Christy Gibson and her husband, Randy, slipped away in May, leaving the kids home in Lincoln with family.
Maybe they told a little white lie about where they were going, Christy says, and what they were up to.
Which was visiting a shop in Colorado that looked like a cross between a pharmacy and a chiropractor’s office, where the 49-year-old home-schooling mom was sampling the cannabis.
The mom who’d once taught Montessori school and raised her kids to think for themselves. The mom who’d suffered for decades with chronic disease and pain so severe it made her want to die.
The mom who used to run for miles but couldn’t walk around the block anymore.
She felt strange after the marijuana entered her system, she says. She’d been nervous, worrying she’d freak out, or her body would go haywire.
She’d brought her medical records; she’d researched the location of the nearest hospital.
But the odd feeling passed, and she found herself alert and relaxed in a way she hadn’t been for a very long time.
“My nervous system gets overstimulated very easily,” says Christy, a small woman with shoulder-length blond hair and hazel eyes. “Immediately, I could feel it calm down.”
Christy and Randy returned to Colorado half a dozen times after that visit.
A few weeks ago, she rode her bike 44 miles.
And last month, she wrote her state senators, explaining why she supports a bill (LB643) that would legalize medical cannabis. The bill is stuck in committee.
When she wrote to the senators, she told them about her kids, her reasons for wanting to get well.
Sofia, 18, who loves basketball and volunteers with the middle school girl’s group at church and is going to college in the fall. And about Russ, 13, a bat boy for the Saltdogs who loves basketball and golf and has a summer job lined up at a bike shop.
She told them about Randy, who’d lost his own mom to multiple sclerosis when he was a high school junior and still carries the scars from watching her suffer.
She described her own pain -- years of endometriosis, then fibromyalgia, then a heart condition, and three years ago, the onset of CRPS, a chronic pain syndrome that made her leg feel like it was plunged in ice or stuck in scalding water.
“A private life of silent and constant suffering we endured,” she says.
And she described her experience in Colorado.
“I tried various strains of cannabis, in various forms,” she wrote. “And. It. Worked. It not only managed my pain, it allowed me to FUNCTION; I could manage my pain without being in a pharmaceutically induced, drugged-out zombie state.”
Christy went to the Capitol Thursday morning, her second visit. She’d heard back from a handful of senators already -- six, maybe eight.
“There have been some senators who have been very compassionate," she said, "and some who have been downright rude.”
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She wonders about Gov. Pete Ricketts and his belief that Nebraska should wait for federal approval of medical marijuana.
“Half the country has approved it, all these other states can make it work … but I can’t get it just because I live in the wrong ZIP code.”
She was nervous sharing her story, but she’s angry, too. The prescription narcotics used to treat her illnesses have debilitating side effects. She’s missed so much of Sofia’s high school years; she doesn’t want the same thing to happen with Russ.
And they’ve finally found something that works, Randy says.
“I see her laugh," he said, "I see her participate in things she could only hope to a year ago. Everything is a complete blessing and a bonus.”
He hopes people won’t judge them. If they do, they’ll know who their friends are. But so far, everyone he’s told has reacted the same way: “Oh, my gosh, she’s found something that’s given her relief? Hallelujah.”
After that first trip to Colorado, they drove home euphoric, the effects waning as they crossed into Nebraska.
Maybe we should move, Christy told Randy.
But this is home. So they leave home. Christy takes projects with her, things that require concentration. On one trip she attended a workshop to reinstate her massage therapy license. On their next trip she'll prepare Sofia's transcript for college.
They tell their kids: This isn’t just about Mom.
“My whole life has been about my kids," Christy said, "and I have a chance to make a difference not only for my family but for other families.”
Christy feels like she can be a mom again, and a wife.
On Friday afternoon, she scrolls through her phone, showing off the app that displays the hundreds of strains of cannabis available in Colorado. "Bio-Jesus" is the kind that works best for her.
It's fitting for a woman of faith who believes everything happens for a reason, and that she's grown through her pain, spiritually, emotionally, as a person.
“People like us feel like this is a healthy way of dealing with my condition," she said. "It’s natural.”
She’s ridden her bike downtown, a purple cruiser she nicknamed Tulip.
She’s wearing jeans and silver tennis shoes. She takes off her helmet for a photo.
She’s a safe mom.
She’s not a pothead.
“If I wanted to get high, I would reach into my medicine chest," she said. "That stuff is way more powerful, and it’s dangerous, and it’s legal.”