In 2004, Ed Dague gave a speech that I’ve never forgotten.
The longtime TV newsman had retired the previous year, the result of a painful arthritic condition called ankylosing spondylitis. He had also come out publicly in support of legalizing medical marijuana, saying the drug could help alleviate his suffering.
Dague, who died Sunday at 76, has rightly been celebrated as an icon of local journalism.
But I’d also like to remember him as someone who advocated for medical marijuana at a time when the issue was far more controversial than it is today, and also gave voice to the struggles of chronic pain sufferers – struggles that aren’t always fully understood or acknowledged.
“He was a really big intellect, a deep thinker and very fair,” Dague’s son, Harris Dague, told me. “He conducted himself at a very high level, and he did it through chronic pain.”
“People don’t understand what chronic pain does and how it affects everything you do,” Harris Dague said, “from your work to your interactions with your grandkids.”
I saw Dague speak at the Disability Film Festival at the New York State Museum, an event I covered for The Daily Gazette.
He delivered a short speech “peppered with humorous anecdotes, criticism of the federal government and personal reflection,” I wrote at the time. But it’s Dague’s observations about living with pain that have stuck with me through the years.
In his talk, Dague credited expensive prescription medication alleviating his pain.
Without it, “I was headed for a life of pain that would not allow me to get out of bed,” he told the audience. “When you get really desperate, how do you get through? One day at a time.”
As it happens, my husband also suffers from ankylosing spondylitis.
If not for Dague, and his willingness to open up about his painful condition, I wouldn’t have known anything about AS – which is rare and genetic, and often misdiagnosed – until I met my husband. And while I’ve learned quite a bit in our years together, I credit Dague for giving me a better sense of what living with chronic pain can entail.
When I heard Dague speak in 2004, he predicted it would be another 50 years before marijuana is legalized.
Attitudes have changed much more quickly than Dague anticipated, with New York legalizing medical marijuana in 2014 and state leaders voicing support for legalizing recreational marijuana.
Dague used marijuana to relieve his pain and was pleased to see the state legalize medical marijuana five years ago, Harris Dague told me.
“He never thought he’d see the day,” he said. “I wish he could have taken advantage of it.”
The former WNYT news anchor did obtain a prescription for medical marijuana after New York legalized the drug, but never used it. Dague was quite sick in his later years, which made getting to a dispensary to purchase marijuana a difficult logistical hurdle to overcome, Harris Dague said.
Toward the end of Dague’s life, he took powerful prescription painkillers to manage his pain.
“He was a lot clearer and sharper when he was just on marijuana,” Harris Dague observed.
Ed Dague was a fixture in Capital Region homes for decades, a news anchor of considerable skill, warmth and intelligence.
He also struggled with chronic pain, as many people do.
Thanks to him, I understand those struggles better than I once did.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]
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