Back story: Following is an excerpt (in part) from Dr. Mollie Fry‘s biography in progress. Fry was incarcerated May 2, 2011 and is currently serving a five year sentence in Federal prison for “manufacturing and distributing marijuana” in California – a medically legal state. She was not allowed a medical defense.
At the time of the raid on the family home she was growing 34 plants in a small greenhouse on her rural property outside of Sacramento, medicating from a double mastectomy and subsequent chemotherapy treatments. She was also sharing her harvest with needful patients at no charge.
Her lineage includes seven generations of physicians from both sides of her family isle. Her grandfather Francis M. Pottenger founded Internal Medicine in this country.
In the shadow of brilliance, lies neglect.
The pen light grew dim in the wee hours of the morning. Mollie could hear the soft breathing of her cellmate, the guard’s footsteps in the distance, and a sea of murmuring throughout the camp. A glowing shade of blue fell over the camp as the sun came up in the east and the flood lights outside dimmed.The story of her life as a child was filled with pain, but she didn’t want to give the wrong impression. There was good, too – a silver lining, if you will, to what she now calls “a complicated life.”
The early years of her life were difficult to relive, harder to put down pencil to paper. But it was a purposeful story to tell, and necessary to give a full picture of where she came from, who she is, and how she got to this place.
Funny how some memories are so clear, even so long ago. Her head ached from the constant symptoms of the black mold on the prison walls, and an inhaler was weeks late in getting to her in the slow as molasses prison system, but she pressed on.
When I was two years old I walked down the block and returned several hours later without my diaper. A neighborhood child playing doctor molested me. I was severely damaged physically and emotionally, and became very ill with infection.Her internal injuries from the rape were daunting to doctors of the day and death was thought to be imminent, as there was no “cure” for her injuries and subsequent infections.
The infection spread to both my kidneys, requiring IVs and daily invasive procedures that violated my body. It’s painful to picture myself as a two year old toddler, restrained with tubes inserted into my bladder and into my kidneys, mechanically draining the infectious puss.
Hospitalized 13 times in one year for one to two weeks at a time, the little girl, who by now weighed just 25 pounds and resembled a concentration victim, spent more time in hospital than at home with family.
Most of the children on the ward were forgotten by family. I was fortunate, as my nanny sat by my bedside five hours each day.
The doctor in charge informed her mother the treatments no longer constituted medical care, but were likened to torture. He was fired with Mollie’s mother on the hunt for other treatments.
Ever compassionate, Mollie writes objectively as a physician of her care at the time.
Hospitals were very different in the late 1950s. Medicine was truly in its infancy and children were sent to hospitals to die.The doctor’s attitude regarding children was also shrouded in ignorance. They believed anesthetics were unnecessary, and that young children felt no pain, or would not remember it. All the children were put in large wards. There were no windows, toys or books, and no television to distract them from the pain they felt, both physically and emotionally.
The psychological damage from the ignorant, though well meaning medical professionals was far worse than the original sexual assault. Once I recovered physically I suffered delayed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and my symptoms were numerous.
There was no cure, few antibiotics and certainly no hope for the toddler who was so close to death, her mother flew back to Boston to confer with the leading expert in urology. He suggested she be placed on chronic sulfa drugs for life, the first time this treatment had been tried. The medicine worked, and she continued the treatment until she was twelve and a half years old.
It was felt she would never have children, but was told often, she was fortunate to be alive.
A guard walked slowly past her room. It was light out now and she put the pen light away. Her shoulder hurt from sleeping on the thin, hard mattress, but she kept writing.
After returning home from the hospital she found Doug still struggling at home. Not happy to see his little sister again, his anger was worse than ever and he took it out on her.
Nanny used to say, without her watchful eye I would have died by my brother’s will. Doug didn’t try to hurt me, he led me to dangerous places and let me hurt myself. I loved him, he was my big brother, and I was too young to understand the dangers.
Mollie ponders the last line while gently moving her fingers from one bead to the next on her rosary. Soon the chapel would be open and she could kneel and pray properly. It was the best part of her day.
She loved her brother, but with myriad emotional complications of her rape and subsequent treatments often swept under the proverbial family rug, Mollie constantly felt anxious, like there was always something wrong within her.
Panicky and insecure, and an undiagnosed dyslexic, she found it difficult to make friends at school. Home life with two brilliant, albeit busy, physician parents was dysfunctional and the little girl was often alone in her struggles.
Her one constant has been God, presenting his hand to her all through her life in many ways, and she has never refused it.
Where is God now? She asks in times of weakness. She has more questions than answers. How could He put her in such a place for helping people, for doing what she knew was right… for a plant?
But her time is not her own now, and she pushes all the questions and negativity from her mind. She knows God has a plan for her, because she answered that call at a very young age. He gave her life when everyone thought she would disappear. But here she is, alive to tell her story, albeit, in an orange suit – her voice will not be silenced.
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Editor’s note: Sharon Letts began her love of gardening in Southern California by her mother’s side, watching as she buried fish heads at the base of roses.
At 24, Sharon hung her shingle, “Secret Garden,” planting flower beds for dainty ladies. Gardening led to producing and writing for television with “Secret Garden Productions.”
Today Sharon continues to write about gardening and all that implies, advocating for the bud, and writing for many magazines, including DOPE (Defending Our Patients Everywhere).
She also pens “Road Trip: In Search of Good Medicine,” touring MMJ states, following the Green Rush.