420 Girl – Marilyn Gomez


Marilyn Gomez was 9 when the pain first flared up in her right knee, leaving it fever-hot, swollen and locked. Within a year, the shooting sensation spread to every joint in her body, from her toes to the hinges connecting jaw to skull. Bone grinding on bone, every time she moved or spoke. Doctors eventually diagnosed her with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, rare in children, that inflames the joints and worsens with age. The prognosis came with powerful prescriptions. For more than a decade, a wheelchair bound Gomez felt like a zombie. Opiates made her tired, sweaty and nauseous. Steroids made her face swell up, her hair fall out and her skin delicately thin. Her teenage years were small and dark and full of sleep. “People may think we’re a bunch of stoners or druggies, but we have families who rely on us,” she says. “This is a real business. This is the only thing that’s allowed me to live. This is the only way I’ve ever made a living.”