For Tahnee Shah
Tahnee Shah is the reason for all of this. She came into my life in November, just after I moved to Los Angeles "for cannabis." I didn't even know what that meant before I met Tahnee. My friend Melissa Palmer heard her speak at Fran Drescher's Cancer Schmancer event and insisted that we meet immediately. A few days later we were eating homemade gluten-free waffles together at Melissa's house while Tahnee shared her story. At the age of twenty-two, while finishing college at Syracuse University and preparing to move to New York City to start working, Tahnee was diagnosed with Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma, a rare, incurable form of liver cancer. It was Stage 4. When doctors told her she only had three months to live, in true Tahnee fashion, she disagreed. "Don't you dare tell me how much longer I have to live," she said. "I'll decide that." Three years later, even after chemo stopped working and surgery was no longer an option, she was still standing strong. In her mind, cannabis was keeping her alive.
Tahnee died yesterday at the age of twenty-five. Now it's my job to keep her story alive.
Tahnee told me that she unexpectedly discovered the benefits of cannabis during one of the sickest days of her early treatment. Weighing only eighty-nine pounds, she was so ill and weak from chemo that she could barely move. Out of complete desperation, her parents called a friend who they knew used cannabis. Tahnee's friend came over and gently blew cannabis smoke around Tahnee's frail body. Within minutes, Tahnee could stand up. She felt hungry for the first time in weeks. Cannabis brought her back to life, giving her strength and hope. Chemo eventually stopped working for Tahnee, but cannabis continued to heal her while she explored clinical trials and alternative treatments.
Cannabis sparked a fire in Tahnee. She believed that every cancer patient deserved access to the plant as a part of their treatment plan. Cannabis was never a recreational drug for her, but a basic human right for anyone in pain. It was her mission to use her experience to make people more open to exploring the benefits of cannabis. When I met Tahnee I had no idea what I wanted to do in the cannabis industry but I was sure of one thing: more people needed to know her story. She was the inspiration for the first cannabis women's circle. She was and will continue to be the inspiration for Cannabis Feminist.
Tahnee was in the middle of filming her documentary, Tahnee's Medicine, when her health began to decline a few months ago. The last time I saw her was on Valentine's Day when she planned, hosted and cooked a cannabis-infused vegan dinner for her family and friends. The event was called "Love Yourself" and it was the most beautiful Valentine's Day celebration I've ever seen. Friends and family rallied around Tahnee as she served her guests homemade apple roses, vegan mac-n-cheese and infused jackfruit tacos. She was glowing with pride and her smile lit up the room.
Tahnee was never a cancer patient. Cancer didn't define her or hold her back in any way. If you met her you probably wouldn't believe that she was sick at all. She was a fierce warrior, sister, daughter and friend and a loyal Cannabis Feminist whose story will change the course of history for cannabis and health. Cancer was just a platform to amplify her magic.
Tahnee Shah, I will fight for cannabis in your honor for the rest of my life. Thank you for sharing your light with all of us. This is only the beginning of your impact on me and on the world.