In 2012, at the age of 52, Beverly Soucy had scheduled her first mammogram ever, then presented with a persistent pneumonia, having to cancel and reschedule the procedure twice.
“My instincts told me something was wrong, but I was thinking I was in for a heart attack or something – I never dreamed it would be breast cancer,” she shared. “When I finally did the mammogram, I was on my way out, and the doctor chased me down the hallway, asking me to humor him and return the next day for a biopsy.”
The humorless biopsy quickly turned into 12 separate needle explorations into her breasts, found to be riddled with cancerous masses, and a diagnosis of Lobular carcinoma. This type of cancer is found in the lobules, the milk-producing glands, and is said to be the second most common form of breast cancer, affecting 10 percent of women in the U.S.
“Getting that diagnosis changes you,” she shared. “Everything stands still. I felt as though I went through the double-mastectomy, numerous painful procedures and treatments, then reconstruction surgery, all in a daze. It felt as though my brain was pushing everything I went through to another place, to protect me – or I would have just crumbled under the weight of it all.”
Soucy said she came home from the mastectomies with a bag full of prescription meds, Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Percocet, and more. The first time she took the Oxycontin, she said she “went mental.”
“I think many people just sink into the pharmaceuticals to push back on the reality of what they are going through,” she pondered. “All the pills take your spirit away, until you are just wallowing in a pharma-induced haze.”
Soucy shared that her saving grace was when a dear friend, who had just gone through prostate cancer, arrived at her door with a bag of brownies, cookies, and olive oil – all infused with cannabis.
“I had smoked cannabis since high school, but the last time I had a brownie in my teens it was not a good experience. It was an old-school brownie – full of stems and seeds,” she laughed. “I thought I was going to die! And I surely never thought I’d ever eat one again, that’s for sure.”
Her friend had dropped the bag of edibles by while she was sleeping, with a request she call him for instructions.
“Well, of course I ate an entire cookie before he arrived!” she laughed. “So, he brought a book to read, sitting by my side to keep an eye on me. But, it wasn’t a bad trip – maybe because I needed it to heal. I had a lovely euphoric feeling, and the pain was completely gone. But more importantly, the plant spoke to my mental capacity, it cleared my mind from the pharma, and allowed me to focus on the situation at hand, not escape.”
Each morning, Soucy said she’d take one dropper of the olive oil, and would be pain-free, with no need for the pills, lasting five to six hours, until she took another dropper-full. The recovery period after the mastectomy that was estimated to take six months, took a mere five weeks, with Soucy back to work in record time, ready for the reconstructive surgery – with her surgeon amazed.
Soucy’s day job is restaurant management, but her experience compelled her to work at the hospital. After having an informal meeting with staff about the importance of ingesting healthy fare to promote healing, she was hired to work in the kitchen.
“The worst thing about the hospital stay was the food – how in the world are you supposed to heal when you are fed empty, salty foods?” she exclaimed.
Make food thy medicine, and medicine thy food – Socrates
“This experience changed me forever, and I began making my own remedies with plants – just as my ancestors had,” she shared. “It was as if their spirits were within me, pushing me in this direction, as I began foraging medicinal plants in the woods by my home. Plants I’d always judged as weeds – dandelions, mallow, birch bark, and plantain.”
Her lineage includes apothecaries from her father’s side of the family who migrated from Ireland, landing in Western Maine, where she makes her home today.
Both sides of her family lived off the land, with her mother’s side working as potters, weavers, cooks, and caregivers outside the home, and her grandmother on her father’s side selling remedies in a shop.
“My grandmother’s sister sold herbs, remedies and read tea leaves for customers. They could whip up formulations for colds, fevers, and broken hearts,” she laughed. “If you were dumped by a boyfriend, you went to Grammies and she’d make a ‘potion’ of honey, tea, homemade blackberry brandy, and horehound. They weren’t witches – they made healing tonics.”
“Everything in my stash means something to me,” she shared. “I’ve always felt I’m an old soul, born in the wrong time. The 1940s speak to me, and it shows in my stash. My grammy gave me pink dishes, jewelry, and seashells from her travels.”
The cigarette box, now repurposed for joints, is another gift from grammy. The vape pens are from Kandypen; and the flower is Maine Blue Cheese, grown last summer in her own garden, testing at 21 percent THC.
“The pearls were a birthday gift from my dear friend, Brent and his husband, Peter,” she explained. “The pipe is a gift from Afghanistan, brought back from my cousin Stephanie, who just returned from two tours. The stones are from a beach in Southern Maine, found during a particularly tough day – my first day back to the beach after the cancer treatments ended.”
A cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment is never easy, and Soucy said losing both breasts changed her forever in many ways.
“On the way back from one of my many reconstructive surgeries, I passed a sign on the side of the road, ‘Be of Good Courage.’ I never knew I was brave,” she surmised, “but that sign stayed with me. I’ve always been independent and lived alone, never had kids – bought my first Harley just out of high school, ran businesses, played guitar. I knew I had guts and a big mouth, but I never knew I could stand on my own two feet, alone – until my cancer experience. When my friend brought over the medibles and oil, I had no idea what would happen to me next – mentally and physically. I learned that it’s alright to ask for help, and to accept the changes that follow.”