When 29-year-old cannabis entrepreneur Cyo Ray Nystrom was featured in a VICELAND episode of ‘Slutever,’ she expected it would raise the profile of her vaginal wellness products. But what she didn’t expect was how it started a chain of events that would lead her to meet the father that she never knew.
Her California-based company Quim, was featured in the “Stoned Pussies” episode in February 2018 and introduced to a global audience. Every time it aired, they’d get a huge influx of inquiries. It wasn’t until five months later, during the first week of July, that they received an unusual email with a simple subject line and nothing else, saying “I’m so proud of you and couldn’t be more happy for you.”
Nystrom recognized her father’s last name, Slater, and first initial ‘R’ for Richard, from the email address. Turns out her dad was a regular VICELAND watcher, and he reached out after seeing her episode.
“I cried really hard when I got that. I called my mom; I called friends,” she said in an interview earlier this week.
Now, we totally get that writing about our lovely television network may seem a bit self-serving, to you, the jaded reader. But when Nystrom’s team sent an email to one of our cannabis writers tipping us off to what had happened, we were charmed and simply thought this story was too good not to share. We’re sure you will agree.
Nystrom was raised in California by a single mother and she only met her father once as a child, at age 4, right before he spent years behind bars for a non-violent weed related crime. She had been meaning to connect with him in recent years, but hadn’t mustered up the courage.
They met for the first time as adults a few weeks later, when Nystrom flew from her home city of San Francisco to his in Las Vegas. She was shocked by how much they looked alike. She describes him as a gifted story-teller, with a penchant for swearing, and a whole lot of charm.
“He had this deep Southern accent. He looked sort of like a Texan Sean Connery,” said Nystrom. With that first meeting, they began to build a relationship and get to know each other—making plans for things like having him attend her upcoming wedding.
But less than three months after finding each other, her father had devastating news. He was dying of cancer.
“He said, ‘Well kiddo, I haven’t been feeling well for a while. I’m a diabetic ex-con who spends a lot of time at strip clubs doing cocaine,’” Nystrom said. “Doctors told him ‘You’re a 72-year-old rabble-rousing bookie, and you’re not living a super-clean lifestyle.’”
They found cancer in his kidneys, which had spread to his lymph nodes, lungs, and liver. Medical experts told him if he didn’t do any treatment, he’d be dead by Christmas.
Despite his assurances that he would “figure it out,” she made plans to visit him again in Vegas. She arrived in late August and he was in hospice—he was dying.
“I was crying and he kept saying ‘don’t be sad.’ And I said ‘Dad, I get to be sad because I really really love you and I just met you.’ That was the first time I called him ‘Dad.’ And he said ‘I love you so much, you have no idea what meeting you has done for my life,’” she said.
He passed away, with his daughter by his side, within days of her arrival. During their final time together, she got to know him better. They found out they shared a disdain for U.S. President Donald Trump, a love for peeing outdoors, on plants. He asked her for a bump of cocaine on his deathbed. And somehow, they found a way to laugh about the situation.
“His hospice was literally in the backyard of the Hard Rock Cafe, so the soundtrack of my dad dying is Tom Petty’s ‘Free Fallin’ and Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn.’ It was hilarious,” Nystrom said. “Even while it was happening, I had levity about it, because my dad had this joy and irreverence.”
Looking back on everything, she marvels at what a major catalyst weed has been in her life. She grew up without a father, though she met him once for lunch as a young child, right before he went to prison for drug trafficking.
“He got caught moving a truck full of weed in Louisiana,” she said. Despite her mom’s assurances that he wasn’t a bad person, she held onto that “secret shame.”
“I grew up in Marin County, [California] with a single mom, which was unusual. Kids had a lot of money. It was definitely something I was embarrassed about and it wasn’t until I started working in the cannabis industry that I was able to take back that secret and make it part of my story.”
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This article originally appeared on VICE CA.