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Stirring the Pot

Medical marijuana for adults is still controversial. For children, it’s a live grenade. And possibly a lifesaver

SPECIAL CANCER ISSUE

When Sierra Riddle stormed into the conference room at Denver’s child protective services office, the director of the agency was seated there, along with her son’s team of doctors, top administrators from the Children’s Hospital Colorado oncology department and lawyers. She recalls looking one of the physicians in the eye, deflant. “I’m done with this shit,” she remembers saying. “I’m done with you guys bullying us.”

Then, she took out a bag and dumped the contents on the table: nine months of cancer drugs prescribed to her son, Landon, who was 4 at the time. He had been diagnosed more than a year before with an aggressive form of leukemia and undergone months of grueling treatment. But his mother was now refusing to follow his doctors’ orders. “Listen: Here’s all this chemo you told CPS he cannot live without, and if I didn’t give it to him, he would relapse and die.”

But Landon, who did only one year of cancer treatment instead of the recommended four, was still alive—thriving, in fact—even though he’d stopped taking that massive pile of drugs prescribed for him. That’s why his mother had called this meeting. She implored the CPS director—whom by then she knew by first name—to restrain the oncologists who had threatened to take her child away and put him in foster care. Riddle believes the doctors wanted to prove she was a neglectful, abusive mother, but she knew she could convince the world that the hospital was wrong about her son’s treatment. (Due to HIPAA patient privacy laws, Children’s Hospital Colorado was unable to comment on Landon’s case for this story.)

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About Newsweek International

CANCER REBELS For this year's Special Health Issue, we've focused on the Cancer Rebels, the women, men and children who ignore the rules and scorn the conventions that surround cancer, and who refuse to succumb to the disease. These are the people who find vitality in taking on cancer from unexpected directions.
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