A Colorado Springs mom who chose cannabis over chemotherapy for her 3-year-old son with leukemia faces a tough choice: find a chemo plan they can live with, or risk losing custody of her son.
Sierra Riddle and her mom, Wendy, met with Child Protective Services on Wednesday. Several doctors also attended the meeting -- in person and on the phone.
Wendy Riddle told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that all of the CPS employees were very kind and helpful. The doctors, on the other hand, were "rude, condescending and arrogant," Wendy said.
3-year-old Landon Riddle was diagnosed with T-Cell ALL (leukemia) when he was 2 years old. He struggled with chemotherapy, according to his mom.
"Within three months, we could all see that chemo was killing Landon," said Sierra Riddle. "He would vomit like 50 times a day. No pharmaceuticals would stop it."
Sierra found an alternative -- medical marijuana in the form of capsules. She said she was skeptical at first, but quickly saw improvements in Landon's health. She says he's now in remission.
But Landon's doctors still recommend years of chemotherapy. Sierra said that someone from Children's Hospital Colorado reported her actions to Child Protective Services and now she is being investigated.
"Doctors are mandated reporters," said Karen Logan, child protection intake manager at the Department of Human Services in El Paso County. "They are required by law to report any suspicion of abuse or neglect. They don't have to know that it's abuse or neglect, they just have to suspect it."
"CPS made it very clear that this was not about whether or not Landon was receiving good care," Wendy told KRDO NewsChannel 13 after Wednesday's meeting. However, doctors told the family that Landon has to continue chemotherapy or take the matter to court.
"Let's face it," Wendy said. "He knows that if this goes to court, he'll win."
Wendy said the family will meet with doctors Thursday to discuss their chemotherapy options. She said there is one type of chemotherapy that Landon responded well to, but they don't want him on anything else.
"We're not doing morphine, we're not doing oxy, we're not doing Ativan. No more narcotic medicines," she said.
If they can't come to an agreement, the family has the option to take the matter to court, but will need to find an oncologist to agree to care for Landon and let him continue his cannabis treatments.
"If I could send out a plea at this point. If an oncologist hears this and could come forward and contact us, that would be amazing," Wendy said.
Wendy said the process is still in the investigation phase, but she realizes they could ultimately lose custody of Landon if they can't come to an agreement and the court orders it.
"If they ordered us to put him on the chemo and we refused, then they could take him away from our care," Wendy said. "We don't want to lose custody of Landon. That would be horrific."
"I just want him to have the chance to stay in remission naturally and to stay healthy," Sierra said. "In saying that we want to go the natural way, we're not saying that we don't want anything to do with doctors. That's not what we're saying at all."
KRDO NewsChannel 13 contacted Children's Hospital Colorado to find out its stance on medicinal marijuana as a treatment for cancer or its symptoms.
The following is Children's Hospital's statement in its entirety:
Out of respect for patient privacy, Children's Hospital Colorado cannot provide specific information. However, Children's Colorado can provide the following information from Stephen Hunger, MD, Director, Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, Children's Hospital Colorado:
• Childhood cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease among children in the U.S.
• About 25% of childhood cancers are acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
• The survival rate for children with ALL treated on Children's Oncology Group ALL research trials is over 90%.
• This is attained with 2 to 3 years of chemotherapy.
• Children's Hospital Colorado is one of the largest centers in the country that treats children with ALL
• For more information visit www.childrenscolorado.org