to smoke pot with me since she was 14. Over the last 26 years, I've succeeded only twice," Behar began. "The first time was when we were in our early 20's. It was Thanksgiving and we were at my grandparents' farm in upstate NY. After dinner we were both losing our minds, stuck in a political/religious bashing of all things pop-culture with our relatives – and seriously needing a drink…or an escape route…or a lobotomy.
But no one there drank and none of the knives were pointy enough, so we were basically screwed. Then I remembered I had some weed in my car and at that point my sister was ready to try anything in order to feel less stabby about the entire situation so she snuck outside to smoke with me."
Celia Behar at The Emerald Exchange in 2016photo: Celia Behar
Behar hadn't planned ahead for this and knew the two would need to find something to smoke with. That's when she sent Julie to retrieve a coffee filter to roll what she refers to as, "possibly the worst joint ever," that they proceeded to smoke. "[We] inhaled that sucker like little Jewish Cheech and Chongs [w]hile our family argued on about gay rights, healthcare, birth control, and whether or not Meg Ryan had her 'lips done'."
Fast forward to 2016- both Celia and Julie are still soulmates and now mothers too. Julie Elizabeth Behar, 40, is mother to four beautiful children ages 7 months, 10, 12, and 15 years. On November 8, 2016, Julie was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer, metastasized to her gallbladder, liver, and lymph nodes.
The cancer symptoms were lurking behind her last pregnancy and so it went undetected until recently. By the time she was diagnosed, her doctor estimated she had just 1-2 years to live if she responded to treatment. There was no mention of recovery. Julie was just about to begin a new job; she had no health insurance.
"Three days before chemo was scheduled to start, she [Julie] got a call from the treatment center telling her that because she had no insurance (which they knew from the start and yet STILL put a port in her – i.e., a hole in her body where the chemo gets delivered), they would not be giving her chemo when she was scheduled and basically wished her luck," wrote Behar. "This is the same center that made it clear to her that if she didn't start chemo as soon as her body could handle it she would die within months."
Behar was not going to give up. She knows the power of people and the power of Mamas, especially when one is in need. Within two days, Julie acquired insurance and began chemotherapy. Behar booked a flight to be with her sister.
"It sucked. She was sick to her stomach, lethargic, dehydrated, and jaundiced. Her boyfriend and I took turns calling the hospital to ask for advice and every time I was struck with how totally cold they were. We were just numbers. This wasn't my sister to them; this was just a patient. Not a person, but a number. A statistic – and not a good one," Behar continued. "It felt horrible. Had I not been experiencing the exact opposite treatment from a different group of providers at the same time, I can say without a doubt that my faith in humanity would likely have been lost."
A cannabis user for years treating her own anxiety, postpartum depression, and insomnia, Behar was well aware of its uses and potential benefits for someone like Julie who so desperately needed relief not only from the cancer ravaging her body, but the effects of modern medicine that was supposed to be fighting it. When she first learned of Julie's diagnosis, she relied on support and wisdom from two very close friends who also happened to be in the cannabis industry.
"The first person I spoke to was Mama Tracy Ryan of Cannakids," Behar wrote of her fellow Mama friend. "If you don't know Tracy's story, she has been helping her little girl Sophie battle brain cancer since she was an infant by using cannabis. She founded and runs Cannakids and knows more about medical marijuana than anyone I know. She was the first person to give me hope by telling me about the healing properties of cannabis and how different organs have different receptors that process it. She told me of studies where cancer damage was actually reversed after treatment involving cannabis.
She then went on to offer any services that she had at her disposal to help my sister. She was, and has continued to be, an amazing support. The next person I told was my longtime friend, Tom Grubbs. Tom and I grew up together and not long after I moved to LA, he moved to Oregon (about 2 hours from where my sister lives now). He is also a partner at the cannabis farm Moto Perpetuo Farm. From the second I told him what was going on, Tom rallied.
photo: Moto Perpetuo Farm
He informed (and I mean INFORMED) me that my sister's cancer would be "attacked thoroughly" by cannabis and before I knew it, he had special cannabis oils made for her, connected me to a cancer survivor who beat it by only using cannabis, scheduled meetings for me with the oil creators so I could ask questions, and set my sister up with the product and supplies she needed. I never asked him to do any of this – he just did it. And since then, every single person that he has put me in touch with has gone out of their way to help me and Julie."
Celia praises everyone she has now worked with in the cannabis industry, "For the most part, these people have done these things without knowing either of us. And their involvement in my sister's treatment didn't end once we received their products. They call and text us through the worst of her chemo reactions, offering advice, an ear, hope. They hug us when they see us. They know our names," which Celia adds is a "stark contrast to how we were treated on the other side by mainstream medicine."
"Cannabis isn't a joke, a gateway drug, or whatever the hell propaganda we've been sold for years. It is a medical treatment, possibly a miracle," Behar continued. "And the people who work in the cannabis industry, well, they aren't that far off from angels in my opinion. Brilliant, hardworking, dedicated, and driven angels.
They fly in the face of the image of burn out stoners who can't get off the couch. These stereotypes and stigmas around cannabis – they have to end. We have this amazing, potentially lifesaving resource and because of years and years of misinformation about it, people aren't using it. And those who do are judged and maligned. No. This needs to stop. I'm a mom, a sister, a daughter and a person whose life is better because of cannabis and the cannabis industry. It works like nothing else ever has. I'm tired of hiding it, [t]ired of not talking about it. Why is it OK for moms to talk about wanting 'ALL the wine' but I can't say I want my vape pen without being lambasted?
How is drinking in front of my kids – and teaching them that drinking is OK when done responsibly – different than using marijuana in front of them and teaching them the same thing? It's not. My children are well aware that I use cannabis and that their aunt and friend Sophie are being helped by it. They are being educated about cannabis, not poisoned against it and they know that I have hope for my sister's life because of it," Behar wrote on her blog.
Since starting her cannabis treatment, Behar says Julie not only feels better but her tests are looking better as well. "I don't know what that will mean for her in the long run, but I do know that this wasn't what the doctors were expecting. Now will they give the cannabis credit for that? Somehow I doubt it."
More of Behar's blog post can be found at The Lil' Mamas.