Sara Payan came to The Apothecarium as a stage III colon cancer patient while she was in the midst of chemotherapy. She ended up becoming part of our family -- as a Senior Patient Consultant and our Public Education Officer.
Now in remission -- Sara has helped thousands of patients from behind the counter of The Apothecarium and through her classes, speeches and outreach to health care providers.
We sat down for an interview to learn more about Sara’s story and what inspires her to educate others on cannabis. You can also check out a list of her upcoming classes here.
What do you do for The Apothecarium?
I am the Public Education Officer for the Apothecarium. I created the public education classes over five years ago to help patients understand how cannabis works with their bodies and to empower them to make educated decisions when purchasing cannabis -- for themselves or if they are caregivers, for their patients. I also work with healthcare professionals to help them understand cannabis and the dispensary experience so they can have educated conversations with their patients. I’ve worked for the Apothecarium for six years -- I was one year out of chemo when I started.
What inspires you to educate others about cannabis?
Both my experience working behind the bar and my experience as a cancer patient myself inspired me to create these education programs. The first class I taught was actually a project I did when I was taking classes at the California Institute of Integral Studies here in San Francisco. Last year, I went back there to teach a two unit continuing education class for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners -- it was awesome to have a homecoming as an instructor. I’ve always loved teaching others and creating advocacy through education.
How do you help educate The Apothecarium’s patients and guests?
I teach a class at 5 PM every Thursday night at the Market St. store in our classroom, which I lovingly refer to as "The Mothership". If you get me behind the bar, I'm always educating our guests there too. When you understand how cannabis works for you personally, it totally demystifies our menu.
What kind of classes do you teach?
I'm always coming up with new classes. We have classes that teach the basics of cannabis, a class that discusses non-euphoric ways to use cannabis, some that are geared more towards our cancer patients, an anxiety and depression class, and if you want to get a little nerdy I also do a class on terpenes. These are just a few examples. There’s so much to cover!
What does a typical class entail?
I have presentations for each class followed by an extensive question and answer session. We talk about the materials and often attendees like to share their personal experiences with cannabis. It’s both education and community building which is awesome. My main goal is that everyone leaves with their questions answered, and that they learn something new.
Where can patients and guests find out about your classes?
Our classes are listed on our website: https://apothecarium.com/education
What sources do you use to remain educated on the continuous advancements being made in cannabis?
I attend a lot of conferences and events and stay in touch with my colleagues in cannabis research. I am also one of the chairs of the San Francisco State Cannabis Legalization Task Force and a writer for Cannabis Now. With that and my work in my private practice, I am immersed in cannabis 24/7!
Was there any particular moment in your life that led you to explore the medicinal effects of cannabis?
Before I knew I had cancer, I was having problems with extreme pain after eating. A friend suggested I try cannabis to calm my system and it worked! When I got my cancer diagnosis and knew I'd be having chemotherapy, I got my state medical card.
How did cannabis affect you once instituted into your treatment regimen?
It helped me manage my nausea, anxiety and pain. It also helped me eat.
Is there a recommended cannabis regimen you’ve found optimal for cancer survivors?
Everyone is different, it depends on what kind of symptoms you are experiencing and how you personally metabolize cannabis. My consults always start with a thorough conversation around this.
What’s the most gratifying part of your job?
I get to help people find relief and I learn something new everyday- cannabis is fascinating!
For a full list of Sara’s classes, click here. Learn more about her story in this video!