Helen Kelly: 'My back is broken and I only have months to live but I'm pain free'
Tumours have broken Helen Kelly's back and she only has months to live but illegally taking cannabis means she's pain free.
The former Council of Trade Unions president was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in February last year and was initially given about seven weeks to live.
"I am going to die very soon, there's no cure, it's grown like crazy."
Almost 18 months later Kelly says the only thing that's changed between now and pre-diagnosis is she's a bit "slow".
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"I've still got all the symptoms of coughing and being weak but living without pain is sensational."
Kelly takes 10mgs of slow-release morphine twice a day but by the time she gets to bed the morphine's stopped working and she's "aching".
"If I took nothing I reckon my pain would be seven or eight out of ten. If I just took the morphine my pain would be about five out of ten but if I take both my pain is nothing."
"Cannabis is the only thing that gives me relief, it lets me sleep all night."
Kelly's firmly in the camp of decriminalising cannabis and is fighting hard for affordable medicinal cannabis to be made available in New Zealand.
She doesn't waste her time trying to "second guess politics" but is frustrated so much decision making is "narrowed down to an individual minister's view".
This is the case with medicinal cannabis, she says, and while people think there's momentum - "actually there's no progress being made on it here at all".
"My experience of the drug is that I'm sitting here having a (cannabis) cookie right now because I've woken up feeling quite crook and this is what will keep me going and get me mobile.
"I've broken my back because I've got a tumour on my spine and this will actually enable me to move around today and do my work."
Last week she received emergency radiation on her spine after the tumours started to enter her spinal cord.
"The cannabis is better than the radiation in my view. I haven't spewed up once, I've been hungry and I haven't had pain."
Cannabis in an anti-inflammatory and Kelly takes a variety of products, which are aimed at stopping the swelling and paralysis.
For her back she's using a balm, which is a mixture of cannabis oil and coconut cream that she rubs into her spine.
"I'm not a hippy but I'm amazed how it works...people use it on their arthritis with incredible results."
"It's wonderful - but illegal."
And that's what makes Kelly angry. Not for her, because she is getting the cannabis she needs, but for the people who don't have access and are being forced to break the law.
Kelly plans to head overseas soon and try and purchase prescribed cannabis products that she can bring back to New Zealand - a loophole discovered by Rebecca Reider who won a legal victory after being charged for importing medicinal cannabis products.
Given her prognosis, Kelly says it's amazing she's still alive but there's no positive feelings left when it comes to beating the cancer.
"I think not being in pain definitely helps. Pain debilitates you and makes you depressed and you can sort of let the depression seep over you, but if you can, get out and live your life."
She doesn't think about what she'll miss most when the cancer finally gets her.
"I worry about certain people and what's going to happen to them but I don't worry about who I'll miss.
"I'm just very sad to leave and hurt people."