Mom's Marijuana: Insights About Living

Overview

Dan Shapiro's mother was always an avid gardener who tortured her neighbors with excessive quantities of zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. When Dan was twenty years old, he was diagnosed with cancer. Leaving Vassar to move home with his parents, he informed them that he'd learned marijuana would help him endure the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. His vehemently anti-drug mother was certain smoking dope would lead to his ruin. He argued. She countered. He gave up. Then suddenly she came around and gave him ...
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Overview

Dan Shapiro's mother was always an avid gardener who tortured her neighbors with excessive quantities of zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. When Dan was twenty years old, he was diagnosed with cancer. Leaving Vassar to move home with his parents, he informed them that he'd learned marijuana would help him endure the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. His vehemently anti-drug mother was certain smoking dope would lead to his ruin. He argued. She countered. He gave up. Then suddenly she came around and gave him money to buy the pot he needed. But when he returned with the small Baggie, she was incredulous. She held out her hand and said, "Give me the seeds." Eleven-foot-high marijuana plants, at first coyly hidden by a row of sunflowers, soon towered over the backyard. It would be nine years before Dan, by then a parent himself, would fully understand the powerful forces behind his mother's decision to plant those seeds in her garden.

At times hilarious, but always intimate, honest, and luminous, Mom's Marijuana takes us from Dan's first diagnosis to his second relapse, to — finally — sustained, thriving health. Whether it's the decision to paint himself green to frighten his mother after radiation treatment, fighting to survive while surrendering to love with an oncology nurse, or learning the meaning of life and family from events once taken for granted, Dan Shapiro tells his story with a wit and grace that made him a favorite on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.

Mom's Marijuana takes us on a literary skinny dip; exposed, cold, and raw, we're plunged into a compulsively, almost obsessively readable account of life with cancer andthe exuberant redemption of health. Mom's Marijuana shows us that it's when the pulse and rhythm of life are stirred violently that we're made to learn the beauty of multitudes, of finding what it is that makes us so brutally vulnerable, plain, and godly all at once.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The title may lead one to believe that this book is predominately about the author's use of medical marijuana, which is actually only a very tiny part of the text. Shapiro (integrative medicine/psychiatry, Univ. of Arizona Health Sciences Ctr.) was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease at the age of 20. While he discusses his illness and recovery--including his mother's growing ten cannabis plants to help relieve the side effects of chemotherapy--Shapiro's memoir (actually a collection of essays) also presents memories of his childhood and musings on his current family life and work. Shapiro writes lovely pieces--some of which are true gems--but the book does not flow as a unified narrative. Although he shares intimate details of his life, Shapiro's tone is somewhat detached; this reviewer finished the book with no feeling of connection or sense of him as a person. Nevertheless, Mom's Marijuana is most useful for its depiction of living with a life-threatening disease at a young age. Recommended for larger public libraries and consumer health collections.--Eris Weaver, Redwood Health Lib., Petaluma, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A wry, moving memoir of suffering and survival by a young man with Hodgkin's disease.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780609605691
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/24/2000
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan Shapiro is an assistant professor in the department of integrative medicine/psychiatry at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. He lives in Tucson with his wife, Teresa, and their two daughters.
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Read an Excerpt

My parents always kept a small plot of land in the backyard as a garden. It was roughly the size of an average bedroom. Pretty small. But they hovered around that garden all spring and summer. They plowed, fertilized, hoed, mulched, and sampled the soil. They watered. They pinched leaves. At night they pointed to pictures in books and seed magazines, which eventually accumulated and took over the dining room.

And then, a few months later, there was a crop of something. Usually a crop of mutant something. One year it was zucchini. Thousands of zucchini crawled out of the garden as if cast in a late-night horror film. Neighbors came home to anonymous zucchini breads, pies, and cakes delicately balanced inside of screen doors or stuffed into mailboxes. Dad kept a huge zucchini next to his bed in case there were intruders.

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in April, the planting month. Dr. Brodsky talked with his arms crossed in front of him, listing the chemotherapy agents I would be taking and their side effects. Prednisone. Procarbazine. Nitrogen mustard. Vincristine. The latter two would cause nausea and vomiting. It sounded unpleasant.

A few nights before I was scheduled to start treatment, I called a friend, the only person my age I knew who'd had cancer. He muttered five gruff words into the phone: "Chemo's grim, man, get weed."

I trotted into the living room and nonchalantly announced to the family that I was going to buy marijuana to help with the nausea and vomiting.

There was an oppressive silence, punctuated only by the rapid tapping of my mother's finger on an armchair. Then she began, her voice carrying that staccato edge shegenerally reserved for my father. She told me in no uncertain terms that there would be no drugs in the house. She berated me about the dangers of illicit substances, the horrors that visit lives filled with addiction, and swore to me that her roof would never shelter a drug user. She ended her diatribe with an outstretched finger.

With the vigor of an adolescent with a cause, I argued back that for me, marijuana would be medicine, the only medicine that could temper the violent treatment I faced. That it wasn't addictive, and that my body would soon process toxins far more dangerous than marijuana. At the end of our conversation we were where we began. I knew my mother. Once she was entrenched in a position, argument was futile. I retreated.

I still wonder what happened to her during the night. Maybe she studied the pamphlets the doctors provided, maybe she woke up in a sweat, the remnants of noxious dreams about her son and chemotherapy still etched in her mind's eye. I don't know. But I do know this. The next morning my mother ran her finger down the "Smoke Shop" listings in the phone book. She called a number of establishments, asking detailed questions and jotting down words like bong, carb, and water pipe. Then she gathered her keys and purse, and thirty minutes later was walking down the aisles of a head shop called Stairway to Heaven, taking notes and carefully checking the merchandise for shoddy workmanship. My mother is a Consumer Reports shopper.

I was sitting on the ground in the backyard when my mother's car pulled into the driveway. A few moments later she appeared on the back porch waving a three-foot bong over her head. She proclaimed her find with the same robust voice she'd used for years to call my brother and me to dinner: "Is this one okay? They didn't have blue. . . ."

When I entered the house she delicately handed me the bong and some money. She brushed dust from my shoulder and softly told me to do whatever I needed to get the marijuana. After a quick phone call I left to make my purchase. When I returned with the small Baggie my mother asked to see it. I felt a sharp adolescent fear, conditioned from years of living under my mother's vigilant eyes. I handed it over. She looked into the small bag. Incredulous.

"Where's the rest of it?" she asked.

"That's it, Ma," I said. She squinted at me. "I swear, Ma. That's it."

She murmured quietly, "Honey, give me the seeds."

I thought of huge zucchinis.

When my father learned of my mother's plan he clipped two articles out of the paper with the titles "Police Raid Yields Results" and "Drug House Seized." He put them under a magnet on the refrigerator and underlined the worst parts. That night, as we prepared for dinner, Mom read them, nodded soberly, and said, "Bring them on."

That summer my parents plowed, fertilized, hoed, mulched, and sampled the soil. They watered. They pinched leaves. And that August the mutant crop arrived. Ten bushy plants grew over eleven feet tall in our backyard, eclipsing the sunflowers in front of them. Far more weed than I could have smoked in a lifetime.




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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2007

    Sensitive subject-sensitve writing

    Could not put the book down, it really struck a cord since we have gone through cancer twice with my wife. Makes you laugh and makes you cry, great story and great writing on Professor Shapiros part.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2003

    Further illustration of the need for reformation of marijuana laws

    An important subject handled with insight and first hand experience, the author demonstrates the need for rethinking outdated laws, along with others, such as Lyn Nofziger, former Reagan advisor, Nixon staffer, former Republican Party honcho, who somewhat recently appeared on Donahue talking about watching his daughter suffer from and eventually succumb to cancer, spoke about her need for marijuana in her illness and its treatment and our obligation to make it available to other patients when needed. It works when nothing else does.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2003

    Beware of marijuana

    I think people need to realize that marijuana is more damaging to your lungs than cigarettes. For this reason, why would someone who is recovering from cancer use something that could cause further serious health problems? I smoked it in college and found it very pleasant, but do not anymore because of health risks. It is not a harmless drug and people need to realize that.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2002

    Highly Recommended

    I almost didn't read the book based on the critic's comments, and am so glad I did. The book is highly recommended especially for those in healthcare, or anyone who has the ability to empathize with another humans triumphs. I best describe the book as a roller-coaster of emotions. My favorite story was about his Jewish acquaintance. The book is full of truth an honesty. The author deserves our applause in delivering a magnificant recount of his history. God bless him and his family. Read it and Laugh, read it and Weep!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2000

    Swept away by 'Mom's Marijuana'

    Shapiro's essays hooked me from the very first page. Poignant, yet funny, 'Mom's Marijuana' is among the most readable and engaging books I've read in a long time. His story of living through cancer treatment is both human and heroic. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

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