#29 The Luckiest Person I Know | Thomas Hartle

July 27, 2021
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Never having used medicines like cannabis or psychedelics prior to his condition, he has found profound value in these alternative therapies and hopes to reach as many people as possible with his story. He joins Ronan to talk about his diagnosis, treatments, what ultimately led to his decision to try psychedelics, and how they led him into advocacy.

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[00:00:00] Thomas: You, you can have a life that's full of suffering right up to the end, but having the psychedelic therapy offers a way of improving the quality of life while you still have it left, you know? You can actually live and experience, you know, what we are supposed to experience as opposed to suffering until it stops, you know?

Ronan: [00:00:36] Hello everyone. Welcome to Field Tripping. Today's episode is anticipated to be really special. We will be talking with Thomas Hartle, one  of the kindest spirits I've had the pleasure of meeting, who changed the course of history and the fortune of hopefully millions of Canadians, but for probably the most unfortunate reason. So stay tuned, but first let's get into some news to trip over.

[00:01:00] First, research has discovered that when psilocybin works, its antidepressant effects tend to be enduring. Unlike other drugs that need to be taken daily to have an effect, psilocybin seems to induce a robust, fast-acting and lasting response after a single dose. A study out of Yale showed that when psilocybin has given to mice, it quickly increases the number and strength of connections between neurons in particular brain regions. Note: ketamine does this too. This increase is sustained for at least one month, following a single exposure to the drug, suggesting that the beneficial effects of psilocybin might be driven by these neurological changes. If you wonder why we are doing what we are doing at Field Trip, you should have a good sense of the answer now. Michael Pollan, author of How to Change Your Mind, recently published a new book called This Is Your Mind on Plants. In it, he explores three different types of drugs: opium (a downer), caffeine (an upper), and [00:02:00] mescaline (an outer). He uses these three examples to discuss our complex relationship to nature and drugs. He also published an opinion piece in the New York Times, and he was interviewed by Tim Ferriss and Joe Rogan on their podcasts. Michael has been a wonderful friend to Field Trip from our earliest days. So I have no compunction shamelessly promoting his book, because not only am I excited to read it, there are a few people more articulate or thoughtful on the subject than Michael Pollan, so please go out and buy it. Finally, even though anecdotally, we've known that psychedelics can change your beliefs in the metaphysical and spiritual, a new study seems to confirm this. The study, conducted by researchers from Imperial College in the UK, and others in Australia, confirmed that a person's beliefs concerning the nature of reality, consciousness, and free-will, change following psychedelic use, as people moved away from materialist viewpoints to ones that reflect various philosophies, such [00:03:00] as panpsychism, which stipulates that every material thing has some element of consciousness. This is great news because the more people who realize that this great human adventure is the evolution of consciousness, the better this adventure is going to be. 

Now, on to our conversation with Thomas. Thomas is a husband, father, and the first Canadian in 50 years that received permission to use psilocybin legally for medical purposes for end of life distress, due to incurable cancer. Never having used medicines like cannabis or psychedelics prior to his condition, he has found profound value in these alternative therapies and hopes to reach as many people as possible with his story. Thomas believes psychedelic use could change the world, and taking a look at his personal journey gives us a glimpse into the future to see how and why that is going to happen. Thomas, thank you for joining us today and welcome to Field Tripping. 

Thomas: [00:03:55] Hey Ronan, thank you very much for having me. 

Ronan: [00:03:57] It really is my pleasure. We'll [00:04:00] get into it more a little bit later on, but for- for those people listening, Thomas and I have been working together, mostly Thomas, and me sitting in the background listening to his awe-inspiring story, and watches the faces of politicians change as he speaks. And lobbying the Canadian government to hopefully increase access to psychedelic therapies soon, but we'll get into that a little bit later. Before we get into that, I only know you for those conversations, and the articles that have been written about you on the CBC and various other media platforms. But I don't really know you very well, Thomas, other than to say your energy is very gentle. The work you're doing and I think is, is truly a godsend, and it's been a privilege being beside you and all of these conversations, but could you tell me your story? I would love to hear your journey from as early as you want to go, until now. 

Thomas: [00:04:56] Oh boy. [laughter] Well [00:05:00] it all began at a sharecropper shack down in- 

Ronan: [00:05:04] I thought you were going to say it was a dark and stormy night. 

Thomas: [00:05:09] Yeah. You know, I guess- Boy where to start. I, I've always been somebody who feels that it's very important for us as humans to contribute to, you know, our, our society, because I feel like the world is exactly what you make it to be. There are an awful lot of people out there who, you know, just sort of feels like they coast through life. Life happens to them. For me, life is very much more an active process. So I started that approach probably back when I was in college. And for me, [00:06:00] this journey into sharing things started with simple blood donations.  I signed myself up for the bone marrow registry back when I was learning how to be a professional nerd. And I've been very blessed and fortunate for pretty much my whole life. I don't know whether I've mentioned it before, but I have been privileged to actually be a, a unrelated stem cell donor for another person who had a blood-related cancer. So really this journey with cancer, for me, starts kind of there.

Ronan: [00:06:44] Okay.

Thomas: [00:06:46] I matched up with somebody who happened to be a mother of four and, you know, she managed to live another 15 years following for treatments. So [00:07:00] I've had this unique experience to be able to experience cancer, both from the side of helping somebody else who has it, and also my own journey as well. So it's been interesting.

Ronan: [00:07:12] I imagine so. I'm very cognizant in this conversation, you know, and I'm imposing this upon you, but I don't want you to be defined by your cancer, even though that is the you know, foundational consideration of all of the amazing things that have been happening recently. And I say that very consciously as well. Cause it sounds like you've done a number of amazing things in your life. So this is just kind of the last, most recent chapter in some respects. So I want to know like, you live in Saskatchewan, did you grow up in the Prairies, like, what was, what did you aspire to be, growing up? How did you end up being a professional nerd as, as you call it? And take us through some of the highlights of, of your actual life experience. Like I want to know your, your story. 

Thomas: [00:07:59] Sure. [00:08:00] So I grew up on a farm.  I am originally adopted, so way, way back when I was born, I was fortunate enough to be adopted by a wonderful couple who lived on a farm and I grew up there for the first 18 years of my life. School in a small town. I bought my very first computer, gosh, before the schools even had them in stock. I'm going to really date myself here when I tell you that my first computer was a Commodore VIC-20. [You] may not have heard of one of those, but it was a pretty amazing machine. It had a whopping 8 K of RAM [in] it [laughter] 

Ronan: [00:08:47] So when I got a computer, a Commodore 64 with 64 K of RAM, I was a way ahead of the curve. 

Thomas: [00:08:53] Pretty advanced, yeah. So I really got the computer bug early in life, [00:09:00] and I pretty much knew that that is the kind of thing that I wanted to do because it's very much second nature to me. So I taught myself how to program, I then went on to college in business admin with a computer science major. And I found that helping people understand technology was something that was very easy for me to do. Going through high school, I took part in a lot of drama, so that was kind of a where I like to, you know, spend my recreational time. I was a ski instructor for awhile.

Ronan: [00:09:43] In Saskatchewan?

Thomas: [00:09:45] In Saskatchewan, believe it or not. Yeah in Saskatchewan, we don't really have hills so much, but there's a valley close to where I live and they they have a ski lift that takes you to the top of the valley and you ski back down into it. 

[00:10:00] Ronan: [00:10:00] For anybody not- for anyone listening who isn't familiar with Saskatchewan, it's basically flat and straight. And, and so I had never actually heard of skiing in Saskatchewan. I guess, truthfully, you know, Ontario skiing is probably no more remarkable than Saskatchewan, but Ontario isn't quite as defined by its flatness as Saskatchewan is. So that's why it was a little bit surprising, but that's awesome.

Thomas: [00:10:24] Yeah. When I was growing up, my, my parents used to take us to Jasper or Banff every once in a while. So, you know, we'd get to ski on a real mountains once in a while, which was always pleasant. 

Ronan: [00:10:38] Excellent.

Thomas: [00:10:40] Let's see, I have been a science nerd pretty much my whole life. You know, did science fairs all through high school, and I got to participate in the national levels with that, so that- I really just had this whole collection of very [00:11:00] interesting and fun things that I've gotten to do my whole life. 

Ronan: [00:11:03] That's amazing. Any particular ones stand out right now? Besides, you know, doing drama or working with technology, any particularly vivid or candid moments?

Thomas: [00:11:14] Hmm. Well, I know you don't want to do a focus on that whole cancer thing, but I have to tell you that after I made my stem cell donation, you you have to wait for about a year to find out whether your recipient was able to survive the procedure. And following that, I had a chance to actually meet with my, with my recipients. This is an example of how my life is statistically improbable in so many ways. So I- remember I told you, I, I signed up for that bone marrow registry when I was in college. And I did that because it's a one in 30,000 chance that you'll actually match [00:12:00] with somebody, and being adopted, I kind of thought that if I match with somebody that's a one in 30,000 chance, maybe I'd be related to them in some way. You never know. So I signed up for that. And years go by, they invented the internet, and I signed up on one website that I found where you could put in your known adoption information. Then more years go by. I moved twice to different cities and never updated my information on the site at all. And the owner of the site got ahold of me. Apparently my sister, my biological sister went to the same site that I went to on the internet, and entered in my information on there. And we got a match. So I had a chance to call my biological family who I learned lives in Nanaimo, BC. [00:13:00] At least on my mother's side of that family. So I had a chance to visit with them for a number of years. And then I got my call from the bone marrow registry that I had matched for somebody there. When you match for somebody, then they do a second level of testing to see whether it's a, a good enough match to donate. And the person that I matched with was a perfect 10 out of 10 genetic match for me. Some siblings don't even match that well, but I happened to match perfectly with this person and they gave me a choice of where to make my donation. And one of the choices was Vancouver. So I went out to Vancouver, made my marrow donation there. And while I was out there, my biological family came over from the island and had a visit with me. So as a result of signing up for the bone marrow registry, I got [00:14:00] to meet my biological family. 

Ronan: [00:14:02] Wow. That's a, that's a nice reward. That's, that's amazing. How old were you when you discovered, or reconnected with- I guess finding out that you had a biological sister and then reconnecting with your family? 

Thomas: [00:14:17] It's getting pretty close to, I think, about 17 years now. So it's been a while. Kind of hoping that I'll be able to make it back out to the island here, maybe after this COVID stuff blows over and have a chance to have another visit. 

Ronan: [00:14:38] For sure. What was it, what was it like reconnecting with your family? I can imagine it's bittersweet as like the description, but I'd be curious to know what, what it was like.

Thomas: [00:14:51] When I was given up for adoption, my biological mother was like 16 at the time. So I mean, obviously in [00:15:00] 1968, very different circumstances from the way things are these days and- you know, you would not expect somebody to be, you know, raising a child at that age. So, I mean, a number of my friends where I grew up were also adopted, so for me, being adopted wasn't really that big of a deal. So reaching out to find my biological family, I think was probably a little more stressful for my mom and dad, you know, because they- they weren't too sure my reasoning for wanting to do that. Of course, they were a little worried that I wasn't happy with my life circumstances and I was looking for a new mom and dad or something, but for me, it was really just, you know, genetic curiosity, you know? Is there anybody out there who looks like me or, you know, who thinks the same way as I do or anything like that. So it [00:16:00] was very interesting to, you know, to, to find that I've got two sisters out there, who've got the same sort of a sense of humor that I have. It's things that you don't get necessarily when you're, when you're adopted. 

Ronan: [00:16:14] Yeah. I was going to ask, I heard a podcast about twins that got separated at birth- I think two sets of twins- and anyway, it was just really interesting how they grew up in such different lives and lifestyles, but they ended up in so many ways dressing the same way and laughing the same way, and so many things. Like, so much of it was genetic and it had so much less to do with the nature of the situation or so- the nurture, but the nature of the situation. And it sounds like you found a little bit of that as well.

Thomas: [00:16:45] For sure, for sure. Interesting thing- so I was put up for adoption and there was another sister after me who was also put up for adoption, before, you know, my two sisters in [00:17:00] Nanaimo were raised in their family, and my stem cell recipients, as it turns out, is the right age for my missing sister. But wasn't adopted. So I, I always figured that was kind of a cool thing. We, we sort of consider each other to be a, you know, a brother and sister, but we're not really related. It's kind of a neat thing. 

Ronan: [00:17:29] Yeah. That's, that's fascinating. Super cool. That that's a, an amazing journey. And very touching. You're still, you're still in touch with them? Are you close with them now- your biological family? 

Thomas: [00:17:41] Oh yeah. Yeah. I I do contact them on, on a fairly regular basis, being out in Nanaimo, and I'm all the way here in the flat lands, it's- yeah, just pop over for coffee every once in a while, but, you know, it's nice to be able to call them up and chat and see how things are going.

Ronan: [00:17:58] Yeah. Yeah, for sure. That's [00:18:00] amazing. That's super cool that you got on that path and- were your adoptive parents okay with it? Are they, were they- did they get comfortable with the idea? Because I can understand how that may create insecurities in parents-

Thomas: [00:18:15] Like I say, it was kind of tough for them at first to understand, you know, my reasoning for, for wanting to find them and things like that. But my dad actually came with me when I went out to make my donation so my dad was able to meet my biological mum and and the rest of the family and have a bit of a visit with them and so I, I thought that was kind of cool to be able to get them together. 

Ronan: [00:18:42] Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, it's beautiful. Families are not necessarily defined by blood relationships. Although clearly genetics do have a factor in how people act and, and, you know, express themselves. But it's nice to have extended blended families in that way where people can get together. That's beautiful. [00:19:00] Growing up, you never- you weren't into drugs, it sounds like. You were a, I can't remember exactly the words you use, maybe white bread? 

Thomas: [00:19:10] [laughter]

Ronan: [00:19:11] Is that the expression? 

Thomas: [00:19:12] I would call myself about as boring as white bread. Yes. But I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. You know, I was never into, you know, cannabis or, or any of the psychedelics or anything like that, going to high school. It just wasn't something that I felt that, you know, I needed to be a part of my life. And frankly, the the campaigning that the war on drugs had done was pretty effective for me. I most certainly didn't think that there was anything good or productive or, or useful in any of those things. Boy, has that ever come to change. [laughter]

[00:20:00] Ronan: [00:20:01] I imagine so. All right. Let's let's [switch] to that topic then. So well, not quite that, but so let's just keep it somewhat chronological. So when, when did you get your cancer diagnosis? Like what was the process of, of discovery, you know? And something that I certainly spent a lot of- too much time, probably worrying about just like, you know, my own mortality and health and, you know, I'm, I'm certainly a bit of a hypochondriac when everything goes wrong. I always put it to the level of, oh my God, I'm dying. Which fortunately, you know, has not been that case, but I guess eventually it will be, but I can- I can't imagine what that experience must be like, so can you tell us a little bit about, about that? 

Thomas: [00:20:42] Yeah, well I guess the first symptoms that I had showing up started late in 2015. I initially started with a partial obstruction in my [00:21:00] intestines. So that was sort of a gradual process that got increasingly worse through, through till April of 2016. And the, the process of getting a bowel obstruction- you gradually lose things that you can eat because the- so, you know, you're intestines start out like so, and they, they just gradually constrict to the point where eventually it was completely closed and anything that I ate couldn't pass through me anymore. So that introduced me to like a whole new kind of pain that I had no idea even existed prior to that. 

Ronan: [00:21:50] I'm sure. 

Thomas: [00:21:51] I would describe that, you know, as exactly what it is it's, it's ripping of the intestines. [00:22:00] And it is unpleasant in just about any way that you can think of. So you eat, it doesn't go through you. It has to come back up the way that it went and-

Ronan: [00:22:12] Oh, Jesus.

Thomas: [00:22:13] It's unpleasant. [laughter] I don't want to gross out your listeners by giving them a real graphic description of that. But yeah, that was a, a time in my life where I, I really wasn't too sure what was going to happen. I- 

Ronan: [00:22:30] Did you have a sense of like the diagnosis early on or were you just suffering these symptoms kind of- 

Thomas: [00:22:36] Initially, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. So I spent six months on being treated with immune suppressive for Crohn's disease. And of course they, they weren't having any effect at all. Because as it turns out it wasn't Crohn's disease, it was cancer. So the, the thought was is that I, I had an [00:23:00] obstruction in my bowels and when I eventually had to go in for emergency surgery in April of 2016, the idea was that they were just going to remove the obstruction, reconnect the intestines together, and get on with my life. And unfortunately when the, the- so again, my life, very statistically improbable, but I seem to connect with the people that I need to connect to when I need to connect with them. And the surgeon who was originally supposed to perform my operation was like the, the head of gastroenterology at the hospital I was at. But he got switched out at the last minute for a different surgeon, and that surgeon happened to be a, an oncological surgeon. So when he opened me up, you know, he immediately knew exactly what he was looking at. And so with [00:24:00] that surgery, they they took out as much as they could find and a number of lymph nodes, my ascending colon, I got an ileostomy at that time, and they took out as much as they could, but there was a pretty extensive amount of cancer at that time. So, you know, I go to sleep for the surgery thinking I'm gonna wake up and get on with my day, and I wake up and, you know, I got- I now got a bag on me, that is not a part of me. My, my insides are now on my outsides. And, "Oh, by the way, you also have stage four cancer." So the the day I actually found out about my my cancer was another one of those, one of those days. So they, they take the biopsies and they check them. And you know, I, I suspected that that might be the case, but it was a couple of weeks before they actually had the biopsies [00:25:00] diagnosed and got the final, like- I don't know, do you want to hear about the, the worst day of my life? Cause, that's-

Ronan: [00:25:06] Yeah, yeah. I mean, if you want to share, yes. 

Thomas: [00:25:10] [You might] hear some barking because my wife is just pulling into the driveway and my dog is going to be very happy to see her. 

Ronan: [00:25:17] No, no problem. But yeah, I mean, if you want to share, like- 

Thomas: [00:25:21] For sure. This is terrible and hilarious. [laughter] So the day I find out that I've got cancer, we're, we're driving to my family doctor who has made that appointment. I've got my ileostomy, and I don't know if you are familiar with those or not, but the way that an ileostomy works- they take your intestines and they put a hole through the stomach wall, and so you've got literally your intestines poking out through your stomach and they put a bag onto that with an [00:26:00] adhesive that sticks around it, and so the only thing that's holding this bag on is this adhesive. So we're actually driving to the- to the appointment. And for the first time since I've had this put onto me, I have a failure on the adhesive for it. So what happens when you are nervous or you're upset is your, your intestines kind of kick into high gear. Now, if you have a normal set of intestines, you know, you might get the butterflies or something like that, but if you have an ileostomy, things become much more active and there is no stopping that. It just does what it does. So the bag popped off of my stomach and I'm driving and I've got this volcano of poo. So we're driving to this very [00:27:00] important doctor's appointment, you know, I've, I've got literally just covered, and my doctor was good enough to come out of the office and, you know, talk to us in my van, cause obviously I'm not going to be going in there. And that's when I found out that, you know? I'm covered in poo, I'm upset, and I have just found out I've got stage four cancer too. So, so we're driving home and, you know, it's4:30 in the afternoon and it's rush hour traffic and I'm still volcano-ing, and I have run out of things to wipe it off with- towels. So I'm literally throwing handfuls out the window, and I have to tell you- Saskatoon drivers in rush hour have no idea how lucky they were that day that they did not cut me off. [laughter] Cause I'll tell ya, I [00:28:00] felt like a monkey. It was, you know, looking back on it- hilarious, right? But but yeah, that was probably one of the worst days that I've had. 

Ronan: [00:28:11] Yeah. Thank you for sharing.

Thomas: [00:28:14] [laughter] Dubious thanks, I'm sure, but literally that's- that is what I would consider one of my worst days. 

Ronan: [00:28:23] Yeah, well first of all, thank you for sharing because that's a story that will never get replicated or beat on this podcast. But secondly you know, I just want to recognize, like, if I was telling that story about a day like that, I would not be able to get through it without being a blubbering mess of a human being. So I just want to acknowledge your strength of character and being able to tell that story and, you know what's the expression, accept that we're a pimple and creation [inaudible] sense of humor about it. And you sure seem to have a lively sense of humor about [00:29:00] something that could imagine experiencing.

Thomas: [00:29:03] I've come to the conclusion that, you know, if you can laugh about the worst day that you've ever had, then, you know, you can pretty much get through anything, honestly.

Ronan: [00:29:14] Yeah, it's true it's very true. It reminds me, I remember I never liked Marilyn Manson as a singer. He only scared the shit out of me to be quite honest. But I saw- maybe it was on Bowling for Columbine or another documentary where he said, "If you become your fears, they no longer scare you." And I always thought that was really profound advice and, and kind of the same take on what you're saying, which is if you can laugh at the worst day of your life, then there's only upside from there, right? 

Thomas: [00:29:40] It helps. It helps. I've- I've had some interesting and scary moments since then. But I would have to say that being able to get past that stuff has helped me an awful lot. 

Ronan: [00:29:55] Can you go into any of that at all? And the reason I'm asking is because I really want [00:30:00] people to understand as much as possible, you know, what your psychedelic experiences have brought you, right? And if we can understand just how challenging, you know, this experience must have been, it really presents just how potent these experiences can be. I think that's important to understand the, you know, the drama, the, the black and white nature of what we're talking about, because these are literally- your experiences right now are probably- I'm going to say, like 99% of at least north American populations' worst fears: cancer and being covered in your own shit in public. It's like, at the same moment, it's like, you can't really write that in a movie [inaudible] and you are laughing about it, and sharing the story openly and easily. And it's just, it's just amazing. So thank you. But you know, any other detail- it is relevant, and I think that's important too. 

Thomas: [00:30:56] Yeah. So once I got my diagnosis, [00:31:00] then, you know, things really kind of kick into another gear. So you immediately go onto the conveyor belt for cancer treatments. For me what followed was a 12 rounds of FOLFOX chemotherapy. And I don't know if you are familiar with that one. The side effects from that particular type of chemotherapy are a fairly unpleasant. The main one being neuropathy. So I lost the feeling in my fingers and toes to the point where I could no longer do buttons on my shirt anymore or fine motor skills like that. I lost the ability to just keep my balance. Just having a shower, you know, I'd have to like put my arm on the wall to be able to tell if I was upright or not, because I couldn't feel my feet anymore. And [00:32:00] the neuropathy, I'm kind of grateful for that one, because that was a big step for me in my journey towards some alternative treatments that I have found to be really effective and helpful. I did a, a large number of supplements to compliment my cancer therapy, but at that point in time, I started looking for something to help me treat my neuropathy that I had. And my search for something that would help with that led me to some studies that they were doing in Japan using a lion's mane mushrooms for helping people who had dementia. Lion's mane being a non-psychoactive mushroom. It is a mushroom that [has] got neurogenic properties, so it helps to promote the growth of nerve cells. So I started using those [00:33:00] and happy to say that they were very, very helpful with getting almost all the feeling back in my feet. I can't even tell there was anything wrong with them. My hands still have that slight tingle to them as if they're just a little bit asleep, but for the most part, pretty much normal. And while I was doing that search for mushrooms and cancer, that's when I initially came across the research from Johns Hopkins that they were using the, the psychedelic mushrooms for treating anxiety. Now, this was very early on when they were doing that study. And my treatment for my cancer was going very well at that point. I had a second surgery following those 12 rounds of chemo. And that surgery was to perform what they call a HIPEC procedure. So with the HIPEC, [00:34:00] they, they take out anything that they can see that it still has cancer on it. And then they fill your abdomen up with a hot chemo solution and- because temperature is another thing that cancer is susceptible to. And-

Ronan: [00:34:13] Okay. 

Thomas: [00:34:14] But when they, when they did that particular operation, they could only find one single remaining tumor on the small intestine. So they, they did a resection for that. And the other cancer that was in the peritoneal tissues, and the lymph, and the intestines, they couldn't find any more of it that was worth taking out. So they reversed the ileostomy at that time, reconnected my intestines back together again, and basically said, we think we got everything. Go live your life. And then they put me on a regular PET scans every three months. Every single one of those [00:35:00] PET scans has come back completely a hundred percent clear. So-

Ronan: [00:35:06] Wow.

Thomas: [00:35:06] -for the next [what] would be close to two years, I was getting PET scans and feeling very happy with myself that, you know, "Woo-hoo!" I beat cancer. 

Ronan: [00:35:17] Yeah.

Thomas: [00:35:17] And gradually I started to experience the symptoms of, of low hemoglobin. So anemia. I, I unfortunately, you know, experienced some anemia with my first round of- of cancer, so I'm familiar with what it feels like. And so I went into my family doctor to to get that checked, to see if that was really going on. And my hemoglobin levels got down to 67. So the normal range for hemoglobin is between 130 and 180. So- 

Ronan: [00:35:55] Okay. 

Thomas: [00:35:56] So we knew that I was definitely losing blood. [00:36:00] I went in for a colonoscopy following that and right away they found two bleeding tumors on my intestines that are completely invisible to the PET scan. So they, they scheduled me for my third surgery in- in the summer of 2019 and the same surgeon who performed my first operation was- was there for that surgery and the intention at that time, they figured, you know, okay, we've got two tumors on the large intestine, you know? We can deal with that. We'll just, we'll take out the rest of the intestines, and I'll probably wind up with a permanent ostomy at that time. So they, they opened me up and it wasn't just two tumors on my large intestine. It was, it was tumors everywhere. So the the surgeon, he cleaned up the incision line and just closed me back up. There's literally nothing he could do, [00:37:00] surgically. So there's I think 50, 51 different locations that they checked in the abdomen for, for where there could be tumors. And I had tumors in 42 of those 57 locations. So he said, you know, if he wanted to take out the cancer, he basically have to ruin my entire digestive system. So there's, there's just nothing they can do for that. So- 

Ronan: [00:37:29] Sorry to hear that.

Thomas: [00:37:30] You know, you wake up from that surgery expecting to have the ostomy this time, and instead of having the ostomy, it's, you know, there's, there's nothing else we can do for you. So they- they put me on to chemotherapy. This time, it's a type called FOLFOXIRI, which is the same components, but they substitute the oxaliplatin component, which is a platinum-based one, which is what causes the neuropathy. [00:38:00] They replaced that one with irinotecan I believe is the drug. And I've had, hm, 43 treatments since then. 

Ronan: [00:38:13] Okay. 

Thomas: [00:38:13] So I have chemotherapy every two weeks and yeah, that has been my life ever since. So that recurrence of the cancer in 2019 is really where my journey with anxiety started, because when I got to, when I got that diagnosis, you know, not only is the cancer not gone, it's back, it's much, much worse than we thought it was. And it is completely invisible to PET scans, CT scans, [00:39:00] ultrasound, MRI, blood work. It's like my cancer doesn't show up on any of these things. So my surgeon told me that, you know, there's [a] very good chance that, you know, I will either get another one of those bowel obstructions that I had back in 2016, and they will not be able to operate on that because I'm not a surgical candidate anymore so if I get an obstruction, that just means I'm going to die. Or I have a lot of tumors on the intestines, so those cause weak spots. So an equal possibility that I would get a perforation in the intestines and equally not, not repairable. So that also means that I would die. And finding that out, well that was, that's pretty rough for me. I'm not gonna lie. Yeah. It sort of told me that not only do I not [00:40:00] know the state that the cancer's in, but I could literally die, you know, that afternoon and nobody could tell me it's coming and there's nothing they could do to stop it. So yeah. Yeah. I had an awful lot of anxiety about stuff like that. You know, initially, initially for the idea of dying, but you know, once I, I kind of worked past that, it's, you know, the idea that I wouldn't be there at some point when my family needed me for something. I have, you know, two amazing children but they, they do happen to be on the autism spectrum. And that means that there are things that they need extra help with, and extra life challenges that regular kids growing up just aren't going to have to face. So, you know, we, we do a lot of stuff to to help them along. So the idea that at some point, you know, they're going to need me for something and I'm not going to be there. It's pretty rough. 

[00:41:00] Ronan: [00:41:01] Yeah. Yeah. I, I mean, I, I certainly don't understand your experience by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know that sense of- that emptiness of feeling of not being there when your kids need you, you know, that, that's the, that's the thing, you know? It's funny how kids can be like the most life-affirming thing that you ever have, but they also create such an [inaudible] fear around, you know, losing, you know, being there and all that kind of stuff. It's like- 

Thomas: [00:41:33] Yeah.

Ronan: [00:41:36] I have- as much empathy as I can offer, which is not nearly enough, because I can't possibly understand what that feels like, but thank you for sharing. And once again, your, your strength and your candor and your humor through all this is you know, been very inspiring. So thank you. Thank you for sharing all this. After the first diagnosis, was the anxiety manageable? Like, I, I can't, [00:42:00] can't even imagine the second round, but the first time, how was that? 

Thomas: [00:42:05] You know, I don't know whether you've caught it or not, but I'm a really positive person.

Ronan: [00:42:11] Yes.

Thomas: [00:42:13] And for me that positive attitude was really enough to carry me through my first round of chemo. And, and, you know, the first go with cancer, I genuinely felt that I had a very good chance of beating it. And you know, I, I took that to heart. I definitely kept that in my mind. And I did a tremendous amount of research because being a professional nerd, that's what we do. I found- I found adjuvant therapies that had shown clinical efficacy for being able to enhance the type of chemo that I was doing and were [00:43:00] able to treat tumors, and, you know, when they opened me up for that second surgery and and I learned that, you know what I was doing actually worked, that really kind of wiped the slate clean for me in terms of anxiety. You know, I spent the next couple of years blissfully happy and it was going fantastic for me. You know, obviously whenever you get a diagnosis of cancer and you're stage four right out of the gate, I mean, there's, there's going to be anxiety. There's no getting around that, but I never really allowed myself to believe that I would not be successful in my treatment. So, so, you know, I think positive attitude helps. Getting the second diagnosis, you know, and unfortunately just kind of [00:44:00] blew a lot of that out of the water for me. It was, it was just like a tidal wave, you know? There's, there's so much you can deal with and, and that went outside of the scope for what I could handle, unfortunately.

Ronan: [00:44:16] I'm sure that goes out of the scope of what 99.99% of people could handle because even in light of everything, your optimism and your positivity shines through. So for, for a lesser people who don't necessarily carry that, that level of optimism and positivity, I'm sure there's no way they could, they could handle that for, for sure. And I can only imagine, I mean, it's not just the anxiety, I imagine the powerlessness must've been just brutal, right? And that feeling of rage of especially coming from the place of, Oh I thought I beat it. Oh, I got this figured out. Like, life worked out, life gave me, you know? I rolled the dice and I got a good role. [00:45:00] And to kind of have it. And it's just like, your feet knocked out of you, and- 

Thomas: [00:45:08] It was, it was a lot to deal with. And so I, I mean, you know, the, the story after that is the one I've had a chance to tell quite a few times, you know? My journey being able to to revisit the research that I found on psychedelics and you know, they're use in treating end of life anxiety. I have to say that I was, in spite of all of the evidence and the research, I did not understand how it worked at that time. So, you know, I was I was hopeful and I had some ideas of how I thought it would probably be helpful, but it is one of those things that- the [00:46:00] experience itself is so very different from what I had read about with other people's experiences, you know? You have these preconceived notions of what you think it's going to be like or what you think you're going to experience and, you know, what's it gonna look like and what's it gonna feel like? And the experience itself was so very different from that. It was, it was for me an amazing experience that just changed my whole point of view on the idea of of death and dying. You know, I wouldn't consider myself to be religious, you know? I went to church when I was younger, just like, you know, many people do and, you know, the church teaches. [inaudible] Yeah, you know, the church teaches you that there's a, that there's a heaven and [00:47:00] there's a life after death, and for me, that was very much an intellectual thing. So, you know, you, you have this idea that, okay, well, sure there's going to be life after death, but you know, I've never really been able to accept that idea of you know you know, the bearded dude in the clouds, keeping an eye on you. And that's not really the way that I picture things, and I didn't really have any framework to understand, you know, the concept of consciousness continuing without a me. And that is really what psychedelics have given me, is the, the actual experience of what consciousness is, that has nothing to do with Thomas. So, but I don't know-

Ronan: [00:47:57] I want to go [00:48:00] into that- 

Thomas: [00:48:01] Yeah, I don't want to take a sidetrack on that because it's a, it's a subject I definitely get sidetracked on, but you know- 

Ronan: [00:48:08] Yeah, no I want you to get totally sidetracked on that. But before we get there, just take us through what happened. So you've got this much more dire diagnosis, you pick up the research happening at Johns Hopkins with end of life distress and where, where does it go from there? Take us from that moment to, I guess, the, your first session with with Bruce Tobin, right? Did you do it with Bruce? 

Thomas: [00:48:36] Correct. Yes. So I guess the next thing that happened for me, you know, you make- and one part that I have kind of skipped over is when I started my initial cancer treatment back in [00:49:00] 2016, with chemotherapy, that was really my first introduction to any non off the shelf pharmaceutical for dealing with medical conditions. And for me, the first really out-there one for me was using cannabis to treat the side effects of the chemotherapy, which, you know, I, I can't speak for anybody else on chemotherapy, but chemo really just kicks my butt, you know? There's, there's no two ways around it. It's unpleasant pretty much from start to finish on a, on a treatment. And I have a number of prescription medications that I take for dealing with, you know, the nausea and the pain and everything that goes along with it. And frankly, the chemotherapy just blows through that stuff like tissue paper. So I discovered that cannabis and [00:50:00] specifically I, I make my own cannabis oil, so I extract the concentrate from the plant and take that orally. That for me is [a] complete godsend. There isn't any way that I would be alive today if I did not use cannabis for dealing with that, because the level of nausea I feel on a daily basis is so much that I would not be able to eat enough calories to live. So for me, that's kind of what a plant-based medicine has done. It's, you know, it has literally saved my life, you know? Forget about, you know, the cancer treatments and things like that. If you can't eat, you can't live. So for, me, that was the introduction that, you know, something that isn't from a pharmaceutical manufacturer can have these amazing benefits 

Ronan: [00:50:57] Yeah. Has the chemo gotten any easier over [00:51:00] time? Or is it still just as hard and you're just better at managing it with the- 

Thomas: [00:51:04] You know, I am gonna say that since my experience with psylocibin, the chemo has been tremendously easier to deal with. The, the anxiety and the anticipation of the unpleasantness that goes with chemotherapy, for me, was greatly amplified. You know, the, the anxiety and the anticipation just kinda went together in a very well, I, I mean, if you were looking for an effective way to have anxiety, that's a good way. Cannabis unfortunately is, is also something that amplifies anxiety for me as well. And- it unfortunately does, yeah, yeah. Great for dealing with chemo side effects, but not effective for dealing with anxiety for me. I think there are some people who, you know have a little better luck [00:52:00] with that particular thing. I know people who, you know, use cannabis and they use that to get to sleep and deal with things like anxiety, but not me, unfortunately. But, you know, I at least had the experience of knowing that a natural substance, like that could have potential benefits, so it opens my mind up to the possibility that something like that could be beneficial. So having that door open, that was my first step. 

Ronan: [00:52:31] And take us from there. Where, where did you go from there after deciding that this is something I want to look into more and yeah.

Thomas: [00:52:38] Yeah. So my mind is open and I realized that, you know, natural substances in this case, fungi, could potentially have the ability to help me deal with this anxiety. And I did not really know how that would possibly work. You know, I mean, I still have the, that war on drugs, [00:53:00] sort of, this is your brain on drugs idea of what things like psychedelics are. And how could the experience of, of, you know, seeing strange visions possibly help me with anxiety. I have no idea, but these studies that have you know, success rates up to 80% efficacy off of a single dose. And being a computer person and being somebody who has been interested in science my whole life, I tend to have a fairly good trust in science. Numbers, really- either you believe it, or you don't. And I believe in it and that hasn't steered me too far wrong. So I decided that, you know, I'm going to give this a try. I have literally nothing to lose. You know, the worst thing that's going to happen is I still have anxiety. So, you know, why wouldn't I explore this further? So I started looking [00:54:00] for any place where I could get in on a test here in Canada to see if there was any research going on. And back when I was looking at it, there was literally nothing. Absolutely nothing going on. So your next step is, well, you know, where, where can I find somebody who knows anything about this, you know? I, I most certainly just don't want to pop a bunch of shrooms and see what happens, you know, and for that matter, where would I get them from, you know? That's the other problem. I don't want to be, you know, talking to a guido on the corner, who might be lacing the product with fentanyl to stretch his profit margins. At at that point, you know, you have to make some decisions, you know? Do I want to be looking into the shadowy underworld or, you know, what are my options? And I was fortunate that again, I find that people [00:55:00] that I need to find when I need them, and a search for somebody who was familiar with the use of psilocybin for treating cancer patients, came across [inaudible]. And they were taking applications for the patients that they were looking to assist with this section 56 application process that so many of us have gone through now at this point. And I was one of the first four people that they assisted with that process. There were three other people in front of me who had their applications in for about a month before I did mine. And it took a couple of months before mine was eventually approved. So very, very grateful to the folks at Health Canada and the Department of Controlled Substances, you know? They had the ability to say, no. I- honestly, in my humble [00:56:00] opinion, I don't think a "no" would have stopped me, but I'm very grateful that that was not the answer because for me, it is important to not only, you know, do in a legal way that other people can copy and, and follow along, but I mean, I'm looking at taking this substance because I have anxiety. Do I really want to also have the anxiety of going to jail for treating the anxiety? So very fortunate that they approved that in August of 2020, and Dr. Tobin volunteered to come here to Saskatoon from, from BC and do my session.

Ronan: [00:56:43] What was it like when, when you got the approval? On the one hand I have this kind of image of total ecstasy, you know, and excitement. And I'm sure there was a part of that, but I also get the sense that not knowing what you're getting into, it's like, this is great but, [00:57:00] what did I just get myself into, kind of thing. [inaudible] Curious to know. 

Thomas: [00:57:05] There was so much anxiety in my life at the time when they they gave me the approval that, that it is a bit of a fine line between being happy and grateful that I had the opportunity to do this. And that, exactly like you say, you know, what have I gotten myself into? And have I bitten off more than I can chew? And, you know, am I going to be one of those people who, you know, this isn't compatible with? Am I going to be giving myself a psychotic break? And now I not only have cancer, but I've lost my mind and, all of these things that I- you have these ideas of what the experience is going to be like based on, you know, other people's experiences. And you just don't know, but [00:58:00] you swallow down the fear and you move forward with things and, you know, this is how we make progress. I have found in my life that anytime I encounter something that is, you know, terrifying and you can't deal with, you know, from getting married and having kids to being a stem cell donor to, you know, going through with cancer and this type of treatment. Courage seems to be rewarded. There's no other way to put it. It's- if you- if you just decide that I'm going to do this and accept the outcome, most of the time it works out. We- 

Ronan: [00:58:49] [Courage] seems to be rewarded. It's that's, that's beautiful. That's like- if there's any nugget of wisdom that I think anyone has taken from right now- I think this is our [00:59:00] 27th podcast or something like that- I think that's like the most beautiful, most succinct and most on-point probably the most valuable, and you- you speak the truth, you know? You speak from your heart on, on that particular point. So thank you. Thank you for sharing that. 

Thomas: [00:59:15] Yeah. I would- I would extend that right into the psychedelic experience itself and, you know, I haven't had a chance to, to discuss, you know, your level of experience with psychedelics, but I would have to assume that you have some familiarity with the subject and on that topic, you know, you hear about people who have bad trips. I would call those challenging sessions myself, and that whole idea of courage being rewarded extends into that for me. People have these challenging experiences where they, they experienced something that [01:00:00] is unpleasant. And you have to accept that the experience is exactly what it is supposed to be. And if you embrace that challenge or embrace the fearful thing, that is where you get these really deep, meaningful results coming out of your sessions, I have found from people that I talked to in my own personal experience. So I don't know what you have brought out of that. But for me, that is really a key point, that you have to just be brave and embrace it and move forward through it. 

Ronan: [01:00:37] Yeah. The illusion of control is one of the greatest fallacies that a lot of people believe in. And, and the belief that people actually want to be in control is a, another fallacy, but that's an entirely separate conversation. In my experience, I've, I've genuinely only had positive experiences. I haven't had a challenging experience, but there've been magical. But that's probably a function of the fact that even though my [01:01:00] experience with psychedelics is still fairly limited, to be quite honest, I've done a lot of soul searching and spiritual questing and meditation and, and work with metaphysics, that I think I've done a lot of the stuff that may bring up the challenging experiences, but who knows, you know? I guess I'm just on the early roads of my journey as well. But- and I'm happy to share more about it but- so take me to the day of your first experience and take me through that experience and share as much detail as you feel comfortable sharing. And just to sort of set the framework, I actually just did a very significant session this past Thursday, and I'm not one to belabor my experience, but suffice it to say, that it started with me being on stage with The Rolling Stones in 1977 at the El Mocambo in Toronto. And it kind of went from there. And I wasn't born in 1977, so [laughter] let that speak for what it is but [01:02:00] feel free to offer as much detail about your experience and what you saw and what came up and what you took away from it. And actually before you answer that, how many experiences have you had now, since getting your section [inaudible]?

Thomas: [01:02:13] Two. 

Ronan: [01:02:13] Two. Okay.

Thomas: [01:02:16] So I will not claim to have a comprehensive number of experiences like a lot of people that I've talked to. You know, I know people who do micro doses, I know people who have done, you know, a large number of macro doses, and for myself, I am literally just taking it for the purpose of alleviating my anxiety. And, you know, the fact that I have done just two sessions is a really important point that I think people I need to know about. You know, this treatment is so very different from a traditional antidepressants that people take. [01:03:00] You know, people have a notion of what a medical treatment is, and for the majority of people these days, that is, you know, taking something like an antidepressant that you must take every day on a consistent basis in order to deliver the results. The, the key difference between a traditional treatment and a psychedelic-assisted therapy is that a traditional antidepressant, for me personally, changed the way that I felt while the medication is in effect. Psychedelic-assisted therapy has changed the way I think about the things that were causing the anxiety. So for me, it's not a way of just applying a coat of paint on top of the problem. It's actually changing how [01:04:00] I think about what is causing it. And by changing the way that I think about it, it has removed my base level of anxiety that I was experiencing. So- 

Ronan: [01:04:11] [Could you] go into more depth about that? 

Thomas: [01:04:13] Absolutely. So I can, I can carry you through the experience and tell you how I arrived at that, I think would probably be the best way to go. I had mentioned already that for me, cannabis is something that doesn't help with anxiety. In fact, the doses of cannabis that I have to take, honestly, lead to some very screechingly uncomfortable levels of anxiety for me. You know, it's, it's a much worse with that. So I have this standing base level of anxiety, and then I take something that enhances that, and that increases the anxiety [01:05:00] to a point where I'm just was not able to function at all, you know? You can't, can't leave a room. You have to be someplace that's quiet and dark, so [that] you don't have any inputs because you just can't handle anything anymore. Or you have to be with people just in case here you, you know, drop dead that afternoon. It's such a variety of horrible feelings that I wouldn't wish on anybody. So, you know, for me having to do something about this was not an option for me anymore. It's either you do something about it or you just can't function as a person anymore. So I recognize that this was my opportunity to, to get some sort of relief from it. The lead-up to doing therapy- I always tell people it's kind of a three-part process. [01:06:00] So with your therapist, you do a number of sessions prior to that, where you establish what your expectations are going to be, the types of things you can expect to experience, what you're hoping to get out of the experience, and what some reasonable expectations might be. And you know, I had a number of weeks talking with Bruce about that, and I think I felt very well-prepared for doing the session. I, you know, of course read Michael Pollan's book and a, and a number of other ones so- like The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide- there, there's a number of very good resources out there that people can access that will give you an idea of what the experience has been for other people. So I had this idea in my head of what I could experience, and I was at least comfortable enough with that to say, "We're going to do this." [01:07:00] Then on August the 12th, that was my first session day. Dr. Tobin was here, and I wanted to make sure that my experience- because I was the first person in Canada to go through this- I wanted to make sure that the experience itself was well-documented. So I had [ naudible] Peters who has worked with [inaudible] for some of their media information, was also here doing a video recording of everything, you know? The entire process- me, you know, blubbering with Bruce over my anxiety, going into the sessions and filming the session itself and, and, you know, the integration following that. So on the morning of the 12th we had Bruce and a good friend of mine, John, who was experienced with ayahuasca and happens to be a good friend of mine who I met [01:08:00] through my father-in-law. That's another chunk of the story I haven't included in here yet. I don't know if we want to insert that or not, but- 

Ronan: [01:08:10] Let's keep going down the path of the experience and then depending on time we can come back and revisit it.

Thomas: [01:08:16] Sure, So we got everybody a gathered in my spare bedroom here at my home here in Saskatoon. And I have the mushrooms that I have grown myself, dried and powdered and put into capsules. And we're we're ready to go. We have decided that doing my consumption of the psilocybin would probably be best in a staged number of doses. So I take the first dose at 11 o'clock in the morning, and then I take another dose at 45 minutes later and the final dose [01:09:00] 45 minutes after that. So by the time I'm taking my last dose, the first dose is starting to take effect. And because the first dose is starting to take effect, the amount of anxiety that I am feeling has already decreased to the point where I feel completely comfortable taking further dose. So it went to two and a half grams, two and a half grams and another two grams for a total of seven grams. And yeah. Yeah, that's a, that's a fair sized dose. I really expected that I would experience a lot of the distortions in the visual experience or auditory that I've heard a lot of people talk about. I was very surprised how easy it was for me to remain completely present if I chose to. [01:10:00] But the, the therapy session itself was largely, blindfold on, headphones, listening to music. And the music for me was very kinetic. So where normally music is, is fairly kinetic for me, this was so much more so. I felt that even the spaces in between the music felt like the potential for something. And as a new piece of music would start to play, it would start to build these very comprehensive environments. It was other universes is, experientially, what it felt like. And once a universe was formed, then my consciousness would just become that universe. So, you know, I didn't have anywhere to go. I didn't have any work to do. I was [01:11:00] literally everything that existed in that space, and different types of music would form these different spaces. For me, I, I was having trouble deciding whether the music itself determined the themes for these spaces, because I found- so for example, some South American music that I was listening to, generated this space that felt very Aztec or Mayan in design- the style of it. While not exactly the same as the artwork that you would see in like, Aztec ruins, it was very reminiscent of it. It was almost like a blend between technology and nature in that particular instance. It was similar with other types of music where I found that the music shared these themes with [01:12:00] the type of art that you would associate with that culture. So I don't know if my own predispositions produced those spaces, or if artists of those cultures experienced psychedelics and music, and produced the same artwork as a result of that. So that is one that I am still scratching my head at to this point, but- 

Ronan: [01:12:28] What does the gut say on that?

Thomas: [01:12:29] The gut is telling me that they have also experienced the psychedelics and did this is a shared common space. To me, the, the music and the vibration that is produced from that very much seemed to create that space, and I believe that if I had psychedelics again and listened to the same music, it would produce the same space.

You, you [01:13:00] spoke a little bit earlier on the idea of all of matter having consciousness that I'm trying to remember, the what is the name of that? 

Ronan: [01:13:10] Panpsychism. 

Thomas: [01:13:10] Panpsychism. Thank you. The psychedelic experience for me, really very much awakened that panpsychism idea in me. So while I was under the influence of the psilocybin, I still knew that I had a body and that it existed and, you know, I would come back and check on it from time to time- kind of the way you would check on, you know, your, your pets or a household houseplant or something like that. But when I allowed myself to completely be immersed, immersed in the the music and the internal experience, Thomas did not exist. You know, I, I didn't have any notion of, you know, [01:14:00] instead I even had a family let alone or names or anything to do with this life. It was a completely separate experience, but it was still consciousness and it still had awareness and things that I could experience and explore and discover and thoughts that I could have, but none of those things had anything to do with this life. And when I say that the experience changed the way that I think about the idea of life and death, that's really where it comes from for me. It gave me the actual, tangible, physical experience of what consciousness could be, that has nothing to do with this life. And from that experience, I really have the solid, tactile experience that the transition [01:15:00] from living to, whatever is next, could be as simple as the transition from waking to sleep. And it's just another state of consciousness, but it doesn't have to have anything to do with this life. And it's okay. 

Ronan: [01:15:18] Yeah. It's, I mean, I like to say that in this question- and I pose this question to a lot of people- but I think you've given one of the most beautiful answers, but I'm asking you to eff the ineffable, right? Because it's so hard to describe that feeling, but the feeling, and I haven't had it in exactly that context, but you described it as an idea, but then you talked about it being tactile. And the only way I can describe it as it's not just an idea, it's a knowing, like it's an inherent, "I just know," I can't prove it. I can't validate it. I can't explain it. 

Thomas: [01:15:54] Well, let me, let me give you my spin on it, how about that? And I'm [01:16:00] going to delve into this panpsychism idea a little bit to get there. I hope you don't mind. So panpsychism is the idea that the fundamental nature of reality is consciousness, and that all things in it are consciousness built from smaller conscious components. For example- there's a number of different spins, but that one will do for my purposes. So you know, you don't have an atom necessarily, you have consciousness, which creates the atom as a part of its conscious experience. So in the same way that you can have, say, a bucket full of iron filings- so those iron filings, they have a conscious experience, which always is whatever it is to be an iron filing, but it doesn't necessarily have a form or a purpose. Now, if you take those iron [01:17:00] filings and you melt them down, you can turn them into a tuning fork, for example. So now those those individual units of consciousness now have a combined conscious experience of being a tuning fork. The tuning fork can produce a sound. I believe that in the same way that our body houses our consciousness, our actual consciousness would be the sound that is produced by the tuning fork. So that sound is an energetic- an energetic creation. But once it is created, it exists, even if the tuning fork doesn't anymore. In the same way that our bodies can come and go. Our consciousness is no longer dependent on the body existing for its own existence. 

Ronan: [01:17:55] That's a great example. It's not easy to try make sense [01:18:00] of it. 

Thomas: [01:18:00] One of many crazy ideas I have. 

Ronan: [01:18:04] It's, it's a good one. Well thank you so much for, for sharing that. I do appreciate it. Are there any other particular insights that have come out of these experiences that you'd like to share? You know, I think that the sense of being connected to the universe and consciousness existing outside of the body is something that a lot of people, at least rationally can wrap their heads around, even though they can't necessarily- 

Thomas: [01:18:29] Yeah. You know, people talk about the experience being, you know, ineffable, and honestly, for me, the experience was really very clear. I can tell you about any part of that, you know? I can, I can tell you what it feels like to, to be these other spaces. You know, what does the experience of sensation without a body feel like, you know? I can give you a reasonably good [01:19:00] idea of that, you know, I know what it feels like, even if I can't tell you what what it is like. For me, the experience of being, you know, these spaces- I experienced that in a couple of ways, both tactile and in a difference in thought processes. If you don't have a body that you're worrying about, one thing that I experienced in those spaces is that- we talk about having these challenging, difficult experiences, right? For me, the psychedelic experience was the complete opposite of that. So for me it was relaxing and peaceful and serene. Like, every part of that experience for me was positive and good and enriching. The [01:20:00] realization came to me while I was experiencing these other spaces, you know, for lack of better terminology, these other universes is what it felt like to me. The only place where I actually experience, you know, pain and anxiety was here. This was the only unpleasant place that there was. And that was such a, a warming, comforting thought for me that, you know, the, the only place where I experienced these horrible things, you know, like the cancer and the chemo and the discomfort, is here. And you know, the idea that, that someday this is going to end, but I won't, was just so profoundly comforting to me. It's difficult to put it any other way, but it's, it's like, [01:21:00] death is not only not a bad thing, but it's, it's a necessary and a normal thing and it's okay. It's a part of, it's a part of our process.

Ronan: [01:21:16] Right.

Thomas: [01:21:17] It's how we grow. 

Ronan: [01:21:18] Yeah. That's really magical. I mean, I don't have a better word to say, but if people- if all people could understand that, like on intuitive knowing level and not be so scared of death- and I'm certainly not saying I'm a person who has achieved this, I'm not- but if you think through what it could be like to not be afraid of death, how much more enjoyable would life be, you know? How different would you live your life? To be- 

Thomas: [01:21:48] This comes back to the reason, you know, why I'm, you know, talking to people like yourself and why I'm participating in these meetings that we've been participating in. [01:22:00] You know, people [inaudible] MAID system, for example, that medical assistance in dying. I believe that it's, it's a good and important thing that a lot of people make use of but I, I fear that some people are making use of the MAID system because they have anxiety and they have depression, like I used to suffer from. And my concern is that they use that system just because they want this to stop, you know? Can't take it anymore. And then I gotta admit, I understand completely where they're coming from. You know, I, I would be lying if I said that, you know, I never had a thought like that. I'm grateful that I was able to go through what I've gone through. To work my way past that. [01:23:00] But when you just want it to stop, that's very different than being able to embrace that it's okay. And being good with it. You know, you can have a life that's full of suffering right up to the end. But having  the psychedelic therapy offers a way of improving the quality of life while you still have it left, you know? You can actually live and experience, you know, what we are supposed to experience, as opposed to just suffering until it stops.

Ronan: [01:23:40] So just for everybody listening, Thomas and I have been working together with Michael Kid and a number of others lobbying the Canadian government, to open up access to psychedelic-assisted therapies, ideally for all Canadians who are suffering with any mental health challenges, but in particular [01:24:00] Canadians facing end of life distress. And I'm pleased to report that nearly every conversation I've participated in, most politicians we speak to seem very open and receptive to the idea. They recognize the need- they recognize the humanitarian considerations that can be realized the compassion involved in it. So I'm feeling very hopeful, but Thomas, just out of respect for your time, because we've taken a lot of it, you've spoken to elegantly in all of those conversations with politicians, but I imagine there's always a decree of decorum that you put on in those meetings. And so as we wind down this podcast, I would invite you all decorum aside, speaking from the heart, what would you like to tell all the politicians, all the leaders, all the decision-makers out there about psychedelic therapies and how they should think about it? No holds barred. 

Thomas: [01:24:51] Well, you know, the fact of the matter is, is this: politicians are just people like we [01:25:00] are. And I'm very happy that in many of the conversations, I have been able to relate to the human aspect of all of these representatives, and the majority of people that I have spoken with have been at least open and receptive to hearing about it. I can't say that all of them have necessarily been, you know, on board or in agreement or, or, or have had the understanding necessary. Yet. And I believe it is up to people like myself and, and yourself, and other Canadians who have had a chance to benefit from this. To educate those people that the decision that they are making regarding psychedelic-assisted therapy is not so much a decision on, you know, is this a valid medical [01:26:00] procedure or not? The evidence is already there. I mean, there's, there's been a large number of studies that have proven that this is effective. And from personal experience, I can tell you that it is unlike any other treatment that's out there. The longer that we delay doing something about this is a longer delay for Canadians who are suffering on a daily basis. You know, these are people who don't just have terminal illnesses, but they are people who suffer from anxiety and depression, and we are going to see an avalanche of anxiety and depression happening as a result of the terrible things that COVID has done to our Canadian economy, you know? There are thousands of people who are out of work and those jobs are just not coming back. We have the choice of enslaving people to a pharmaceutical [01:27:00] system that has proven that it can't cure anxiety and depression. It can mask the symptoms. We are at a position where we have the potential to cure. Cure thousands of people of these conditions with a natural substance that has almost no toxicity. I can't see how anybody would deny people the opportunity to live their life to the fullest. I don't know about you Ronan, but for me, it's, it's almost unconscionable to withhold this from the people that it will benefit. And I'm not saying it's going to help everybody. I mean, that would be a ridiculous statement, but there are thousands of people that it will. I don't see why we would not do that.

Ronan: [01:28:00] [01:28:00] A hundred percent, a hundred percent. And it, you know, it's not even anxiety and depression on these DSM diagnoses. It's like "I've lived my entire life feeling inadequate. And for the first time in my life, I don't feel inadequate anymore." So it can go a long way for, for a lot of people. So thank you. Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for sharing your story. It is powerful. Thank you for persevering. And thank you for being here. It's it's been a true pleasure to have you on the podcast. It's been a true pleasure to be beside you in all those meetings and those politicians. I hope and look forward to one day, having the opportunity to meet in person, shake your hand because you are- you're breaking down walls. You're, you're breaking down barriers and there's no person I think is more elegant and more resilient to help create these changes than you, Thomas, so thank you for everything with you.

Thomas: [01:28:58] I am- I have been [01:29:00] very blessed in my life. I consider myself to be the luckiest person that I know. And if I can share a little bit of that with everybody else, then I think that isn't a bad thing. 

Ronan: [01:29:11] Conrad, let's make a note. I was, I was going to go with "statistically improbable" as being the, the title for this episode. But I think "the luckiest person I know" is a better title.

Thomas: [01:29:25] People don't understand how lucky I am. My wife has always giving me [guff] for wasting my luck on good parking spots and short lines at the checkout.

Ronan: [01:29:35] Well thank you, Thomas. Really. So it really has been a delight to get to know you. And I look forward to sharing more stories in the future. 

Thomas: [01:29:42] Hopefully I haven't bored you too bad.

Ronan: [01:29:47] Not at all. That was great.

It's been said that birth and death are easy. It's life that is hard. And in listening to Thomas' story, I couldn't help, but think how true that is. [01:30:00] Ultimately the moment we let go of what we call life is an easy one. Nature takes over, and we let go. And it's something we're all going to face. There's nothing hard about it. What is hard though, is facing up to the reality of it. And that's something that Thomas has had to look squarely in the eye for close to five years now. But through that process, and particularly through psychedelics, he's come to one of the most serene conclusions that I think anyone could hope for: that we are more than just the definition of our physical bodies, that there's an us outside of us, that we are part of a bigger loving consciousness. And that that belief has given him what seems to be a tremendous amount of comfort in his journey. But I don't think that's the total story. It's also been said that people fear death because they realize, unconsciously at least, but their lives are mere parodies of what living should be. They ache to quit playing at living, and [01:31:00] to really live. And I get the sense that Thomas, with his bright outlook and optimism, has maybe his entirely life been really living, which only got revealed to him through his psychedelic experience. I started saying with an increasing degree of frequency, that there is magic in those mushrooms and Thomas' story couldn't be a more perfect example of that truth. To wrap today's episode, let's check on your questions to trip on. 

Caller: [01:31:29] Hey Ronan. Just a quick question. What do you think is the biggest misconception about psychedelics? 

Ronan: [01:31:35] Fortunately, for me, this is an easy one to answer. Most psychedelic substances like psilocybin, LSD and MDMA are still scheduled in many Western countries, which means they've been determined to have no medical or therapeutic value. In fact, many people still believe that they are highly addictive and will ruin your brain. In both cases, almost nothing is further from the truth. Trial after trial after [01:32:00] trial has demonstrated that these molecules can have profound and significant medical, therapeutic and emotional benefits, and they carry some of the lowest risks associated with any drugs let alone narcotics. Certainly no drugs are entirely safe, but when it comes to psychedelics, these are just about as safe as it comes. As a quick reminder, you can now record a question for us and we will play it on the show. It's a great way for us to feel connected to you, our amazing listeners. To record your question, go to speakpipe.com/field tripping or you can send us your questions, comments, or any episode ideas via email to field tripping@kastmedia.com. That's cast with a K. Thanks for listening to Field Tripping, a podcast that's dedicated to exploring psychedelic experiences and their ability to affect our lives. I'm your host Ronan Levy. Until next time, stay curious, breathe properly, and remember: every day is a field trip if you let it be one. Field Tripping is created [01:33:00] by Ronan Levy. Our producers are Conrad Page and Jon Cvack, and associate producers are Sharon Bhella, Alec Sherman, and Macy Baker. Special thanks to Kast Media. Finally, please rate, review and subscribe to our podcast and sign up for our newsletter at fieldtripping.fm or wherever you get your podcasts.

About Ronan

An entrepreneur and a visionary, Ronan is one the founders of Field Trip – with a mission to bring the world to life through psychedelics and psychedelic-enhanced psychotherapy. Concurrent with his work at Field Trip, he is a partner at Grassfed Ventures, a venture capital and advisory firm focused on the cannabis and biotech industries and is Chief Strategy Officer and Member of the Board of Directors for Trait Biosciences Inc., a leading biotech company in the hemp and cannabis industries. Prior to his current roles, Ronan co-founded Canadian Cannabis Clinics and CanvasRx Inc., the latter of which was acquired by Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE: ACB) in 2016, after which he served as Senior Vice President, Business and Corporate Affairs for Aurora. A lawyer by training, Ronan started his career as a corporate lawyer at Blake, Cassels Graydon LLP and Legal Counsel at CTVglobemedia Inc. (now Bell Media Inc.) He holds a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Commerce degree, both from the University of Toronto.