Sam Mellace on Cancer and Cannabis: A New Hope
The Great Cannabis Conspiracy
WHEN I WAS 19 YEARS OLD, my mother sent me to Italy, to spend time in my ancestral homeland amongst the old family in Calabria. I know she hoped it would settle me down and remind me that life was about more than the present — that by connecting with my past I might discover a doorway to the future. Back in Toronto, I enrolled at Ryerson Polytechnic, aiming for a degree in architecture. I had the passion for it — I didn’t want to end up a lifelong construction grunt like my uncles, or a tyrannical foreman like my dad; I wanted to design the things for them to build. But I didn’t have the math skills, and so I took the easy way out and quit.
I stuck close to my brother Gus as best I could, and with his guidance I continued working at carpentry, becoming a specialist with the lathe. There was lots of construction work in those days — Toronto was booming. With our blue collars and our new power tools we trans- formed Scarborough and Brampton from farmland into suburbs. When I had the patience to stick with honest work, I was earning good money. Then one day, when I was 22, I got a phone call from the police...
I’d just come home from a day at work on a site in Scarborough. Gus was on a site that day in Orangeville. He was driving home late, and a car coming in the opposite direction swerved into his lane. The collision was devastating: Gus died in an instant. Our family was suddenly robbed of its best self. Gus was about the only man in my family, in my generation, who lived a moral life — in that, he was a role model to me. He was my guide, and without him I became lost.
And then, a few months after we laid Gus to rest, my childhood finally died forever. Perhaps it’s no surprise that, in a house with a violent husband and a litter of unruly children, my mother failed to notice the lump that was growing in her breast. Maybe she did notice it. Maybe she was afraid. Maybe enduring poverty, war, and immigration to a foreign land had taught her not to focus on herself, but instead only serve others. Maybe she knew there was nothing that could save her. I was away from home for a few weeks, attending Northern College. What I remember is coming home to her and finding her shockingly pale and weak. By the time the family got her to a hospital, cancer had advanced throughout her body. There was nothing anyone could do. There was no army coming to save her. My last moments with my mother were spent with my arms around her tiny body, in a hug that lasted a short lifetime, until she breathed her last breath on this earth, and went to be with her fellow angels. When I cried that night, it was not just as a 22-year-old man who’d lost his mother, but also as a 13-year-old boy who’d lost his father, but had been too proud to weep over it until now. I was an orphan, in every way except the most literal one. And I had no fuck left to give.
To contact Sam about cannabis counselling and services, please visit sammellace.com