The moments that changed Holden Beach resident Heather Kinlaw’s life and convinced her of the power of CBD.
Do you believe in “God moments,” those times when something so wildly surprising or even seemingly impossible happens in your life that you’re left breathless? You ask yourself, “Is a higher power at work here?”
Heather Kinlaw grew up on the mainland side of Holden Beach and lives in Bolivia now with her husband. She’s a proud parent and grandparent. If you ask her about “God moments,” she’ll tell you she has zero doubt they’re real, including an event that occurred even before she knew she would be diagnosed with breast cancer, undergo a radical mastectomy and face eight years of debilitating side effects.
Four of those moments tell quite a story. Let’s call them “The Visiting Pastor,” “The Prescient Doctor,” “The Pharmacist Friend” and “The Shrinking Mass.”
What do these moments signify? You’ll have to decide for yourself.
The Visiting Pastor
Kinlaw’s battle with major health issues began 11 years ago, when she was 39, but she got an unsettling hint of what was to come when a visiting pastor, someone she didn’t know, came to her church to preach. She said she was simply in the congregation that day, offering no testimony or doing anything else that might have brought attention to herself.
However, as she left the church, the minister singled her out for an unusual encounter.
“He did not know me from Adam,” she recalls. “This was truly before my story started. I had not been told about my cancer yet. But he came up to me and said, ‘You are getting ready to go through something you’re not going to understand, but God’s hand is in it.’
“Essentially what he was saying was, ‘Don’t worry.’”
She wondered what he meant and filed the moment away.
The Prescient Doctor
Kinlaw’s family had a history of serious illnesses. She learned that pancreatic and prostate issues, all present in her family, also increased probabilities of breast cancer. Three months before Kinlaw’s diagnosis, her sister, Ashley DeStefano, tested positive for breast cancer, and those battles have continued through the years.
“When she was in the hospital, I found that I was also at high risk,” Kinlaw says. “I decided to schedule a prophylactic surgery.”
Her doctor, whom she asked not to name in the story, came to her and said this: “I pray for my patients. I feel like I’m being led to do an MRI for you.”
The MRI, which would not normally have been suggested or, for that matter, approved by insurance, detected a mass that was an evasive carcinoma. That was the bad news. The good news was that the mass appeared to be in early stages of growth. An ultrasound or routine mammogram probably wouldn’t have found it. Kinlaw says that had she waited, she and her doctor both believed the tumor likely would have killed her.
He also helped her battle her insurance company when they didn’t want to pay for the MRI, she says.
The Pharmacist Friend
It’s a cliché: Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease, and that certainly happened in Kinlaw’s case.
Move forward about eight years. She was alive, yes, but struggling to function as a mom and co-owner of her event management business with her husband, Philip. The side effects of the cancer treatments destroyed her quality of life during the darkest times. The drugs grossly magnified the difficult changes many women face in menopause. She battled near-crippling insomnia, a common side effect among breast cancer patients, particularly those taking tamoxifen, as she was.
“I could go four days with no sleep,” she recounts, “and that was despite using melatonin, Ambien and Sleepy Time tea.”
She fiercely grasped her faith, recalling the visiting pastor’s message, to help her solider forward.
“When fear creeped in,” she says, “I would remind myself of what I’d been told, and that would help take care of it.”
Then another person entered to help.
“I’m sitting one night with a good friend of mine, a pharmacist, and he says, ‘Heather, have you ever tried CBD for your insomnia?’”
Kinlaw’s response to her friend, Brent Tyndall, went beyond skepticism.
“I wanted no part of it,” she says. “I knew nothing about it. I was born and raised in the South, and there was a stigma. I had never done anything like that. But I decided to trust him and looked into it.”
She combined curiosity with her training as a former nurse to research hemp-based products. She soon learned three things. First, CBD products contain little or no THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. They might relax you but won’t get you high. Second, there are lots of claims about the benefits of CBD, and some seem excessive. Third, to use her words, “It’s the Wild West.” That’s because the industry is lightly regulated at best, so it’s not that easy to find products you trust.
“As a breast cancer survivor, it was really important to me to be careful about what I put in my body,” she says. “And I found some good companies.”
The first product she tried was a 500 mg mint tincture taken orally.
“About three weeks in, I noticed I was ready to go to bed earlier and sleeping better,” she says. “But I let my supply run out. That’s when I realized what the difference was.”
The Shrinking Mass
Kinlaw developed another medical problem, two masses in her thyroid glands that had to be carefully monitored. Studies suggest a higher probability of thyroid issues for women with breast cancer.
One day she showed up for a regular checkup. After the exam, the doctor shared the startling news that one of the masses was gone, and the other was half the size it had been. The doctor had no explanation.
“He said, ‘Have you changed anything?’ and I said that I’ve added CBD,” Kinlaw says. Since then those good results have remained.
With all that said, Kinlaw recognizes that the medical efficacy of CBD remains in a gray area that requires more research. She’s careful to point out that she can’t make medical claims that CBD tinctures fixed her insomnia or shrunk the masses in her thyroid. What she does know is that she has her life back.
Today, as a result of her experiences, she’s a sales advocate for the products of Wilmington-based Green Compass Global after discovering their products in May of 2019.
In their marketing materials, Green Compass says that a key difference from many of their competitors is control of the entire process. That starts with farming the hemp on a certified organic farm in Columbus County and continues through manufacturing and distribution to ensure quality. Hemp, the company says, is particularly vulnerable to absorbing whatever is in the soil.
Green Compass also is a licensed participant in the state of North Carolina’s pilot research program for industrial hemp. The state’s efforts to become a leader in the hemp industry launched after changes were made in state and federal laws that used to treat hemp the same way as marijuana.
“At first I kept it quiet,” Kinlaw says of her advocacy, which includes both direct selling and earning commissions by recruiting new advocates. “I signed up to get the products.”
But as she learned more and continued to feel better, that changed. Now it’s a passion.
She adds, “If can share my story to help others, what I went through is worth it.”
CBD might help you, but do your homework before buying
The circumstantial evidence that hemp-derived products can successfully treat ailments such as muscle pain, insomnia and more seems strong, but it’s important to remember that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved CBD products for medical use except as a specific treatment for epilepsy.
As CBD advocate Heather Kinlaw notes, it’s the “Wild West” for consumers as the industry is largely unregulated. Product purity and strength can vary widely. Usage often requires experimentation to figure out the most effective dosage, though the same can be said for many prescription medications.
What about pricing? A one-ounce container of “ananda Professional Full Spectrum Topical Salve” recently purchased at a Leland drug store was $25. Kinlaw sells products made by Green Compass Global, a locally based direct marketing company that sells certified-organic products from hemp raised on a farm in Columbus County. Their catalog price for their least expensive 1-ounce tincture is $84.95 or $67.96 for a preferred customer. If you used 1 ml per day, that could last about one month; a stronger dose of 4 ml daily might last about a week.
You can find more detail about the FDA’s stance at this link: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-need-know-and-what-were-working-find-out-about-products-containing-cannabis-or-cannabis
This article from the Harvard Medical School gives some credence to the positive results Kinlaw has found, but also notes that much research remains: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
The bottom line: Do your homework before purchasing CBD products. Be wary of companies that make excessive claims. Find trusted sources for advice on what and where to buy, not just your friend who heard about it from a friend on Facebook or some guy at a vape store.