Fox News Anchor Turned Cannabis Advocate Shares MS Journey
Anqunette “Q” Sarfoh, former Fox Detroit 2 news anchor turned advocate for marijuana, told a full house, including multiple sclerosis patients and advocates, about her journey from multiple sclerosis victim to advocate for the legalization of marijuana. Sarfoh recently became a spokesperson for MI Legalize, the grassroots group that is leading the drive to get the issue of legalized adult use of marijuana on the ballot for 2018.
The event was the first meeting of the year for Women Grow-Southeast Michigan chapter, held for the first time ever at the spacious meeting center, Go Where Meetings Matter, in Ypsilanti.
The Journey Begins
Sarfoh’s journey with MS began when she fell.. “My feet would go numb on walks and my hands would fall asleep. My memory was getting worse. They thought I had adult ADD so they had me on Adderall. My brain was firing so quickly my thoughts misfired. I would forget things as I said them. MS isn’t just physical. It’s mental also.”
And then she fell. “One day in the summer of 2013, I was walking up three steps from my living room to my kitchen carrying a bag of groceries. My legs just stopped working, and I fell face first on the floor.”
A few months later, she was anchoring the 11 a.m. newscast. “We had a story about a contestant from So You Think You Can Dance who dropped out because she had just been diagnosed with MS. When she talked about her symptoms, they sounded a lot like mine. During a commercial break, I took a WedMD quiz for MS and scored 8 out of 10.”
But she was doubtful that she had MS because the disease is rare among African Americans.
To find the truth, she saw a neurologist and had an MRI done. “The doctors were concerned about the images they found in the pictures for someone who was under 70. A spinal tap performed a week later confirmed what they thought, that I had MS.”
After she was diagnosed with MS, she was given a neuropsychological examination to measure her cognitive function “because my memory issues were my primary MS symptom. That exam showed I could also be depressed and possibly suicidal. They were being overly cautious because MS can cause depression and the suicide rate of people with MS is seven times the national average. However, I have not been diagnosed with depression and I am not suicidal.”
She was put on Copaxone to modify the disease progression but not treat any MS symptoms; and Baclofen, Adderall, and Zofran to treat either the side effects of Copaxone or the MS symptoms.
Fortunately, her insurance at Fox TV covered the cost of Copaxone because it retails for $83,000 a year. “Because I now have insurance through the Affordable Care Act, the out-of-pocket cost for Copaxone alone will be more than $40,000 a year.”
The First Year
“The first year I was a good patient. I took my drugs. I was never sicker in my life. I was constantly nauseated, had headaches and stomach pain.”
And three trips to the ER in that first year “to stop unrelenting vomiting.”
Then one day not long after her third trip, her husband talked her into smoking a joint. While an occasional cannabis smoker in college, she at the time was avoiding it because her job subjected her to drug testing. ‘I was stunned at how quickly my pain and nausea went away. I was also surprised that it gave me energy.”
Her husband became her caregiver. “I started smoking every day. I would come home from work after six hours feeling sick. Two puffs and I’d be washing dishes, walking the dog.”
But MS is an autoimmune disease. It progresses slowly and is affected by stress. “My memory was getting worse. I couldn’t remember if I took my pain meds. Dealing with the insurance company was stressful. Constantly rereading so many depressing news stories was depressing.”
In February 2016, her doctors warned her that she was having a possible relapse and prescribed a three-day course of intravenous steroids. A month later, with her condition not improved, they recommended that she stop working permanently.
Advocate for MI Legalize
On November 1, 2016, Sarfoh became not the anchor giving the news story but the subject of the story when she announced that she was retiring from her position at Fox and becoming an advocate for marijuana as a board member for MI Legalize, the grassroots Michigan group that is leading the drive to get the issue of legalized adult use of marijuana on the ballot for 2018. “I do not plan to go back to Fox. I’m grateful that cannabis gave me two extra years in the work force.”
She was inspired to join MI Legalize after their petition to be on the 2016 ballot was rejected due to a technicality:
“What happened to the MI Legalize petition drive should bother anyone who believes in democracy. That we have a citizen’s initiative system in place and the rules were changed during an active petition drive is troubling. I believe it to be a blatant abuse of power and a flagrant disregard of the people’s will and right to decide our own laws. We were robbed.”
In her new role she hopes to change the misperception of cannabis users as noncontributing members of society and to help people to understand that they have other options than what they are being told by pharmaceutical companies and the government:
“There are many reasons why I believe cannabis should be legal, from its safety and potential medical use, to the failed and racist War on Drugs, to the tax revenue our roads and schools could certainly use. But in Michigan in particular, where law enforcement profits off civil forfeiture and ballot initiatives are first ignored and then fought against in court, legalization is needed to end an unjust system.”
She points to the hypocrisy of defining marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, which means it has no medical use, while heroin and cocaine are schedule 2 drugs. “That means that pot is more dangerous!” she points out.
“It is a travesty that the establishment has denied us the opportunity to grow marijuana in our closets and backyards,” she continues. “We can’t remain silent. When we do, that’s when they get away with so much. Tell the truth.”
Today, Sarfoh has relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, which means “when my disease is active and my cells are attacking my central nervous system, I am having a ‘relapse.’ When that activity stops, my disease is remitting. Every relapse can lead to further, irreparable damage.”
Her regimen is to follow an MS-specific diet called the Wahls Protocol, exercise, and reduce stress. She hasn’t taken the drugs in a year.
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Learn more about the MI Legalize campaign to liberate cannabis for adult use and become a supporter in the upcoming grassroots ballot initiative.
It’s our turn now.