At first, he thought it was a shoulder injury.
When the pain in his left shoulder started, Randy Caine thought his days working in construction had caught up with him.
“I thought I had a rotator cuff injury.”
Then, in June of last year, Caine noticed a lump on his neck
It was lung cancer, what is known as a Pancoast tumor, a slow-moving growth that had spread into nearby muscles and bone.
After more than two decades of advocating for medicinal marijuana for people with serious medical conditions, Caine was now a patient himself.
The 62-year-old married father of two is a recognizable public figure who has run for council and for mayor of Langley City. He is also a successful businessman who operates three HEMPYZ Gift and Novelties shops in both Langleys and White Rock, founder of a city marijuana dispensary that closed down after running into trouble with the authorities, and the Releaf Compassion Centers that provide counseling to people seeking to use cannabis for medical purposes.
He describes himself as an “old hippy” who started dying his long dark hair after it began to turn grey (pictured, left).
About 14 days after his first chemotherapy and radiation treatment his hair started falling out, so he shaved it off.
He began to use everything he had learned about managing pain and nausea with cannabis.
“I was going to apply that knowledge to myself.”
It is now August, and a tanned and healthy-looking Caine is sitting in a Langley City coffee shop, talking about the effectiveness of cannabis in helping him cope with the impact of chemo and radiation treatments.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the end-all and be-all, but it is a part of the overall therapy,” Caine says.
His comments become a blizzard of hard-to-follow technical language having to do with different types of delivery systems, strains of marijuana and other acronym-laden information.
What it boils down to, Caine says, is that people need to have the option of trying different types of marijuana and different ways of ingesting it so they can discover what works best.
To limit patients to single varieties also limits the potential benefits, he believes.
“It would be like only having one pain medication.”
Caine is now undergoing a trial of an experimental cancer treatment that seems promising.
“I’m a lab rat,” he says, cheerfully.
It is a double-blind test, which means some of the subjects are getting the treatment and some are getting a placebo.
It could be that he is getting the actual treatment, or it could be his body’s natural resilience, but Caine has noticed a substantial improvement.
He has regained all of the muscle he lost and his left hand, the hand he uses for writing, is functional again.
“I couldn’t even pick up a piece of paper (before),” he says.
“(Now) I can actually write with it.”
He has regained the sense of taste he lost during his chemotherapy and as a result has become very conscious of the quality of food he consumes.
“I have no interest in food that tastes even marginally bad.”
The most obvious change has been his hair.
When it started growing back, it came in thicker and silver-grey.
His decision to keep it short and grey has become a source of entertainment for Caine, watching people who haven’t seen him in a while do double-takes.
Strangers react differently, he’s noticed.
“The world was a much more hostile place for me previously (when I had long hair),” he says.
“The world has become much more calm, much more peaceful (with short hair). I’m the same guy.”
His cancer is smaller but remains inoperable, Caine says.
“It’s not that bad. I’m okay with it.”
He doesn’t know exactly how much time he has left, but he has long-range plans for the years ahead that include continuing to advocate for marijuana.
Caine says his diagnosis has made him more aware of all the things he has to be grateful for.
“I’ve had this amazing life,” Caine says.
“This has not been a sad story. This is about a journey of life.”