Andy Easton from Broughty Ferry has turned his life around.
And, 23 years on from his MS diagnosis, he is free of the disease’s physical and mental agony.
In an interview with The Courier and Evening Telegraph, the dad-of-two lifts the lid on:
- How he went from bright schoolboy to troubled teen suffering a host of health problems – which he believes were triggered by appendicitis.
- The moment he realised MS drugs didn’t work as well for him as vaped volcano weed, gut health and staying active.
- The reason it’s five years since he saw a doctor and no longer takes the medication which cost the NHS £1800 a month.
- His message to the UK and Scottish governments about the benefits of cannabis.
Turning 50 this year, Andy’s life is in a place he never believed it could be.
In July 1998, he was finally diagnosed with MS after his whole body went numb.
He was “classified 80% disabled, sent home without explanation, treatment or cure” – and says it was a case of “here’s a leaflet”.
Years of poor health – including speech, balance and memory problems – followed and he struggled to work as a result.
More than two decades on, Andy now has his own business as an electrician and handyman.
He’s also fitter, healthier and armed with a sharper mind than ever before. And, after years apart, he’s engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Joanna.
Andy says: “I’ve traced it back to when I was 15.
“The problems started after I had my appendix out. Before that I was in the top group at Linlathen High School and doing really well.
“After the op I went back to school and nothing would sink in.
“I was fatigued, failed a couple of my exams, but struggled on and went on to do an apprenticeship.
“I had to go to the doctor because my hands were shaky, I had bad headaches, tiredness.
“Of course we know now gut bacteria, which controls the immune system is meant to grow and evolve.
“If something stops that progression it never gets back to where it was. I believe that happened to me, the trauma and drugs of the appendix op.”
When he was 21, before official diagnosis, Andy had a violent MS attack which left his eye paralysed.
The pain was the worst I’ve ever felt, like someone sticking a knife in the base of my skull. I was screaming.”
His sight returned to normal later but his symptoms worsened.
“The mental struggle surpasses the physical issues,” he says. “You have lots of time.
“You feel hopeless and think about everything you’re missing out on in life.
“She was 20 stone and in a wheelchair but changed her life through diet. It made me see what is possible.”
‘The volcano vape was my turning point’
Alongside other lifestyle changes, cannabis was key to Andy’s transformation.
He says: “None of this would have happened without cannabis. When I had to give up my DJing work in 2015, I bought myself a volcano vape.
“By then I was struggling to walk far enough to even take the dog out.
“There is a risk of long-term complications from Tysabri and the MS was getting worse.
“So, after lots of research I made my plan including vaped volcano weed, CBD, a 100% anti-inflammatory diet, and no sitting during the day.
“The vape opened my mind, cleared my brain fog. I only need an inhale of the bag and I can go and do something active.
“I don’t sit down during the day.
With volcano you can use as you need it…I can go on holiday and just take my CBD.”
“Clearing my mind led me to research gut health and the work of BBC health expert Dr Michael Mosley.
“Then I started intermittent fasting.
“The main benefit I get from the cannabis and the CBD oil is the anti-inflammatory effect. Everything I eat now is anti-inflammatory.
“I googled ‘foods causing inflammation’ and cut them out.
“I eat as many dark greens as possible, fish, nothing packaged. Joanna supports me and we follow advice from Dundee’s Shelley Booth.”
Andy and Joanna lost touch after school but reunited through social media.
He says: “After our marriages ended and Joanna moved back from Canada, we met up.
“We are perfect together, we look at each other and smile, can’t believe we’re together, it’s amazing!”
‘There is no going back…I feel young again’
He has no doubts about when the turning point with his health arrived.
“Things did not improve until I took myself off Tysabri,” Andy says.
“I don’t consider myself an MS sufferer. I couldn’t get a disabled badge now though I had one for 18 years.”
Andy has climbed Ben Nevis and other mountains and practises yoga and meditation most days.
Yet he remains modest about his inspiring journey back to health.
He says: “I hope reading this, seeing there is a way out, will help others.
“I hated being inside my body and I didn’t want to do it any more. Once you feel the difference these things make, there is no going back. I feel 18 again.
‘Others should be allowed this natural drug’
“My brain woke up. The day the Scottish and UK Government wake up to the benefits of cannabis will be an awakening for many people suffering with this disease every day.
“Currently you have to go through a list of opiates before you get to a natural drug, cannabis, which costs far less.”
An MS Society spokesperson said: “Evidence shows cannabis for medicinal use can work for some people to relieve pain and muscle spasms in MS. We’re calling for it to be available to everyone who could benefit.”
Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK in November 2018.
Only one product – for children with rare epilepsy – is available on the NHS in Scotland currently. Other products can be prescribed privately.