Helen pictured here, at home, with some of her CBD bottles
(and proudly wearing one of our nz hemp-shirts)
Helen Henderson is one strong, determined and intelligent woman taking on a very big fight.
Since being diagnosed in late 2018 with two fast-growing tumours (glioblastoma) developing in and around her brain, Helen has been on a courageous battle with cancer.
NZ Hemp had the pleasure of meeting Helen at her Timaru home and she very kindly was willing to share her story and thoughts with our readers.
NZ Hemp : Lovely to meet you Helen and we appreciate the time you have given us for this interview. Could you please firstly give our readers your working background as we understand you originally come from the health sector.
Helen : Yes, I undertook training as a dietician at Otago University, and later on at the Christchurch hospital, over the course of several years. Subsequently I accepted a full time position at Timaru Hospital as Dietician Specialist where I then worked for most of my career.
NZ Hemp : And can you briefly summarise your retirement lifestyle.
Helen : My health has generally been good which I attribute to leading an active life. I walk frequently, spend time in my garden, tend my beehives, eat as healthy as I can whilst still enjoying socialising with family and friends throughout New Zealand. Reading and researching is also a big part of my life to keep my creative juices flowing.
NZ Hemp : So moving to the time of your diagnosis. How did it all evolve?
Helen : After my 2018 retirement I walked the Abel Tasman track with my grand-daughters and it was soon after finishing the trail that I experienced a partial seizure. I was rushed into the emergency department of the local hospital and upon receiving an MRI scan it was determined I had 2 brain tumours. There followed an urgent admission to Christchurch hospital and I was in surgery by Xmas 2018 where I underwent craniotomy surgery to have a 28mm growth cut from my brain.
After 3 months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment I was discharged back to my hometown of Timaru, where I continued my chemotherapy whilst receives home-help three times daily.
NZ Hemp : At this stage what prognosis did the doctors give you?
Helen : The specialists, in their unquestionable wisdom, gave me 8 months to live (August 2018) so I pleased to say that I sure have beaten that estimate.
NZ Hemp : And what made you turn to trying ‘alternative treatment’ ?
Helen : Well, I could accept their prognosis and die within 2-3 months, but I’m not one to sit on one’s hands, so I started researching other paths I could take.
Whilst recuperating at home I googled ‘clinical trials for brain tumours’ and came across a trial that was about to commence in Australia. I contacted the lead researcher of the Prince of Wales, in Randwick, Sydney and asked about the possibility of participating in their planned 12 week CBD/THC trial. The trial was for 86 patients and I was #86 – needless to say, it was a close call!
NZ Hemp : What has been the reaction and feedback from the medical establishment when told that you were undertaking an alternative remedy to what they offer?
Helen : Whilst the medical fraternity have been surprised by my results, there has been no encouragement from them. My doctors have been very quiet on their judgement or comment when I explain details of my outside treatment. Of course, they are quick to encourage other alternative methods of treatment which largely involve more pharmaceutical pills at a much greater cost to me and patient.
Saying that, the Australian medical establishment have been much more open-minded and enthusiastic for me and my journey.
NZ Hemp : Please tell us about this Australian trial you undertook.
Helen : The trial tests tests the effects of medicinal cannabis on brain cancer sufferers, giving individual doses of either pure tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a mixture of THC and cannobidol or a placebo. I subsequently found out I was receiving THC. starting out with 0.2ml doses and working up to 2ml controlled dosages.
Logistically, the trial involved 4 self-funded trips to Australia for me and my carer. The treatment costs, accommodation, support and medications have all been funded by myself and have never been funded by the taxpayer.
NZ Hemp : And post trial follow-ups and results – how did all this go?
Helen : Flying back through Australia to New Zealand was always a dreaded nightmare. CBD oil is legal in Australia and whilst the trial allowed for me to buy extra CBD oil to take back home to continue my treatment smuggling the oil in my luggage gave me much angst and guilt on each trip – I felt like a criminal even though I was just trying to save my own life! I didn’t want my precious and much-needed cargo detected and confiscated.
Back in New Zealand my oncologist has given me scans that have revealed that my tumors have remained stable with no regrowth. I attribute this result to my undertaking this CBD trial.
NZ Hemp : How has your incredible journey altered your view on CBD oil?
Helen : Before my diagnosis I was very ‘anti-cannabis’. I would never have been exposed to cannabis of any kind, but when you have a death sentence hovering over you it is a damn good time to be more open-minded and try things you would never have before.
I would never have voted YES to cannabis, but now with my experience and vastly increased knowledge I have a totally different attitude.
NZ Hemp : Any final thoughts for our readers?
Helen : In addition to the good results I have got for my condition from my taking of CBD-oil, it has also given me better sleep, which is much needed when you have my condition.
But most of all, this wonderful gift from nature has given me a renewed hope. And hope is what anyone in a similar situation most needs to enable them to continue the battle.