‘When Patrick was first diagnosed with cancer, cannabis oil wasn’t available for medical use, but I give it to him now and I know that he’s benefiting from it’
Mairead Campbell reveals how her son Patrick was given a 10% chance of living when he was diagnosed with lymphoma at the age of five. Years after undergoing a bone marrow transplant, the 13-year-old is reaping the health benefits of cannabis oil and good diet, she tells Una Brankin.
Cannabis oil is one of the best-selling products at Mairead Campbell’s CE health food store in bustling Crumlin village in Co Antrim. Although the former teacher would never claim the oil — which is devoid of the psychoactive ingredients of the cannabis plant — can cure any condition, she and her business partner, Trevor Ellison, have a steady stream of customers buying it to help with ailments from arthritis and fibromyalgia to autism, depression and anxiety.
Mairead (46) is so convinced of the healthy properties of cannabis oil that she gives a regular dose of it to her 13-year-old son Patrick, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin T cell lymphoblastic lymphoma at just five years old. Afterwards, the child was given only a 10% chance of survival, but his life was saved six years ago when he went through a bone marrow transplant, thanks to a donor from Cologne in Germany.
“Cannabis oil wasn’t available for medical use when Patrick was diagnosed but I give it to him now because it is a very good anti-inflammatory,” says Mairead, who retrained as a naturopath and nutritionist.
“Patrick was left with a weakness in his chest and inflammation is the key trigger for many illnesses. There also are so many foods that aggravate it, so I’m very careful with Patrick’s diet, and I know he is benefiting from the cannabis oil.
“Looking back, we had far too much processed food in the house — there was a sweetie jar for treats and not nearly enough fruit and vegetables. I’d allow the kids a small fizzy drink, when they should really have been drinking water.”
Patrick is the same age as Billy Caldwell, the Co Tyrone child with epilepsy whose case prompted the Home Secretary to re-think Government policy on medicinal cannabis — making it available on prescription for the first time.
As with Billy’s mum Charlotte, Mairead has been by her son’s side throughout his illnesses and she is delighted that she has succeeded in her campaign to have cannabis removed from Schedule 1 illegal classification, which will enable UK doctors to prescribe the medication.
“Billy’s case has legalised cannabis for medical use and that is a major step forward in the treatment of so many illnesses,” she says.
“I learned about its health-giving properties a few years ago and it was the first thing I ordered when I was opening CE Health. It is very effective for pain relief — and it’s completely natural. I wish it had been available when Patrick first took sick in 2009.”
A mother-of-three, Mairead taught religion at De La Salle school in Liverpool for 17 years. She returned home to Crumlin when her marriage broke up and taught for a year at Edmund Rice College in Glengormley.
Mairead believes the turmoil of that time had an adverse effect on Patrick’s health and her own wellbeing.
“Patrick had been in good health since he was born — I know that stress is a huge trigger in illnesses,” she recalls.
“I was badly affected too and when Patrick was in the Royal, I’d sit at the end of his bed crying and praying that he would be okay — it was a terrible time for us all.
“Then, a very good friend started to bring in very clean, filtered water for him and he liked the taste of it, which was great, as it was important to keep him well hydrated. To this day, he can’t drink tap water.
“So, I started to look into what I could do for him with food and nutrition. I had private tests done and took him off all processed food and sugar. At five, he was very, very sick — my dad thought he had no chance at all. The tumour was pressing against his windpipe, and to reduce it, he was put into a deep three-day coma to administer steroids through his nose, before they started the chemotherapy.
“He had a relapse two years later, but dad noticed he wasn’t looking as bad as before. The change in his diet helped him tolerate the chemotherapy better.”
On his seventh birthday on August 18, 2011, Patrick jumped onto Mairead’s bed to give her a hug and she immediately felt three large lumps on his neck. The cancer had returned.
The tumours were extremely aggressive and Patrick required a 10 out of 10 match for a bone marrow transplant. A new type of chemotherapy was considered but Mairead made the brave decision to wait for a bone marrow match to be found, moving the family to Bristol to wait on the call.
In January 2012, a perfect-match donor was found and Patrick went to Bristol’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children for the life-saving transplant.
Since then, Patrick has thrived and Mairead has set up the CE Health Clinic in Crumlin, with Trevor, a former engineer she met on her nutrition training course at Stranmillis College in Belfast in 2016.
Meanwhile, she has always wanted to thank Patrick’s donor, but was obliged to wait for six years before trying to make contact.
In February, Mairead contacted the Anthony Nolan Trust to get the donor’s details — Laura Kempken, a 26-year-old student from Cologne — but was warned she may never receive a reply.
“I sent her an email to thank her, but I tried not to get too excited and get my hopes up, but within minutes she replied — she said she was delighted to hear from me as she had always wondered who had received her bone marrow,” she said.
“She even said I didn’t need to thank her. I couldn’t stop crying when I read that. We were so lucky that she was a perfect match for Patrick’s transplant. We’re friends on Facebook now. She’s studying for a Master’s degree in media and culture studies. I’d love to meet her with Patrick one day.”
Today, Patrick — a budding YouTuber — is disease-free and will be returning to school in September with the healthiest lunch-box on the campus. Instead of junk food and sweets, Mairead gives him a turkey sandwich with fermented sourdough bread, gluten-free crisps and a small piece of chocolate made from cacao and coconut milk.
“I would love to teach nutrition in schools — I think it would be very valuable,” says Mairead.
“There’s so much more to good nutrition than just eating more fruit and veg. I’m doing a new course, on cancer and nutrition, and I really enjoy my job, but I love kids and I miss teaching.
“At the same time, I get a lot of satisfaction from the positive feedback from customers and clients. We had a girl in recently suffering from anxiety, to the point she couldn’t leave the house. We recommended cannabis oil, as it can have a calming effect, and she was soon able to take short walks. It also helps people sleep better.”
CE Health recently added new treatment rooms for private consultations with cancer patients, vitamin and mineral analysis, blood tests, weight-loss plans, Reiki, reflexology and PEMS (pulsed electro-magnetic) therapy.
“We also do vitamin B injections — celebrities and sports people get them for extra energy and they’re very good for anyone with absorption issues, who need more regular amounts than they can get from food.
“At the end of the day, good health begins with good food but sometimes we need an extra boost from nature. Patrick is a walking example of that,” concludes Mairead.
Ingredients for wellbeing
As well as cannabis oil, Mairead recommends vitamin D, turmeric, selenium, magnesium and fish oil as the best supplements for overall wellbeing. And for optimum energy, she whips ups a nutritious green smoothie every morning. The vital ingredients are:
Nuts and seeds
CE Health on Crumlin’s Main Street is currently offering vitamin B injections for £20, reduced from £35. See facebook.com>CEhealthcrumlin ; telephone 028 9442 2255.
Oil endorsed by alternative therapists
Alternative therapists believe cannabis essential oil reduces stress and anxiety, improves the quality of sleep, boosts appetite, optimises digestion, reduces pain, prevents certain cancers and protects the skin and heart health.
Although cannabis and hemp have been used for thousands of years as naturally growing herbs, their reputation as a drug in many parts of the world has complicated the relationship between users of cannabis and hemp and authorities in some parts of the world. Cannabis oil is extracted by steam distillation from the flowers and upper leaves of cannabis plants.
Pure undiluted cannabis essential oil is a green liquid that is considered highly nutritious. The oil is primarily made and distributed from France and various other European countries, but its exportation is limited due to the legal ramifications of what cannabis essential oil is derived from.
Apart from its medical applications, it is also found in perfumes, soaps, creams, gels, salves, and candles, as well as in culinary preparations. A very small amount is thought to be sufficient for it to be effective.