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Landon Riddle was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia September 30, 2012 with doctors giving him an 8 – 10% chance to make it through the night. With chemotherapy, Landon beat their odds, but within 30 days Sierra Riddle could see that the same medicine that had saved him was now killing him rapidly.
On the chemo, Landon suffered a 50% weight loss. He refused to eat for weeks on end. He was in constant and increasing pain, losing the ability to speak or walk. He vomited often, not to mention the emotional stress and losing all his hair. Sierra and her mother, Wendy, knew they had to do something. The research began, and the unexpected discovery was Cannabis.
The investigation lead them to Colorado and Cannabis oil. Initially traveling back to Utah to continue Landon’s chemotherapy treatments, Landon’s quality of life improved so dramatically that Sierra made the tough decision to leave her family behind and relocate to Colorado full time. Getting Landon to a state where he could have safe access to Cannabis, and not live in fear that the medical team will find out that Cannabis was the secret behind the miracle of his improvement became essential. With her families support Sierra packed up and left all her friends and family behind and become a full time Colorado resident.
Shocking can’t begin to describe what happened next. Landon’s care was transferred to Children’s Memorial Hospital. After several meetings with the family (including one with Dr. Robert Melamede at their side) and the medical team, the differences in opinions caused things became heated. The medical team refused to recognize the photo evidence of Landon’s reaction to the chemotherapy or acknowledge Melamede as a peer. And threatened Sierra with legal action to remove Landon from her care if she refused to comply with their treatment plan (3 more years of chemo). With protestors outside the hospital and calls flooding the hospital from people showing their support, Sierra attempted to appeal to their senses. After all, she was and is requesting they continue to monitor him for relapse. Already in disbelief, #TeamLandon walked away feeling forced into compliance. As if that weren’t enough, this new turn of events added to the stress levels immensely. Next came the knock from the department of health’s child protective service (CPS) department. All the fear, stress, and anxiety were found to be needless. They came and saw Landon for themselves. With no danger found Sierra gained the confidence to stand even stronger for Landon. She requested the steroids be removed (or at least cut in half) from his treatment plan. Landon’s reaction, in particular his emotional reaction, was extreme, and she brought medical evidence, which the oncologist refused to look at, with her to back her request. At that time , a message was left for Sierra along the lines of “Are you going to comply with the treatment plan, or am I going to have to call CPS back?” Before she had the opportunity to think about the message (let alone respond) she received an email from CPS. Without waiting to hear if she would continue to comply with the steroid treatment, the medical team had demanded immediate removal of Landon yet again and reevaluation of Sierra. Unfortunately for Children’s Memorial, CPS found this to be a case of treatment verse no treatment and beyond the scope of their department. That’s when the hospital began to threaten Sierra with facing their legal team in court. The message they sent, in attempt to intimidate her into compliance with their treatment protocol, was that she would certainly lose custody of Landon and he would not only be placed in foster care but they would also win the ability to treat him with chemotherapy against her wishes.
Then a bit of hope shined through. A small victory, won with the flooding of phone calls, letters, and Facebook messages to the overseeing doctor and the hospital, in addition to Sierra’s persistence and media coverage. Children’s oncology team agreed to omit the steroids and remove the CPS initiating doctor from his team. While the changes were great news, it now meant that #TeamLandon would have to travel to Denver for the monthly chemo and testing sessions.
Still tense with the prospect of losing her son, either to chemo or worse, to foster care and chemo, Sierra made the difficult decision to continue to take Landon in on their schedule. When the intense side effects from these “doctor visits” came on sending Landon into spells of not eating, vomiting, night terrors, and laying him out for days on end, Sierra made another decision. Parents will understand that putting your child first comes with ease, so it was with far less difficulty she resolved to not give him oral chemo daily. Filling the prescriptions and allowing them to force ‘approve protocol’ monthly to avoid detection. All the while searching for a medical team willing to monitor him on Cannabis alone and a legal team willing to stand up for them against Children’s legal department.
13 months later, with Wendy at her side, Sierra went back to the doctors. The doctors who told her that refusing the chemo was a death sentence. Who claimed without it Landon would surely relapse and die, and who said that without the daily oral medications at home, the monthly sessions in hospital were completely ineffective. She went back with a message for them, and she delivered it in the form of 13 months of unused prescriptions and questions. If your way is the only way, then why is Landon sitting right here next to me looking and feeling better than he has in years? Why have his tests come back showing that he’s been in remission nearly 24 months? How are you going to justify wanting to have him placed in foster care so you can force the chemo on him in the face of this evidence? The result? Children’s has agreed to release Landon from the chemotherapy protocol, and #TeamLandon is awaiting the appointment for his port-a-cath removal.
In the meantime, Sierra and Landon have dedicated themselves to sharing their story in order to benefit parents nationwide. #TeamLandon believes that families should be considered a more vital and valuable part of the medical team. The choice to alternative medications should ultimately be up to the parents who spend 365 days a year with their children and not met with threats from doctors who spend no more than 20 minutes a month with them. Sierra and Landon book speaking engagements near and far, grant interviews, and welcome all nonbelievers to come see for themselves. Having been met with answers like “I haven’t seen it with my own eyes,” as if it were a legitimate reason to keep Landon on steroids. Being looked dead in the eye and told that for parents who can’t afford to travel for treatment or can’t afford treatment “their kids die”. Among countless other unthinkable and offensive experiences in the medical system, these things drive Sierra, Wendy, Landon, and the now countless #TeamLandon followers. We are devoted to shining light on what appears to be a heartless industry filled with greed and corruption.
Signing up for the #TeamLandon mailing list to get updates as we continue to blaze this trail toward safe and legal access for all.
UPDATE: On October 21, 2014 Children’s Memorial Hospital removed the port-a-cath from Landon’s heart. Landon did extremely well with the procedure and is delighted to be free of it. #TeamLandon cannot thank their supporters enough.
RECOGNIZED #TEAMLANDON CONTRIBUTORS