Father: Medical Marijuana Eased Pain Of My Cancer-Battling Son

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June 21, 2008 is a day Mike and Kalli Hyde will never forget. It was the they brought their second son into the world.

Cash "Cashy" Hyde was born a healthy baby boy in Missoula. Never could his parents have imagined the journey little Cashy's life would take.

"He was just your average happy little kid," said Mike. "Then he started to get to get sick."

It all started shortly before Cashy's second birthday.

"He started being very tired, sleeping a lot, cranky. He started throwing up," Mike said. "We took him to the doctor, and the doctor would tell us he had mono."

For six weeks, doctors gave the same diagnosis times over, but Mike refused to accept it. His instincts told him something was terribly wrong.

"I was like, 'He's dying in my arms. We need to take him somewhere else.' So we took him to the ER. That's when they did a CAT scan and found the 4.5 centimeter tumor on his brain."

Within hours of arriving at the ER, the Hydes were on their way to Salt Lake City. At Primary Children's Hospital, they received the devastating news: brain surgery revealed a PNET tumor wrapped around Cashy's optic nerve.

"When we arrived in Salt Lake in May, Cashy was so sick, his eye was starting to get pushed out," Mike said. "He was sleeping 16, 18 hours a day. He was vomiting. He was pretty much as sick as you can get without being on your deathbed."

Doctors cut into Cashy's brain, but were only able to remove 10 percent of the tumor. The Hydes could only hope aggressive treatment could the rest. Doctors recommended three rounds of chemotherapy followed by stem cell rescue followed by three more rounds of high-dose chemo.

"The first night of chemo, we did 10 hours worth of seizures down in the ICU," said Mike. "The doctors told us then, 'He could have brain damage from these seizures. We don't know where it's going to be in the morning."'

Cashy survived the night. He spent his second birthday in a hospital bed, swollen and sick from the medication intended to save his life. Doctors were uncertain whether he'd see his third birthday.

"It's overwhelming, I guess, to say the least," Mike said. "We had a lot of scary things happen. In June, he got a blood infection, went into septic shock, went into the ICU, ended up coding and they had to resuscitate him. I was standing like two feet away. I had to watch the whole thing.

"There were a lot of days we were told we weren't going to beat it. 'You're not going to take him home. He is going to die.' Those are the days you have to really believe."

They believed and they prayed. High-dose chemo was killing Cashy's cancer, but it was making him sicker than ever. He was taking 120 milligrams a day of five different drugs to make him comfortable. That, Mike said, wasn't helping to ease Cashy's pain.

"By the end of September, he had gone 40 days without eating. He was vomiting nine, 10 times a day. He couldn't lift his head off his pillow. He was laying their shivering," Mike said. "The doctors came in and I said, 'Is there anything I can do for Cash?"'

The doctors had no answers, so Mike found his own -- relief for Cashy in the form of cannabis oil. It's illegal to possess without authorization from a medical professional. It's something doctors wouldn't even discuss.

Mike got authorization to give Cashy the oil and, without telling them why, told the doctors to wean Cashy off the anti-nausea cocktail. Inserted through Cashy's feeding tube, a tiny amount of oil replaced all those drugs. The result, Mike said, was almost immediate.

"You're watching a kid who hasn't had the will to eat in four months, five months actually take a bite of something," Mike remembered. "He hadn't eaten a thing in 40 days, and it was really incredible to watch him take a bite of a piece of cheese. It shows that he wants to live."

Cashy's last round of high-dose chemo involved no anti-nausea drugs. Mike said the doctors were amazed. He never told them what had changed.

"I wanted to tell them, 'Hey, he's on cannabis oil.' But I didn't want them to take it away from him," the father said.

KXLY4 wanted to know about side effects, about the dangers of giving kids as young as Cashy medical marijuana. But despite the fact it's not illegal in Washington or in Cashy's home state of Montana, no doctor wanted to discuss it on camera.

But a nurse practitioner at THC clinic in East Spokane had a few words. Shari Allen travels every few week from Oregon to evaluate potential patients and sign off on medical marijuana permits.

"What I try to do here at this office is create an atmosphere that is truly medical. Because I do believe that cannabis is a medicine, and we're trying to use it as a medicine," she said.

As someone who's spent many years working with pain management, Allen believes in the power of this drug and its benefits for cancer patients. She signs off on up to 50 patients a day. But she wouldn't say whether she's ever signed off on a patient as young as Cashy.

"It is not common, and I'm not going to say whether I've authorized for a child," she said.

That's a typical answer, as doctors are concerned about federal law and company policies. Mike Hyde, though, doesn't care about the controversy or the political battle over this drug. He cares that his son survived and is convinced cannabis not only helped Cashy feel better, but also prevented long-term damage to his organs. For Mike, the proof is in his vibrant 2-year-old boy.

"Its very controversial. It's very scary," he said. "But there's nothing more scary than losing your child."

A few weeks ago, Cashy returned to Salt Lake City for scans and learned he is now cancer-free. He's back home in Missoula, back with his family and back to teasing his big brother, Colty. In a couple of months, he'll spend his third birthday like every kid should, with the fight of his life behind him.

Throughout their ordeal, the Hydes family received tremendous support from their community. Now, they're paying it forward. The Cash Hyde Foundation aims to provide financial and emotional support for families whose children are battling cancer.

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