Four years ago, the Barraba resident was as fit as a bull.
But at the beginning of 2012, his heath took a downward turn.
Plagued by rapid weight loss, exhaustion and gastric issues, the 39-year-old was urged to get a blood test. The prognosis was bad – he had cancer.
A colonoscopy also revealed a tumour had breached the wall of his colon, and metastasised to his lymph nodes.
After going through three bouts of failed chemotherapy and various surgeries, doctors told Leahy there was nothing they could do, with some even saying he had days to live.
On top of that, the prescribed opiates he was taking for pain were impacting on his nervous system.
The father-of-two told Insight he’s never been much of a hippy herbal, but was open to trying new alternative medicines, including the use of cannabis oil.
Three times a day, Leahy mixes one or two drops of cannabis oil with either olive or coconut oil, and swallows it washed down with water.
The former Canberra public-servant-turned-publican says it has really helped with managing the pain and has even allowed him to work again.
“It’s certainly reduced the nausea. It’s made it a lot easier for me to cope with the chemo, with the chemotherapy on a day-to-day basis. That combination has allowed me to go back to work part-time and do some work, whereas earlier this year I wasn’t able to work at all. And a great deal of appetite,” he said.
“We came to cannabis oil because we had gone through what is a living hell trying to get him help.”
Standing at 6″4′, Leahy weighed 120 kg when he was diagnosed, then he dropped down to 80 kg.
He credits the oil for helping push his weight up to about 90kg.
“Managing your weight and weight loss when you’re going through the treatment, the journey for cancer, it becomes problematic, it becomes difficult and it’s helped a great deal.”
Leahy says a three month supply of the product can cost anywhere between $450 and $1000, although he’s heard of some people being quoted as high as $9000.
His wife, Rechelle, said that while using the oil in conjunction with the chemo has delayed the progression of his disease, this is not nearly as important as seeing her husband getting to spend some quality time with their young sons James, 5 and Hamish, 3.
“We came to the cannabis oil because we had gone through what is a living hell trying to get him help and I think the reason we’re passionate about this is we don’t necessarily have the time to wait for someone to say let’s keep trialling this, ” Rechelle says.
“We have pumped him full of drugs and chemotherapy that has stripped away his life and I have done that in the trust of doctors and that is what frustrates the absolute living heck out of us in this particular issue,” she said.
As a country hotelier, Leahy says he’s dealt with people who are suffering from the long term effects of substance abuse and have seen the serious harm it causes.
However as someone who has benefited from cannabis oil, Leahy fully supports the legalisation of marijuana as a controlled pharmaceutical drug.
Rechelle adds: “In my mind, if you can divorce opium poppies being grown in Tasmania for opiates that I fed him to keep his pain under control, but you can’t then say that we can improve marijuana or cannabis to be grown appropriately … we don’t understand why we’re going to doctors at all anymore because that is where the frustration lies for all of us who are carers and advocates for patients.”
“With the correct legislation behind it which we are absolutely for, that’s what we’re supporting.”
Allistair and Rechelle Leahy are guests on Insight’s Marijuana show. Tune in 8.30pm on SBS ONE.