Women’s History Month: Talking to Tricia and Connor about Supporting Mothers
Each March, Women’s History Month is a chance to both appreciate the women who have had an impact on the history of country and world, and to recognize the biases and inequalities that remain today.
One of the organizations leading this recognition is the National Women’s History Alliance (NWHA), originally called the National Women’s History Project. Founded in 1980, this grassroots organization successfully lobbied Congress to designate March as Women’s History Month. Today, the NWHA provides information and training on women’s history and promotes empowerment, equality and inclusion.
Each year, the NWHA sets a theme for Women’s History Month; the theme for 2022 is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” The theme is “both a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history,” writes the NWHA.
Women have long filled the caregiver role – whether caring for their own children or elder relatives or caring for others’ children in the roles of teachers or nannies.
“These are the women who, as counselors and clerics, artists and teachers, doctors, nurses, mothers, and grandmothers listen, ease suffering, restore dignity, and make decisions for our general as well as our personal welfare,” the NWHA writes on its website.
At Goodness Growth Holdings, we see patients every day who are seeking relief from the symptoms associated with medical diagnoses, and a better a quality of life. And with them, we often see caregivers – family members or friends helping patients navigate their diagnoses and often advocating with them. Though all types of people can be caregivers, 65% of caregivers are women, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, a national nonprofit caregiver support organization.
As an organization, we are proud that more than 60% of our workforce identifies as a woman, a minority or a veteran. We are also proud of our policies and practices that support team members who are take on caregiving roles, whether caring for children or older adults, in addition to their jobs with Goodness Growth Holdings; for example, whenever possible, we seek to give team members flexibility in scheduling to accommodate caregiving needs.
This March, we’re celebrating Women’s History Month by recognizing the contributions and accomplishments of women on our team, among our patients and among our partners – and recognizing the biases and discrimination that women still face. As part of that effort, Goodness Growth’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council is highlighting several women among our team, our patients and our communities.
Next up is Tricia S., and her son Connor S., one of our Maryland patients, who are leading medical cannabis advocates in Maryland!
The DEI Council was excited to hear from Tricia about her experience helping her son face a rare gastrointestinal disease, advocating for his right to take the cannabis medicine that gave him a better quality of life, and what can be accomplished when mothers fight for their children.
Connor and his mother, Tricia.
Tell us a little about yourself and Connor. Where are you from? Are there others in your family to shout-out?
I am born and raised in Maryland. I work in the banking industry, and my specialty is helping Veterans become homeowners. I am also a medical cannabis advocate. I’m the secretary for the Connor Sheffield Foundation, board member of Project Big and team manager for Connor Sheffield Racing.
Connor, my son, was also born and raised in Maryland. He is a high school student, and he is also a dirt sprint car driver, Executive Director of the Connor Sheffield Foundation, and owner of On The High Side Apparel. Connor suffers from a rare gastrointestinal disease that has left him with an ileostomy.
Tell us a little about your experience with cannabis. What made you and Connor initially interested in medical cannabis? What has changed for you and Connor since he started using medical cannabis?
A couple of years ago, I had no knowledge of the medical benefits of cannabis. I was afraid it was a “gateway drug” and I fell right into the stigma. It was not until Connor became so sick and no conventional treatments were helping him that I began to reconsider. Connor was using a feeding tube prior to cannabis, and he was suffering from constant pain and nausea. The tube feeds became unbearable for him because his bowels could not move even the liquid formula fast enough, even at the slowest setting, to get enough calories to sustain him. He was in the bottom 1 percentile for his weight which put him as severely underweight. We tried motility medications, anti-nausea medications, and they wanted to start Connor on Gabapentin for pain, which we declined. Friends on social media kept telling us “Try cannabis,” but I dragged my feet up until I felt there were NO other options.
We gave it a try, but only to rule it out that it wasn’t going to work. However, I was proven wrong after his first dose because it did work. His first dose became the first day of a new life for him, and for myself because I got to see my kid start to come back to life. I’m not claiming it’s a cure; he’s not cured. But I am telling you it is a treatment that has worked to the point he was able to have his feeding tube removed and enjoy a better quality of life.
Were there any barriers in your journey to accessing medical cannabis for Connor?
Yes. Connor was on Home and Hospital, which meant he was too sick to go to school and had a teacher come to the house and teach him. After a few months of using cannabis, Connor started getting better. He didn’t need his feeding tube anymore and he wasn’t sick or in pain, and he wanted to go back to school and be with his friends and classmates. We had no idea Connor would not be allowed to have his cannabis medicine at school because he was a legal medical cannabis patient. This led us on a long journey of Connor advocating for his right to take his medicine at school which led to laws being changed to give children the right to take their meds in the nurse’s office, just like any other medication.
Have you or he faced stigma for using it?
Yes, in the beginning we did. It was very hurtful. But over time, as people heard Connor’s story and saw him getting better, they became more open-minded and eventually started asking for advice about whether cannabis might help their aliments.
Why did you start Connor Sheffield Foundation and advocating for medical cannabis in Maryland and beyond?
It really was not a choice. There were many laws that needed to be changed when it comes to medical cannabis access just to let patients live their lives. Connor had to go to school because he was well enough to go, so he didn’t technically qualify for Home and Hospital anymore. I could have gotten in trouble if I just didn’t send him to school, and we didn’t have the money to pay for home school. So we were forced to fight for just a basic right of him being able to take his medicine at school, like every other medicine. Connor is currently fighting for access to his medical cannabis at medical facilities. His mission is to support cannabis research because right now everything is trial and error with medical cannabis. There are so many different strains and forms in which cannabis can be taken, and we believe research will not only help people know which strains/forms of cannabis are more helpful for their diagnosis, but prove it with medical research studies backed by universities.
What would you want other parents who are skeptical about their children using medical cannabis to know about your journey and medical cannabis?
I would tell them not to be afraid. Learn as much as you can and be open minded.
What would you want politicians who oppose cannabis laws that help patients, especially kids like Connor?
I want them to know that they are standing in the way of human beings being able to live. They are restricting the right to medicine. They are hindering the further development of research that could save lives. Every wall that is in front of us holds us up from moving forward. We want to educate every politician on the benefits of the medical use of this plant.
What does Women’s History Month mean for you?
I believe it is a great time to highlight that women have gone underrepresented. We must never forget that there is a legal medical cannabis program because of the strength of mothers of sick or disabled children who fought for it. They have the most reason in their hearts to make a change because they are fighting for their kids’ lives in some instances.
What is one thing you’d like to see change to create a more equal society for women (and people of all genders)?
Support women-owned business, empower mothers, denounce discrimination, and vote women into positions of power. Don’t just accept differences, celebrate them.
How can people connect with you and Connor Sheffield Foundation?
Thank you, Tricia, for taking the time to share your and Connor’s story with us! Look out for more profiles of our female team members and patients throughout Women’s History Month!