8 minute read
Children using cannabis for cancer and other ailments has become common in 2019, but in 2012, Landon Riddle made headlines for his family’s decision to treat his cancer with cannabis. Countless news outlets plagued the family, riddling them with questions about how and why they would make the decision to forego chemotherapy and to treat Landon solely with cannabis plant medicine. Seven years later, GRAM felt it was time for a follow up into the life of the first little boy that successfully treated his cancer with cannabis, now growing tall and strong at the age of nine years old. We sat down with Landon’s caregivers: Sierra Riddle, his mother, and Wendy Riddle, his grandmother, in early Summer 2019, and learned that Landon is thriving.
“FORTY-FIVE DAYS INTO HIS CHEMO TREATMENTS HE NEEDED A WHEELCHAIR; HE STOPPED WALKING AND TALKING, AND WAS MORE SICK WITH EACH PASSING DAY.”
Our story begins in September 2012, when 2-year old Landon’s glands began to swell and his voice became raspy. When his grandmother, Wendy, took him to the doctor, they originally passed off his condition as a virus, a virus that would eventually be diagnosed as aggressive leukemia (TCell-ALL leukemia). Tests showed a mass of leukemia cells in Landon’s chest. “This was not the type of mass that could be removed,” Wendy recalls. Landon was given a 10% survival rate upon diagnosis and the doctors told Sierra and Wendy
that he could have been dead in 48 hours if they had not brought him in.
The news that no parent or grandparent ever wants to hear, that the child they love so dearly has cancer, shook the family to its core. They started chemotherapy immediately, an intense treatment on Landon’s tiny body. The pharmaceuticals they began giving him to combat the symptoms of chemotherapy seemed to make his symptoms worsen. Wendy
recalls, “Forty-five days into his chemo treatments he needed a wheelchair; he stopped walking and talking, and was more sick with each passing day.”
Sierra and Wendy watched as Landon quickly declined. Physicians continued to combat his increase in symptoms with more pharmaceutical medications, prolonging his journey with cancer. “Landon was prescribed Oxycontin, Fentanyl, Morphine, Ativan, and Zofran on top of all his chemo drugs. He was even prescribed Marinol at one point for his vomiting, and
that is a synthetic form of THC. The scariest part was these narcotics were not approved by the FDA for children and had no actual dosing recommendations for children, especially as young as Landon was,” Sierra explains.
At this time, Wendy made a post in “Offer Hope for Landon,” the Facebook group that they had started for Landon asking their few thousand followers for suggestions on alternative treatments for cancer. Almost immediately, Wendy received several messages. But the message that stuck out was one from a dear friend. This angered Wendy at first. “He’s just a child,” she thought. This friend, Kathleen, explained that she was in remission herself from pancreatic cancer. “I was scared to death to try cannabis at first, but after his third air lift, that was it,” Wendy says. Landon took the prescribed chemotherapy drugs for 3½ months until his family would make the life-changing
decision to treat Landon with cannabis.
“Since none of the doctors could give us dosing or a starting point with the cannabis oil we followed the Rick Simpson dosing protocol which indicates that for cancer you get the patient up to a gram of oil a day in 90 days. We followed this protocol as closely as possible for the first six months,” Wendy explains. “Before we started the cannabis oil, Landon was needing a blood transfusion and platelet transfusion every 4 to 6 days. Once we started him on the cannabis in January 2013, he only needed one more blood transfusion and platelet transfusion. Once the cannabis oil saturated his full body system he never needed another blood transfusion, platelet transfusion, or any narcotics.”
While Wendy remained in Utah, Sierra and Landon relocated from St. George, Utah to Colorado Springs, Colorado with a wish, hope, and a prayer. Around the same time that Landon was having his
fight with leukemia, there was also a young girl in Colorado that was using a strain that was named after her, now known as Charlotte’s Web. The creators of this strain, the Stanley brothers, worked with Landon to create dosing that was specific to his needs. Up until 2012, the strain had primarily been used for children with seizures. When Landon’s journey with cannabis began, Sierra reached out to several physicians and kept being told, “Landon was the youngest child to use cannabis for leukemia so dosing was unknown.” Sierra and Landon would eventually live with Amanda and Joel Stanley after they first arrived in Colorado.
Landon began his daily dose of Charlotte’s Web, an aggressive dose of medicine for an aggressive disease. “The strain had a two-to-one ratio of THC to CBD at that time (roughly 24% & 12%, respectively) and Landon would take that same exact dose for one year, approximately 1000mg of THC and 500mg of CBD every day. It sounds like a lot to some people
who have used cannabis for their own health, but we were willing to try anything at that point and we were confident we were making the right decision for Landon,” says Sierra.
“January through July of 2013, Landon would use both chemo and cannabis, but during that time we began weaning him off of the pharmaceuticals. He did not do any blood transfusions, and we kept going with his cannabis treatments. We were not always honest with doctors of our plans for Landon, that we wanted to just use cannabis, but truly we couldn’t be honest out of fear,” said Wendy. The fear factor came from the doctors that were treating Landon. “They reported us to Child Protective Services, they threatened us with forced chemo and medical foster care,” Sierra exclaimed. Landon’s family then had to hire an attorney to help their case. They were able to demand Landon’s constitutional right to compassionate cancer treatment.
Monthly checks began to ensure that Landon remained in remission. Photos of Landon and blood tests were submitted to verify that he was in fact in remission. After using Charlotte’s Web successfully for a year, the family began crafting their own oil for Landon’s needs. “We use five strains every time we make his oil. We constantly change it up so his body does not create a tolerance,” said Sierra. Thanks to that change, “we have had no need to increase his oil usage. We even do once a year endocannabinoid cleanses because we realize Landon has been on cannabis longer than he has been without it. We give his system breaks to help his body reset.
The worst part of pediatric cancer may be what are known as “late effects.” Late effects are symptoms that children experience months or years after receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments. These symptoms affect the mind and the body. “Just because treatment stops does not mean that all the issues are gone. Landon has already had at least fifty spinal taps in his little life. His organs have been checked for damage. Cancer is the gift that keeps on giving; you can’t exchange it, and it’s non-refundable,” Sierra expresses. Seven years after their fight with leukemia, the stress and angst heard in the voices of Sierra and Wendy is still all too palpable.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the risk of developing a second cancer is very high. 1 Childhood cancer survivors have issues with growth and development, moods, feelings, actions,
learning, and memory retention. “Landon is in second grade but according to his age could be in fourth grade, but he still has trouble reading. Basic things like 1+1=2 he learns, but the next day, he can’t recall the information,” says Sierra. He has a hard time socializing in school and being around healthy kids. “He is very aware. One day someone brought cupcakes to school for a birthday of one of Landon’s classmates. Landon told the kids in his class that he couldn’t eat one because sugar causes cancer, and he had cancer,” expresses Sierra.
PTSD is common in cancer patients but Landon Riddle was one of the youngest to ever be diagnosed in Colorado according to his family. “They wanted to put him on Xanax and Adderall, and he was only four years old!” exclaimed Sierra. The family continued to choose cannabis plant medicine over the pharmaceutical options. They watched Landon continue to improve. Alternating delivery methods of cannabis has assisted with the treatment of his varying symptoms. “If he was throwing up he could not get capsules or oil down so we taught him how to use a vape pen during his vomiting episodes. Some parents thought I was crazy, but I just wanted my baby boy to stop suffering. I was willing to do anything,” said Sierra.
The term “chemo brain” came up a few times during our interview. Chemo brain is a diagnosis and term often used by cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems caused by cancer treatments. 2 It causes Landon to have separation anxiety and is believed to amplify the PTSD because he can not recall things. Landon still undergoes occupational therapy and will soon be starting psychological therapy, according to his mother. Landon’s cannabis usage continues to this day and will for the rest of his life, preventatively. His dose is far less than it was when they were aggressively treating his cancer. “He still consumes his oil in capsules but now uses his CBD during the day at 100mg and then takes his ethanol based THC extraction at bedtime and uses 50-100mg depending on how he is feeling,” says Wendy.
Sources: 1. https://www.cancer.gov/types/childhood-cancers/lateeffects-pdq#_387 “Late Effects of Treatment For Childhood Cancers” National Cancer Institute. 2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chemobrain/symptoms-causes/syc-20351060 “Chemo Brain” Mayo Clinic 3. https://cbdhut.co/ourstory/ “Our Story and Mission” Landon’s Health Hut
“Landon is an old soul,” Sierra tells us. “He has been through so much for a child his age, so that makes him different. He prefers to be around adults more than children his own age. He knows that he is different from other kids, and he simply doesn’t want to be the cancer kid anymore, he just wants to be Landon.”
“When we were going through Landon’s treatments, I constantly had parents reach out to me asking for help. I decided to start a company on behalf of my son, with the hope that someday he will take it over. One day he says, ‘I want to be a policeman,’ the next day, he changes his mind. My hope is that Landon’s Health Hut will be his legacy,” Sierra tells us. Landon’s Health Hut 3 creates natural and organic CBD health products. Their mission is to reverse the unhealthy path our nation is on by giving you pure, all natural, and organic CBD alternatives to traditional medication.
For any parents reading this article that have considered treating your child with cannabis but still have concerns, Sierra’s advice about the incredible progress Landon has made is this, “The number one, most important thing you can do-- be your child’s advocate. Do not take to heart everything [physicians] tell you. Do your research. Don’t be a ‘Complacent Carol!’ Ask the physicians questions. Ask them things like, ‘Has the FDA approved all dosing for all of the medications you want my child to take?’ Remember that the holistic realm is not just cannabis; think outside the box. You may be told a treatment is illegal or unavailable here in the US, but the same treatment may be used widely in the UK. It is scary to think that physicians care more about the treatments then they do about our kids. This is why the most important thing you can do is be your child’s advocate.”
On November 15, 2019, Landon Riddle will be 7 years in remission from cancer, and 5 years chemotherapy free. “This makes Landon part of history,” Sierra tells us, “He is the first child to cure his cancer with cannabis. My hope is that he grows up and sees the legacy he created at a young age. I hope that he can take root in the power that what he did unknowingly changed the course of history and that it’s ok to be different.”