Undiagnosed for a decade, he fought for answers; now, he fights for access for all
Timothy Eli Addo, now 30, has had to advocate for himself since his teens. Instead of crumbling under the strain, Timothy turned his struggles into a teaching experience. He learned to stand up for himself, trust his instincts, and follow his own path toward pain management—which comes in the form of medical cannabis.
For as long as he can remember, the Las Vegas native has felt different. Being flexible and limber, he would feel his body moving in ways his peers did not experience. But like most kids, he thought nothing of it, until his eyesight was affected at the age of 14.
In his teens, almost too much to bear
Following surgery to correct his eye lens from subluxation, Timothy’s shoulders began dislocating frequently. The orthopedic surgeon he was referred to told him he had right shoulder instability. When physical therapy didn’t help, his doctor suggested surgery. Meanwhile, other MRIs showed instability in his left shoulder and both knees as well.
“This was an extremely dark time for me,” Timothy says. “I was a junior in high school with serious health issues that no physician I visited had any answer to, and they ignored all my concerns about the symptoms I experienced. I was often told it was in my head and prescribed medications to manage my depression. That made it very difficult to convince my parents how severely it’s impacted my life.”
Therefore, his family never advocated for his health or even took the magnitude of his conditions seriously.
At 17, life became too much for Timothy to bear. He could not handle the cervical instability, loose jaw, brain fog, fatigue, and total body agony. Having already undergone extensive eye surgery, and with no specialist being able to tell him what was wrong, his orthopedic doctor placed him on permanent disability. Timothy withdrew from high school.
Watching as others moved on
The next few years were painful. Friends moved on, and family pressured Timothy to work and be normal. Frustration and depression set in from constant emergency room visits, and managing numerous weekly medical appointments with various specialists—which still produced no answers. He knew he was gravely ill but could not find help. “At one time, I feared I had HIV/AIDS,” he shares. “My body was shutting down and I was falling apart.”
Timothy wanted to learn what was causing the pain and triggers, so he could find a holistic approach to solve it. Instead, his doctors only wanted to prescribe drugs.
He knew the medications weren’t helping. “They caused too many side effects. I was nauseous all the time, vomiting and dizzy. I dealt with severe constipation and was apathetic.” With his quality of life declining, and being prescribed more drugs to combat side effects, Timothy looked for other alternatives.
Beginning to do the research: Natural healing
Timothy began doing his own research to find any plausible explanation for his failing body. Diet was the first thing he changed. He opted for a vegan and plant-based diet. When there wasn’t immediate pain relief, he looked at the medicinal properties of herbs.
In Ghana, cannabis is used for its medicinal and spiritual benefits. It can be a part of daily life—to enhance one’s wellness and wholeness. His grandmother was an herbalist, and he has distinct memories of watching her methodically prepare remedies. As a child, he used to take showers with a mixture of hemp and other herbs to help him stay well.
Reflecting further on his culture, he became engrossed in researching cannabis and experimenting on his own with the plant. Timothy initially got marijuana from a friend. He tried it, and his headache and nausea were alleviated. But the inflammation persisted.
Soon after, a lecture by Dr. Robert Melamede inspired Timothy to search for a cannabis ruderalis “CBD dominant cultivar” plant; he found a source in Spain and grew it himself. After using it, for the first time in years, Timothy had hope again. He began healing from right shoulder surgery, and the pain, frustration and depression abated. “Growing cannabis is therapeutic—the medicinal effect is a miracle,” he says.
Over the next three years, he learned all he could about growing, sustaining, and utilizing cannabis. Leading experts in this space—Dr. Ethan Russo, Jack Herer, DJ Short, Richard Rose, and Jorge Cervantes—were instrumental in his quest to understand the properties of cannabis, and the power behind this plant as medicine. In 2010, he finally received his Nevada cannabis card.
A life-changing diagnosis
While attending a local cannabis support meeting, Timothy met a young man who changed his life. As this individual described his journey with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) to the group, Timothy noticed similarities. He spoke to the man after the meeting, and began to research hypermobility and EDS.
As he read up on the disease—a connective tissue disorder mainly characterized by joint instability complications and widespread musculoskeletal pain—he was overwhelmed. So much seemed to fit his symptoms. With this newfound knowledge, he reached out to his doctors. Still, they were unreceptive and discounted his concerns.
About a year later, a nurse practitioner wondered if he could be right about having a connective tissue disorder. She referred him to a rheumatologist who knew exactly what was wrong. Timothy was finally diagnosed with EDS Hypermobility—a decade after his initial symptoms appeared.
“When I learned I had EDS, I felt so many emotions that it is hard to even put into words,” he shares. Once highly motivated by academics, he lost his ability to study and focus. Inability to participate in sports led to him losing friends. His family dynamic fractured to the point that it may never mend, and finding lasting relationships seems unfathomable when life is this uncertain.
“I was relieved to have an answer, frustrated at the length of time it took, sad that I was alone, and slightly fearful for the future,” he says. “Not only had my life changed tremendously, who I was as a person had changed through the process, too.”
Combatting the everyday impacts
Today, the greatest struggle for Timothy is how EDS impacts his everyday mobility. He has to pace himself in everything he does, since waking up and getting out of bed can lead to a sublux or dislocation. He also has to be extremely careful with his highly unstable neck.
Timothy credits cannabis (and aqua therapy) with giving him relief. Through raw juicing, vaping the flowers, or applying topicals, medical cannabis reduces his inflammation while better managing his neuropathic and joint pain. He has also regained his appetite and has minimal gastrointestinal issues. Overall, his quality of life has improved. Timothy is focused, centered, and able to travel and work.
To fill a void, Timothy turns to gardening, theater, and music. These avenues give him ways to express himself and connect with something larger than himself. He can either transport himself to a new place, gain balance in a world that is chaotic, or feel energy—all of which are cathartic to him.
Using his experience to educate
Now Timothy sees his bigger mission in life: staying active in the pain community and cannabis industry. He became an ambassador for the U.S. Pain Foundation, giving much time to creating awareness in his hometown of Las Vegas about the plight of pain patients. Additionally, he has been working steadfastly to advance medical cannabis as a consultant for Canalysis Laboratories and through other avenues. And Cannabinoid Wellness, a group Timothy founded, provides rare medicinal genetics, medication, grow equipment and amenities for Southern Nevada medical cannabis patients free of charge.
Today, Timothy operates a research and development program while also helping farmers, processors, and manufacturers experiment with landrace cultivars. He is passionate about expanding the diversity in the cannabis gene pool. Furthermore, he recognizes the importance of industrial hemp for C02 sequestration and reducing our carbon footprint, the significance of sustainability (for an individual’s wellness, wholeness, and survival), and the dire need for further research and education.
Timothy is hopeful for a future in which medical cannabis is decriminalized or re-scheduled. “Right now, research and clinical trials are limited and controlled by our government.,” he explains. “We need clinical trials to validate how beneficial cannabis is for people.”
Timothy Eli Addo has been tested numerous times through his life, and yet he still finds hope within the pain. “My experiences have been brutal, but I now know I can cope with anything. Pain has made me humble. I see what is important in life, and am no longer living to live, but rather, I have found real meaning to living. And a lot of that is due to medical cannabis. I would encourage anyone and everyone suffering to try cannabis.”
Medicinal Hemp Association: the-mha.org
Hemp Industries Association: thehia.org
HempAce International: hempace.com
International Cannabinoid Research Society: icrs.co
U.S. Pain Foundation: uspainfoundation.org
Old World Genetics: oldworldgenetics.com
Tiny Hemp Houses: www.tinyhemphouses.com