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You’re Here for a Reason

Written by Loren DeVito, PhD

Aryn Sieber shares his story as a 9/11 first responder, cancer survivor, and cannabis educator

Never forget. It’s a familiar phrase for New Yorkers who lived through the events of September 11, 2001. As a native New Yorker myself, born and raised in Brooklyn, the anniversary always stirs up a myriad of emotions. Everyone has a story of that day.

As for me, I watched everything happen from afar. I had just moved away to college weeks before and was attending a class while my hometown swirled into horror, chaos, and unspeakable despair. I sat helpless hundreds of miles away.

My aunt made it out of the building. My mother happened to stay home from work that day. Friends attending college in New York and another in DC were evacuated to safety. But my wonderful neighbor was not so lucky. And she never made it out.

New Yorkers came together in a beautiful way and helped each other get through dark days. But New Yorkers were not alone. Thousands of people cross through the city streets daily. And so there were many people from out of town in the city that day who heroically worked to save people as the buildings fell and in the days to follow. And one of those incredible people is Aryn Sieber.

Aryn arrived in New York on a work trip right before the 11th. And while he was safely uptown from where the tragic events occurred, he simply could not sit around while so many people were in desperate need of help – something simply “came over him” and he knew he had to get involved.

He went down to what would later be called “Ground Zero” and volunteered as a First Responder to search for people in the aftermath for four and a half days. Although he left just a few days later, this experience would shape the rest of his life in every way – and lead him toward a new path in cannabis medicine.

As a California resident, Aryn had access to medical cannabis and he always insisted on using the highest quality products. So when he was diagnosed with throat and neck cancer years later, he knew that cannabis would be part of his integrative therapy.

Aryn’s illness was a direct result of his exposure to toxins during his rescue work at Ground Zero. And, since it took a significant time for doctors to detect despite years of chronic coughing, he was diagnosed with stage IV inoperable cancer. He underwent comprehensive treatment that involved radiation and chemotherapy, as well as topical cannabis concentrates. And despite the aggressive nature of the cancer, Aryn recovered and remains in full remission with no evidence of disease.

This incredible recovery motivated Aryn to become a cannabis educator and advocate for the use of medical cannabis in a responsible way.

“The journey was horrendous, but it’s taken me [to a place with] people that we get to help,” said Aryn. “I started educating people on the responsible use of cannabis.”

Aryn went on to found CannaCauses, a non-profit that provides cannabis therapy consultations and collects evidence-based clinical information regarding outcomes of cannabis use for the treatment of a variety of medical conditions. He also works very closely with patients at the Shepard Center for MS (multiple sclerosis), and other physician-referred patients seeking education and ongoing cannabis guidance for their individual therapeutic needs.

Despite the challenges faced during his cancer treatment, Aryn is incredibly grateful for the opportunities he has as a result of this experience.

“When you have people that call you one day crying and say ‘hey, I was able to tie my shoe for the first time in 5 years;’ I mean, that’s the best thing…the first time they get relief…their hope is re-instilled. And that’s where we start. Hope is our cornerstone.”

For those who are still skeptical of the medical potential of cannabis, Aryn recommends learning the basics about the body’s endocannabinoid system.

“Knowledge has the power to heal,” he added.

As a native New Yorker, I cannot express my gratitude enough for Aryn and others like him that sacrificed their health and safety to help those during such a tragic time. And to turn these experiences into a positive, healing channel to continue helping others is truly incredible work.

As Aryn’s sister told him after his recovery – “You truly are here for a reason.”

About the author

Loren DeVito, PhD

Loren DeVito, PhD is a neuroscientist and science writer with expertise in cannabis science and medicine. She is committed to communicating evidence-based information about cannabis and its healing properties. Learn more about her work at Stickyink.net