Back in 1997, I suffered a bout of cancer which almost cost me my life.

I won't go into the gory details of what happened, but I will say here that I am definitely grateful to the surgical team who worked very hard at correcting the situation, as well as the rest of the doctors and other medical personnel who are the primary reason I'm here today.

Instead, I'm going to talk about my recovery, because what occurred during that period forms the subject of today's column.

While in the hospital, I was informed by my doctor that I could opt to undergo chemo-therapy as a follow-up treatment. Or, he said, I could take my chances and not do anything. If I picked number 2, he said, the was a 60 to 40 chance - in my favor - of the cancer returning. If I decided to take chemo-therapy, he continued, the odds improved to 75 to 25 percent.

It didn't take me long to make up my mind. I had just gone through major surgery to correct the situation, and I wanted to take every precaution possible to prevent the cancer from re-occurring. So, I opted to undergo chemo-therapy treatments for six months.

Incidentally, before I continue, I've been cancer-free ever since. And thank God for that.

I paid a hefty price - gladly mind you - in order to have that happen. Because as anyone who has gone through chemo-therapy will tell you, it is no fun at all.

For those who haven't experience it, certain chemicals are introduced into your system over an extended period of time which are deadly to fast growing cells - such as cancer cells. Unfortunately, there are other fast growing cells in your body - particularly those involving hair growth - that are also affected by such treatment. This is why many people undergoing chemo-therapy go bald. It's an unfortunate but necessary side affect.

I lost some of my hair during the treatment and could live with that. But chemo-therapy also produces other side affects which are even less pleasant. During the six months I was undergoing treatment I was constantly battling nausea on a daily basis, as well as an over-all sense of fatigue which constantly left me drained.

My doctors gave me some drugs to off-set the situation, and it did help a bit, but not nearly enough. Day after day I went into work, fighting to keep my stomach under control (and many times losing). Even worse was the constant "drained" feeling, in which all I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep. Unfortunately, this was not an option - I had a job and just couldn't afford to take a leave of absence for the six months I was in treatment. And yes, I am extremely thankful it only lasted that long; because I have heard of those requiring constant treatments over a period of years to keep them alive.

As the treatment continued and I worked my way through the misery, I changed my opinion concerning the possibility of using marijuana for medicinal purposes. Previously, I had heard that marijuana could alleviate the symptoms associated with chemo-therapy. Before I had to undergo it, I was against the idea, figuring that the convention ways of dealing with the symptoms should be sufficient. But when I had to go through chemo-therapy myself, my opinion on the subject made a 180-degree turn.

The fact that marijuana alleviates the more miserable symptoms of chemo-therapy was no doubt discovered by accident. Recovering cancer patients who was also illicit marijuana users probably noticed that many of the symptoms associated with chemo-therapy were alleviated or even disappeared whenever they smoked the "devil weed." They passed this information on to others and it became an open secret within the medical community, as well as society in general.

What many people forget is that marijuana is a drug and that like other drugs it has its advantages if used properly, and well as its drawbacks if abused. I confess, if I had had access to marijuana during the period I was undergoing chemo-therapy treatments, I would probably would have smoked it. Because dealing with the nausea and the miserable lethargy on a daily basis is quite frankly unnecessary, given the fact that marijuana is so easily available. I believe Pennsylvania and other states should give serious consideration to legalizing medicinal marijuana under the circumstances, given the fact it could help to alleviate the suffering of those who are undergoing chemo-therapy to stay alive. Such a thing would make life much more worth living, under the circumstances.

C.J. Marshall is a writer and columnist for The Daily/Sunday Review. He can be reached at