Running the steep tree-covered path near her home in Boulder, Colorado, Heather DeRose, 31, appears to be the picture of good health.
It's hard to believe the personal trainer and competitive trail runner has epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by unpredictable seizures that affects approximately 65 million people worldwide.
Heather DeRose learned about cannabis as a potential treatment for epilepsy after listening to a TEDx talk about a Colorado girl whose frequent grand mal seizures stopped after she was administered a marijuana-extracted oil. (Photo courtesy of Heather DeRose)
DeRose was a teenager when she first started having grand mal seizures and was ultimately diagnosed with epilepsy. She remembers being surprised by the diagnosis and unsure how a chronic health condition would impact her life.
“My doctors told me I might have multiple seizures each day for the rest of my life or possibly never have another seizure again,” DeRose says. “Prior to being diagnosed, I was preparing to get my driver's license, but then I found myself facing a future filled with uncertainty.”
Like many people diagnosed with epilepsy, DeRose had concerns about the side effects of anti-epileptic medications and wished there was an alternative. She had heard anecdotal reports that medical marijuana could reduce or event stop seizures, but it wasn't yet legal in her home state of Missouri.
Heather DeRose co-founded a Colorado wellness company that promotes cannabis as part of a healthful lifestyle. DeRose herself began using marijuana to stop frequent seizures. (Photo courtesy of Heather DeRose)
After having a seizure in her 20s, DeRose came upon a TEDx Talk about Charlotte Figgi, a Colorado girl who had her first epileptic seizure when she was 3 months old. Figgi's condition became worse over time to the point where she was having 300 grand mal seizures a week. After exhausting all treatment options, her parents decided to purchase a type of marijuana called R4, low in THC and high in cannabidiol (CBD), from a Colorado dispensary and have a friend extract the oil.
“After hearing how Charlotte went from having hundreds of seizures to only having two to three each month, I decided to try cannabis,” DeRose says. “I was still in Missouri at the time and usually smoked flower using a bong.”
DeRose noticed how cannabis led to a reduction in her own seizures and minimized both their occurrence and duration.
“I used to have one seizure every couple of years or more prior to turning to cannabis that would last 3-10 minutes,” she says. “After cannabis, my seizures became much less frequent, and would only last 1-3 minutes.”
Antonio and Heather DeRose moved from Missouri to Colorado, in part, so Heather could access medical marijuana for her seizures. (Photo courtesy of Heather DeRose)
Four years ago, DeRose and her husband, Antonio, moved from Missouri to Colorado, in part to get access to legal cannabis. Although both had worked in finance, DeRose says they reached a point where they felt they could make more of an impact teaching others about the benefits of cannabis.
In Colorado, the couple founded Green House Healthy, a wellness company that promotes cannabis as part of a healthful lifestyle. As a certified personal trainer, DeRose and her husband create experiences through educational and athletic events and teaching cannabis-positive fitness and nutrition classes. She also credits cannabis with helping her lose 40 pounds and helping her to quit smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol.
Husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Antonio and Heather DeRose had worked in finance, but later started Green House Healthy to promote cannabis as part of a health regimen. (Photo courtesy of Heather DeRose)
“For the past year-and-a-half, I've adopted a vegan lifestyle and have found a plant-based diet really helps me both cognitively and athletically,” DeRose says.
Her company also conducts nutrition classes showing how to incorporate hemp into a vegan lifestyle.
“At a recent dinner, we had a chef who prepared everything from hemp enchiladas to hemp cupcakes,” DeRose says.
Heather and Antonio DeRose participate in a Colorado Ragnar Trail event. Heather credits cannabis for helping her achieve her fitness goals, relieve her episodes of epileptic seizures, and lose weight.
DeRose also works hard to raise awareness of how cannabis can help a variety of health conditions. She has aligned herself with organizations such as the Colorado-based Realm of Caring (ROC) Foundation , a non-profit organization that provides cannabis to adults and children suffering from health conditions including epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and cancer. DeRose also competes in ROC's annual race to raise epilepsy awareness.
As of February 2019, DeRose said she has been seizure-free for 22 months. She continues to use cannabis and as a personal trainer works with clients to encourage them to embrace a healthful lifestyle through hiking, walking, and other activities. The DeRoses are also hosting a Green House Healthy retreat in Jamaica from Sept. 22-25, 2019, to help participants relax and learn about going vegan and the health benefits of cannabis.
Heather DeRose marked 22 months without a seizure in February 2019. She credits cannabis with first reducing the frequency of her seizures, then eliminating them. (Photo courtesy of Heather DeRose)
“Many of my clients have chronic health conditions,” DeRose says. “We educate them on how they can use cannabis topicals and other CBD products, in place of opioids to improve their health and wellness.”