Welcome back to part 2 of our getting to know Ellen series. If you haven’t listened to part 1, we’d recommend starting there. In this episode, Ellen talks with Skye Pillsbury about how her Endometriosis diagnosis sparked a pivotal change in her relationship to cannabis — one that actually became the catalyst for How to Do the Pot. From there, Ellen paired her love of audio with her mission to help women manage pain, improve their wellbeing, and have fun with cannabis… and the rest is history!
Ellen Scanlon (00:00):
This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.
Ellen Scanlon (00:06):
You don’t have to be a certain kind of person to like weed and to have cannabis in your life in a positive, fun way.
Ellen Scanlon (00:17):
Welcome to How to Do the Pot, a podcast demystifying cannabis for women. I’m Ellen Scanlon. This episode came about because at the time we were celebrating our 100th episode and wanted to do something special. To mark the occasion, Skye Pillsbury, a journalist, podcaster and friend who just started a newsletter called The Squeeze, that you should definitely check out, Skye interviewed me. If you haven’t listened to part one yet, please check it out. Among other things, I talk about the first time I smoked weed, how breaking 16 of my teeth in a bike accident, and the many health challenges I faced, actually brought me to cannabis. And sharing these pieces of my story has been a little challenging for me as I’m a pretty private person. But so many of you have shared vulnerable moving stories, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to open up too a little bit more.
Ellen Scanlon (01:15):
Before we get started, I’m excited to welcome our new listeners from Castbox. We’re very happy that you’re here. And, as always, we love all of our listeners and thank you so much for being here on whatever listening platform is your favorite.
Ellen Scanlon (01:30):
This summer, we’ve been re-releasing some of our most popular episodes about how cannabis is helping women improve their health and treat symptoms of disease without the pharmaceuticals that can often cause really challenging side effects. If you haven’t yet, check out our episodes about how cannabis is helping patients with Crohn’s disease, lupus, and endometriosis. I’ve also been getting a lot of questions about cannabis and Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome also known as PCOS. If you or someone you know has a personal story that you’d be willing to share with us, please send an email to email@example.com or dms@dothepot.
Ellen Scanlon (02:12):
I’ve been sick a lot this year and have struggled with really slow recoveries. So I can relate to how frustrating not feeling well for a long time can be. I’m using this time to rest and recover and hope that you enjoy this episode and learning a little bit more about me.
Ellen Scanlon (02:34):
On today’s show, we talk about how a diagnosis of unexplained infertility led me to learning that I have endometriosis, how cannabis helps with its painful symptoms and some reflections on getting to our 100th episode. And now part two of my interview with Skye.
Skye Pillsbury (02:53):
Do you remember how you were feeling through all of this? You’ve got a new job while all of this is going on, how are you mentally through this whole experience?
Ellen Scanlon (03:14):
Well, I credit my husband with making one of the hardest times of my life actually really fun. And it’s just a testament to his sense of humor and like what a wonderful relationship I have, which I’m so grateful for.
Skye Pillsbury (03:29):
Was he on the bike with you-
Ellen Scanlon (03:31):
Skye Pillsbury (03:31):
… at Jazz Fest? But he was your boyfriend at that time, right?
Ellen Scanlon (03:34):
Skye Pillsbury (03:35):
Okay. So he sticks with you and then becomes your husband, that’s kind of cool. Do you think it all brought you guys closer in like a perverted weird way?
Ellen Scanlon (03:44):
So JP and I met, we actually met through my friends at Jazz Fest. These were wonderful friends who went to nursery school with JP and he was living in San Francisco and they had connected us when I had moved here early on. And basically I met JP and he moved in with me like a week-ish later and we’ve been together ever since, and it’s 13 years. It was just one of those feelings, I think we both just really felt something so special. And so while we’d only been together for six months, I feel like we just were so connected from the very, very early moments when we met. We got to spend a little more time together. So much about this story and thinking about it, and then telling it here, I can see how well everything fits together and how even these hard times have brought so much abundance into my life.
Skye Pillsbury (04:43):
So around this time, let’s go back to what was going on for you career-wise, where were you in that regard?
Ellen Scanlon (04:50):
I was a product manager and product manager means different things in different industries, but basically you own the product, whatever that might be, at Apple, maybe it’s an iPhone, at Clorox, maybe it’s a consumer good. And in financial services, it’s usually an investment strategy. I was the one who was managing the story. So I loved working with the team and getting to know them. And they were a great team, but they were sort of undervalued at the firm. And I think I really liked the ownership aspect of like, “This is my brand. This is my team. I am going to think about all the different ways that we can make everyone see all the good about them.” So it was fun, but I just didn’t want to work in financial services anymore. I really wasn’t inspired by it.
Ellen Scanlon (05:38):
I felt like I had, at that point, worked in so many different areas that, by no means do I know all about financial services, but I had worked pretty hard and touched a lot of different parts of it and just wasn’t as curious to learn or to go deeper. So I decided to go out on my own and start a consulting business. I felt like I had transferable skills. I worked with a coach who really helped me to understand how transferable my skills were and I just decided to do it. I worked with a couple of different founders who were trying to grow their business. And one of the things that I learned by working really closely with them is they were amazing at a lot of things, but not everything. And so I tried to figure out what that piece was that they needed some support, and either I would provide it, or I would help them to see that they needed to bring someone else in.
Ellen Scanlon (06:30):
And so it was really, really fun. I actually started just working as a consultant with a women’s healthcare firm in San Francisco that had a woman CEO, who’d been the chief marketing officer at Adobe, and she was such an amazing woman to work for. My most successful jobs have been the ones where I took the job because I wanted to work for the person. And I wasn’t exactly sure about what the job was going to look like, and that’s what this was. And I loved doing it. And I loved learning. It was also really aligning with a lot of things that were going on with me personally at the time. I had just come out of this accident. I was wanting to have a baby and having trouble. And so I was starting to step into the infertility healthcare world. And I just really connected with the consumer that we were trying to reach, who also was seeking out alternatives because their needs weren’t being met.
Skye Pillsbury (07:31):
So when you and I talked about your background before, you talked about the experience that you had with your accident, and then the experiences that you also had with your infertility and a discovery that you made during that process. I’d love to have you talk about that a little bit, because I think these two different events in your life, or experiences in your life, have been part of what led you to what you’re doing now. So if you’re comfortable, can we talk a bit about that separate journey that you went on personally?
Ellen Scanlon (08:02):
Sure. So JP and I got married in 2013. JP and I just were having a lot of fun and were like, “We’re healthy, everything seems fine. We’ll just have a baby when we are ready.” And we’d been married a couple years and we’d had all the tests to determine that there wasn’t anything that was obviously wrong, but it was starting to get hard and feel bad every month. And it also felt like it was dragging on our life in a way that was confusing because I have a lot of friends who don’t have children. And we had a lot of friends who had had children earlier than us. And so we were in this middle place and didn’t feel like we really had a lot of people that were in the same spot that we were.
Ellen Scanlon (08:49):
And so we were like, “Okay, well, we do want to have a child and that’s a decision we’ve made. So let’s keep going towards that.” But because of my experiences with my accident, I was skeptical of some of the standard like, “This is what you do to have a baby because your big, fancy doctor who sees you for 10 minutes tells you what to do.” I definitely went into it with that kind of skepticism. I did not want to take a lot of drugs. So I was really trying to take care of myself and my body and also try and find the right doctor that I thought I could trust and could help me. So I had three different fertility doctors who gave me all different kinds of recommendations. I ended up going to a clinic in Colorado that many people consider the best clinic in the country.
Ellen Scanlon (09:41):
And the doctor there was an amazing woman, Dr. Barton. And she was the first person, you go there for a big kind of talk about everything in your healthcare and have a bunch of tests, and she said that she thought that the reason that, three and a half years later, I still hadn’t had a baby was because I had endometriosis. And she asked me about my periods when I was younger and if I had had bad cramps, and I said, “Oh yes, terrible, terrible cramps.” And she asked me a little bit more and just said, “Well, from what I can tell, this seems like a very logical reason that you are having challenges and the ultrasound shows me some shadow areas where endometriosis tends to be.”
Skye Pillsbury (10:28):
How did you feel when she said that?
Ellen Scanlon (10:32):
I felt so relieved because she said, “You can have a baby through IVF and I think that this will work. I think this is the problem.” And so JP and I were so happy because we had spent three and a half years with people just telling us that nothing was wrong. Unexplained infertility is literally the diagnosis and I’ve since learned that 50 to 60% of unexplained infertility is due to endometriosis.
Skye Pillsbury (10:59):
Wow. That’s amazing. I mean, that means that we all know probably many, many women who are suffering from it and don’t even know.
Ellen Scanlon (11:08):
One in 10 women worldwide have endometriosis.
Skye Pillsbury (11:11):
Yeah, that is crazy. So how did you proceed, what were the next steps? And you and your husband, it sounds like you were feeling really hopeful.
Ellen Scanlon (11:23):
I did a round of IVF in Colorado and I got pregnant on the first time, which after not being pregnant for three and a half years just was the most incredible feeling. And I had an okay pregnancy. I didn’t feel very good. I had a couple of issues. You know, I love yoga. I was expecting to do yoga every day and I was just going to have this beautiful experience and that is not what happened for me. Plus I was 39 and so I was a geriatric pregnancy, so higher risk. You have to have all kinds of tests and I found-
Skye Pillsbury (12:02):
What a terrible term.
Ellen Scanlon (12:03):
That’s a terrible term, yeah.
Skye Pillsbury (12:05):
That’s from the textbooks. I mean, I’ve never heard that before, but it’s just wrong in so many ways. I know that you had these two really pretty major events in your life, both facing infertility, and then also confronting the reality of your medical needs after your accident. On the other side, I know that you eventually started exploring cannabis. And so your exploration of cannabis, with you still working in healthcare for women and then what kind of discoveries did you make yourself as you were looking at cannabis separately, I think, from these other two events in your life? Did you start making connections, tell us about that?
Ellen Scanlon (12:49):
I’ve always liked how cannabis makes me feel. I enjoy what I now know to be its relaxing effects. When I have the kind of cannabis that makes me feel my best, it makes me feel really present, really open. My body feels good and my mind feels open and creative. When I was trying to have a baby for all that time, I really wasn’t drinking or consuming any cannabis. But the day that I would get my period was usually kind of a sad day. And so I would tell myself that I could either have a glass of champagne if I wanted, or I could smoke a joint if I wanted. And that probably didn’t happen every month, but it just started to be a little bit more of, “Okay, what do I really like to do if I only have a couple days a month when I’m going to have any substance in my body?”
Ellen Scanlon (13:37):
And I think that doing that over three and a half years, I got some practice about how I wanted to feel. And I’m not a person that needs a lot, but I do just like, you know, take a little edge off. I’m not walking into a party. I’m sort of the nervous person. And then once I get there, I’m usually fine. So yeah, it started to be around more and I think it was probably better quality. We started hearing about people who had companies and maybe we’d get the product of somebody that had a company. So I was just curious from a business standpoint. It felt like a super exciting time in cannabis where it was just starting to really be around a lot more. There was a lot more talk that it was going to become legal. I had gone to Colorado a few times and walked into a dispensary and showed my ID and bought some really fun products. And so the reality that this was going to become an industry with accessible retail was just becoming more and more clear.
Ellen Scanlon (14:45):
So I knew I personally liked weed. I knew that cannabis as an industry was growing. And I knew that I had all of this unique experience as a woman with healthcare issues. And the other thing we really haven’t talked about is that I love audio, and I have been listening to audio books since they were like books on tape. I mean, I remember going to the New York Public Library and getting Sony Discman discs of books so that I could listen to them on my walk to and from work. I just love, love, love audio, and I love taking in stories that way. And started to think that cannabis was still, still is, but at that point, it was risky to figure out how to find a role there. But I thought that by connecting women, cannabis, and audio, that we could reach a huge audience, we could be really discreet and women could hear from a friend, all the things that I was super excited to be learning about in cannabis.
Ellen Scanlon (15:52):
So April and I started the podcast. April started as the host because I don’t really like to be front and center. We worked together to create the episodes that we wanted to share with our friends and share with anyone that we knew. And as women found out that I had a weed podcast, people started asking me more questions and we started answering those questions in podcast episodes. And we started talking to more experts and the more experts in cannabis that I talked to, the more interested I got in so many different parts of it. And I started to find people that I trusted and started to take some of their advice for myself personally.
Ellen Scanlon (16:41):
And that’s really where the connection comes between my endometriosis and cannabis, which is something that I didn’t even know I had endometriosis until I was 39. And then I didn’t know that cannabis was a treatment for endometriosis until after I started getting my period after my pregnancy. Because what happens with endometriosis for a lot of pregnant women, according to my doctor, is that your period really changes afterwards. And that is exactly what happened for me. So I had had very bad cramps forever, sometimes debilitating, sometimes a little bit more manageable. And after I had my son and started getting my period again, I got headaches and I had no pain and no cramps.
Ellen Scanlon (17:27):
And I called my doctor and told her, and she said, “Well, this is just one more… I’m not going to give you the surgery that you need in order to get an endometriosis diagnosis,” which is insane that you have to have surgery even to find out if you have something. But she said that the symptoms that you just described in having a really different period is very, very consistent with women who have endometriosis, but she said, it’s probably going to come back. And so you need to think about what you want to do. And a lot of women decide to go on the birth control pill because you can control your cycles. And that’s what I had been on for 20 years, which is the reason, in part, they didn’t even know I had endometriosis.
Ellen Scanlon (18:05):
So I considered all of those different things and had met some really great doctors who told me about the ways that cannabis helps with period cramps. There are incredibly promising studies for endometriosis that CBD can in fact inhibit the growth of the endometrial tissue, which is what is so painful when it’s coming out of a woman’s body. So it just was so incredible to learn this information, be able to share it with women and then truly to have my own life transformed by the incredibly effective pain treatment that CBD is for my endometriosis.
Skye Pillsbury (18:50):
Wow. That is pretty incredible. And now here you are, you have published a hundred episodes. How does that feel?
Ellen Scanlon (19:00):
It’s so cool. It’s really cool, a hundred is a lot, and it’s been over such an incredible moment in time. We started this podcast in November, 2019 and came through what most people will say is probably one of the most memorable 18 months of their lives with COVID.
Skye Pillsbury (19:25):
Oh, my gosh, yeah.
Ellen Scanlon (19:26):
It’s just been a very intense period and cannabis became an essential service during COVID. Cannabis was on the ballot in five states in the November election, it passed all five. Since January 2021, three, maybe four more states have legalized. It’s honestly hard to keep track of, but things are happening so quickly. And to see that rapid adoption of cannabis makes me happy, but I really, really want to teach women how to do it because just having access is not the same as finding what works for you. What makes you feel your best? What makes you feel the way you want to feel? What can create a consistent experience? And so that is part of what makes me so excited to keep thinking about new shows. I still want to be able to share these with my closest friends and family and answer their questions. And there are just more questions for more people. So it’s incredibly exciting, a hundred episodes, really? It’s a very cool milestone.
Skye Pillsbury (20:36):
Yeah. And what do you think about when you think about, like what do you envision for the future of this community and this podcast, or particular stories that you want to pursue, or any hints of what’s to come?
Ellen Scanlon (20:48):
Well, the topic that we absolutely have to take on, and we’re really excited to, is sleep. I think that so many women, so many people are finding a lot of relief with cannabis for sleep. But like with many things in cannabis, it is complicated and falling asleep versus staying asleep and no one wants to feel groggy in the morning. And a lot of people have pills that their doctors have prescribed to them. So all of those questions we’re really, really getting excited to dig into.
Ellen Scanlon (21:19):
We are going to talk more about what’s different about buying weed in a medical state and in an adult use state, because this is the experience that so many more people are starting to have, either transitioning from a medical to an adult use or just experiencing adult use for the first time. And I call it adult use because recreational to me doesn’t really capture what’s happening. The longer I’m in cannabis the more I think that most people that consume it are consuming it to improve their wellbeing. And if that’s recreational, I don’t know. I just think adult use, if you’re an adult and you choose to consume cannabis, you can decide why. So we’ll talk a little bit more about that.
Ellen Scanlon (21:59):
I’m excited to tell you that we created these episodes and if you haven’t listened to them yet, I’ll link to them in the show notes. Our legalization series starts with episode 106 and our sleep series starts with episode 131. Pregnancy and nursing are always, always issues that we get a lot of questions about. And as more states legalize, it’s getting more complicated. We don’t really know what the risks are. And so I am constantly trying to find experienced people who have the most insight into those questions. And I think that it’s become a real public health issue that more and more OB GYNs are focused on because women just don’t know what to do. And that’s not a good situation for anyone.
Skye Pillsbury (22:47):
Looking back on the last few years where you’ve explored this new thing and created this community, I know people love your newsletter and you’re really out there in this community, which is great. What feels the most affirming about the experience that you’ve had and in hearing from listeners and just having the experience of going through this. What are the moments where you recognize, “This is really having an impact.”
Ellen Scanlon (23:14):
I think what’s been really cool is that a wide variety of women seem to really respond to the content. I talked to the founder of one of the biggest California cannabis companies that I love the products of and she said that she loves the newsletter. And I talked to my mom’s friend who can’t sleep at night, who said that she loves the podcast. And so I am always trying to make sure that the stories are relatable, whatever your experience is with cannabis. And I want to keep doing that because cannabis is just a thing that you can put in your body. And I think that that’s what legalization more than anything is showing. You don’t have to be a certain kind of person to like weed and to have cannabis in your life in a positive, fun way.
Skye Pillsbury (24:15):
That really resonates with me as someone who, similar to you, tried it when I was much younger and it didn’t become a central part of my life back then, but it was definitely intriguing. But there was this whole stigma around it, like the stoners in the basement, or, lots of different stereotypes that I’m sure many of us are familiar with. And I think that that’s like a really critical message. And I wonder if getting past that message is one of the more challenging parts of running this business. Running this podcast is like reaching out to the women who might still have that stigma in their mind about what that means. What does it mean to be someone who’s using pot?
Ellen Scanlon (25:03):
I think about it all the time and I also have to ignore it. It’s one of those, for me, like it’s true and its opposite is also true. I think that opening your mind to things that can make you feel better is something, especially over the last 18 months, however long was COVID, that it’s about getting through the day. And the less judgment that we all put on each other, I think the better we’ll all feel about each other. That’s something that I’m hopeful has come out of COVID. And I think that I want people to feel happy and healthy and kind of whatever it takes to get there. We don’t talk a lot about addiction on our show. The data is that about 8% of consumers have some type of a habitual relationship with cannabis, with alcohol it’s 16% are considered to have an addiction.
Ellen Scanlon (26:03):
And so it certainly exists and it’s certainly something important to consider, but it is a smaller part of the cannabis experience for most people. And so I think that that is something that is good to know and have in your head. But at the end of the day, depending on how you learned about drugs, you can just be scared of drugs, even if the CBD gel cap that I take makes me feel better and only brings positive things. I still, some days, I’m like, “Oh, should I be taking this every day?” I just have to say to myself, “Okay, is this society who’s saying that to you, or is this you?”
Skye Pillsbury (26:48):
What do you hope that your listeners feel after listening to an episode of your show? What are you hoping that your listeners really take away from this show, are able to do? Like, how do they feel after, what are you hoping for?
Ellen Scanlon (27:04):
Well, like many of my listeners, I am a very busy person. And so number one, I want them to feel like it was time well spent. That is so important to me. I think about weed all the time. And if you give me 20 minutes a week, I want you to walk away feeling like you learned something practical and valuable, and really that you would want to share with a friend. And I know everything is supposed to be shareable now. And I certainly understand things going viral, but I really want the impulse to share to come from a compassionate, heartfelt place. Like, “Oh, this might really help somebody I know,” or, “This will make this person laugh,” or, “I know that they’ll be connected to this.” And so that’s how I’m always trying to think about bringing together the stories. That some are going to be sad, some are going to be funny, some are going to be silly, and I want them all to feel like your week is better off because you heard it.
Skye Pillsbury (28:04):
I love that. That’s such a perfect place to end, although I am dying to just ask you one final question, which is, if you had a chance right now to talk to your younger self who was doing the pot for the first time on that porch of that beautiful house, and you were able to tell her that you were going to create this amazing community around cannabis, what do you think she would say back to you?
Ellen Scanlon (28:37):
I think that would’ve been awesome to have a little glimmer of that because there were definitely some dark days when I was doing some pretty, not fun things. And to be here now and have this platform feels like a real ray of light looking back that I would want to hand to myself and just remember, life is long. There are lots of cool twists.
Ellen Scanlon (29:08):
Thank you for listening to How to do the Pot. For lots more information and past episodes, visit dothepot.com. And that’s also where you can sign up for our newsletter. If you’d like updates on new episodes and some behind the scenes with our guests, follow Do the Pot on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for updates. And if you like How to Do the Pot, please rate and review us on Apple podcasts. It helps more people find the show. Thank you to our producers, Madi Fair and Nick Patri. I’m Ellen Scanlon and stay tuned for more of How to Do the Pot.
So you must be legal, too. Age 21+ invited to continue.