The unknown condition that nearly ruined my life… And how CBD is saving it

Bradley Cole’s CBD Story

By Kristofer Nowak

Due to modern advances of science and technology, we are now living in a Golden Age of medicine. We have compiled research and data with treatments from the West and East regarding a multitude of rare diseases, conditions, and afflictions affecting the human body. Billions of people are now living longer, healthier lives. In addition, our ability to communicate and share this information has raised awareness and fundraising for numerous issues and led to the discovery of countless new cures and remedies.

But despite all the ailments, syndromes, and disabilities that I’ve seen get some much-needed publicity, I’ve never seen any airtime, column inches, or social media feed dedicated to my particular disorder. It probably has to do with the fact that people cannot see my pain. To everyone except the people closest to me, I appear to be a strong, healthy, active middle-aged father, friend, and co-worker. Even many of these people in my inner circle seem to doubt my pain, despite the fact that they know I have an affliction, because I have always hidden my pain. I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to be a prisoner of pain; instead, I was going to do everything in my power to continue biking, swimming, fishing, golfing, playing hockey, working hard, and playing hard with my family. “It must not be that bad if he’s able to do all that,” is what I’m sure many people think or say when they see me out there doing my best to live my life to the fullest. I know all too well what it is that’s bothering me, and I can’t say that I blame anyone for not understanding. Luckily enough for me, my story has a happy ending. After suffering for more than 20 years, I have found a safe and reliable remedy for my painful condition with no negative side effects: Cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD.


I became aware of Tarsal Coalition the way most do. I was 16 and was having pain in both feet, right below each ankle. It was sharp, consistent, and persistent. It was making it difficult for me to play tennis and golf, and it made it impossible for me to keep my first 3 part-time jobs. 

After returning from a golf trip to Hilton Head, SC where the pain was so bad I couldn’t even play any golf, my mom took me to a foot clinic. My feet were x-rayed, and the diagnosis was immediately conclusive. Tarsal Coalition. The rest of my life has been an ongoing education and quest for any kind of remedy that could help me live a normal life. This is the worst kind of “pre-existing condition”: it’s a genetic, hereditary condition that occurs during fetal development, has no screening or pre-emptive treatment, and no way of knowing that you have it until you’re a teenager when the body’s bones have begun to mature and harden. 


Tarsal Coalition occurs when two or more of the tarsal bones in the back of the foot begin to fuse together with bone, cartilage, or other fibrous tissue that leads to limited motion and pain in one or both feet. Symptoms start to occur in pre-teen or teenage years, usually with no advance warning signs until the problem becomes acute. Symptoms include pain, mild to severe, when walking or standing, tired or fatigued legs, muscle spasms in the leg, flatfoot, walking with a limp, and/or stiffness of the foot and ankle. The reality of this condition is brutal. If I stay off my feet for an extended period of time, the bones start to fuse together; and when I resume walking, that fusion breaks apart again. It’s a vicious cycle, and the only way I’ve been able to deal with it has been to keep moving and try to no overdo it. For me, the pain of “excessive” walking or standing is always felt the next day, and it is debilitating. Now, I’d like to ask a favor of you; please take a look at your FitBit and let me know how many steps you’ve already taken today, and let me know when the last time was that you were worried about “overdoing it” by taking too many steps in a given day. For me, that thought has been a persistent drip which I guess is not all that different than the effect of water torture. The physical pain is bad enough; I don’t need the mental pain that comes with it.


Until recently, the options for treatment have been very limited. According to Foot Health Facts, the Official Consumer Website of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, treatment falls into two categories, non-surgical and surgical. Nonsurgical treatment consists of taking over-the-counter Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (to which, by the way, I’m allergic); physical therapy; wearing orthotic devices, painful steroidal injections like cortisone or injections of an anesthetic agent into the leg to relax spasms, and lastly, immobilization. Physical therapy and orthotics have offered me some mild and temporary relief but have only given me the most basic ability to function without outwardly showing my pain. Otherwise, if you don’t want or can’t have surgery, your options are basically to take drugs or refrain from standing or walking. For some patients, surgery is an option if the location of the coalition makes it feasible, like on the top or side of the foot. Unfortunately for me, since the problem is located in the center-most portion of my foot below the ankle, there is no way to operate on my foot without destroying the surrounding areas. Again, my limited options are anti-inflammatory drugs or living a sedentary lifestyle. Since not living my life to the fullest is not an option, let’s bring on the drugs!

Ibuprofen. Naproxen. Celebrex. Mobic. Meloxicam. Vicodin. Hydrocodone. You name it, I’ve tried it. And that’s just the legal stuff. Thankfully, we have learned about the all-too-real dangers of opiate addiction, and publicly, our elected government officials are at the very least talking about the problem. I easily could have been a victim of an opiate addiction except for one thing; it didn’t do much to solve my foot pain issues. A lesser known problem is the kidney and liver damage that results from the long term use of NSAIDs. The side effects of all the “recommended” drugs are maybe fine for the short term, but they cause major problems in the long term. So sure, I could take them to reduce inflammation in my feet, but still destroy the rest of my body in the process. Another thing that did help a little – marijuana – remains illegal on the federal level, despite the fact that it’s not addictive like opiates or alcohol and doesn’t often result in death like opiates or alcohol. Still, even if I wanted to smoke weed or ingest less-toxic but less-effective refined THC products to help ease my pain, even in a state like Illinois where marijuana has been legalized for medical purposes, my truly real and painful pre-existing health condition is not one of the eligible conditions that the narrowly defined Illinois law recognizes. In any case, smoking pot didn’t solve my foot pain issues either. Fortunately, I found something closely related and often confused with marijuana that does help with my foot pain. In fact, it has changed my life.


On February 7, 2014, President Obama signed the Farm Bill of 2013 into law. I was totally unaware of this bill at the time, and I sure had no idea how it would affect me. But, in Section 7606 of the act, industrial hemp was defined as distinct from marijuana, and the bill authorized the legal cultivation of hemp for research and pilot programs. Commonly known as “hemp”, this Cannabis Sativa plant produces only trace amounts of THC, the chemical compound in marijuana that gets you high. But it produces high amounts of Cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD. From 2800 BCE and through the mid 20th century, CBD dominant cannabis was grown all over the world to make teas and tinctures for medicinal purposes. However, since hemp is closely related to the marijuana plant, both were defined as “narcotics” by the Feds as part of the “reefer madness” propaganda of the 1930s. Thankfully, those days are quickly coming to an end, and hemp is once again legal. As a result, CBD is also legal in all 50 US states in addition to the federal level. And, anyone can purchase CBD since no prescription or medical card is required.

Obviously, when a naturally occurring plant comprised of hundreds of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids has only been available for research for 4 ½ years, there is much that we still need to learn about it. More research must be done, especially since the early returns are so impressive. I am only one person, and my specific condition is rare. But I know what I have experienced. I know that I’ve tried every available remedy, and none of them combined even come close to the what CBD has done for me. I started taking CBD in various forms about a year ago, and the impact was swift. I now take it every day, and it has allowed me a calm enjoyment of life that has evaded me for the last 20-plus years. I have resumed activities that I thought I would never be able to do again, including skiing and golfing. CBD has enabled me to spend more quality time with my wife and kids, and my anxiety level has all but vanished. Of course, I still have a debilitating condition that requires constant care, monitoring, and attention. The difference is now I have an effective tool to help me manage that awful condition. And, I have experienced zero negative side effects related to my CBD usage. Before, I used to be on edge when I was trying to suppress my pain; now, I am able to enjoy what life has to offer without suppressing my feelings or worrying about what pain will come as a result of today’s pleasure.


For me, that has been the greatest gift. The result is that I now feel a responsibility to share my story with others who may be suffering silently like I was for years. My greatest hope is for people to get the most out of life the way I am now able to get the most out of my life. Trust me when I say the CBD works as a highly effective anti-inflammatory treatment for all sorts of remedies. I have since shared my story with dozens of friends, family, and colleagues, many of whom have started treating their own conditions with CBD. Whether it’s back, neck, knee, shoulder, or arthritic joint pain, or muscular fatigue, they’ve all come back to me saying that CBD has helped with their pain. I wish I was able to live the last 20 years with the benefits of CBD, so I look forward to the next chapter of my life. And every person I can help to live a better life will be my just reward.