It was 2008 when I met Lou; he was a curious-looking man with a distinct split goatee, shaved head, and giant black and white earmuffs that complimented his black and white suit. He introduced himself as the "bionic man"! He was in this late-30s and still had a metal chemotherapy port hooked up to his torso; he shared with me about his battle with stage 4 colon cancer and how he had recently managed to "cheat death against all odds". He had a youthful excitement about him; I had never met a terminally ill patient with a more joyful and vibrant spirit before and instantly knew that this exceptional human will have much to teach me.
I had only recently discovered psychedelics and had no real understanding of their clinical application. Lou's story helped me expand my horizon and better understand the profound benefits of these medicines. Shortly after meeting Lou, I found out that he was one of the subjects of UCLA's psychedelics-assisted psychotherapy research with terminally ill patients. He shared with me his profound experience in this trial and how it had not only single-handedly eliminated his anxiety surrounding chemo treatments, but that it had also helped him develop a new sense of appreciation for life and improved his quality of life immensely.
I was in awe... Back then, there was no real conversation about the therapeutic potential of psychedelics; no one discussed research, the topic was taboo, and most people wouldn't publicly disclose their use of psychedelics yet here I was sitting across one of a dozen subjects of likely the only permitted psychedelic-assisted therapy research at that time.
In the course of the months that followed, Lou shared with me his profound experiences in this study. He shared that his experience had led him to process his fear of death and find a new appreciation for life. He had managed to process his anger and grief and find inspiration in his ability to prioritize experiences that improved his quality of life. He had found new hope and fresh perspective that had all but eliminated his anxieties around chemotherapy sessions and in fact reduced the negative effects of chemo drastically. While he was given weeks to live, here he was cancer-free over a year and a half later! He contributed his miraculous story to his change of mindset and spirit that came through his participation in the psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy research.
I had known Lou for nearly a year when the illness returned with a vengeance and within two months he was gone. The entire time as his health deteriorated, he remained positive, humourous, with a giant smile on his face even when he was experiencing unimaginable physical pain and discomfort. Witnessing him in his courage and commitment to quality of life was a life-altering experience. I knew that psychedelic medicines will be a big part of my life for years to come, little did I know though that I would find myself in the position of supporting other terminally ill friends through their transition over a decade down the road.
Lou's story has been my guiding light for many years and his memory continues to bring a big smile and a deep sense of inspiration to my mission of educating and informing the masses about the profound healing power of psychedelic medicines.
Since Lou's passing, many studies have been published on the impact of psychedelic medicines on the end of life care for terminally ill patients: