The Cash Hyde story: One of the youngest medical marijuana patients is thriving

Cash Hyde, with his father Mike earlier this year in Colorado Springs (Kersgaard)

He was lame, but now he walks. He was blind, but now he sees. He was deaf, but now he hears.

Cash Hyde is a pretty normal little three-year-old. He looks around the room with curiosity. He shares his toys with a reporter. He runs around a room full of strangers with absolute glee. He couldn’t do those things a few months ago because he was all but dead. That he is alive and thriving is no miracle, in spite of what his oncologists have been known to tell people.

Any miracles in this boy’s life have come not from modern medicine and not from divine intervention, although you never know. The only sure miracle in Cash’s life is his parents, who simply would not let him die, even when told they really had no choice.

At one point the little boy was blind and deaf. Cash had not eaten real food in more than 40 days. He could not raise his head from a pillow.

Of course, it all started some time before that, when he began to get sick early in February 2010. His doctor said it was mono. But he wasn’t responding to treatment. His eyes were bugging out, he wouldn’t eat, he was losing his vision.

Finally on May 3, 2010, his parents took him to the emergency room, where a CT Scan was ordered. Cash had stage 4 brain cancer with a 4.5 cm tumor on his brain, wrapping around optic nerves. He was rushed to a medivac plane and flown from his home in Montana to Primary Childrens Hospital in Salt Lake City. He had brain surgery on May 5. Surgeons were only able to remove about 10% of the tumor because it was growing around his optic nerves. After the surgery, the tumor grew to 4.7 cm. Six rounds of chemotherapy followed.

His dad says the first three rounds were aggressive and were followed by three rounds of even more aggressive high-dose chemotherapy.

After the second round, Cash was hooked up to a machine that ran all of his blood through it, extracting stem cells, which were then frozen to be given back to the boy after future chemo treatments in a procedure that is like bone marrow transplants except it used his own stem cells and bone marrow for the infusions, thus eliminating the chance of rejection.

If the cancer didn’t kill him, it was quite likely the treatment would. In fact, his father, Mike, says Cash lost all organ function several times only to revive.

After the first round of chemo, Mike said Cash went into a 10-hour-long seizure, arching his back, almost bending in two. “It was horrific to watch. He was already so sick with the cancer, and now this.”

Each round of chemo made him sicker, severely compromising his immune system. “At that point, almost anything could have killed him,” Mike said.

“He was throwing up ten times a day and couldn’t sleep.”

He was dying and his doctors said nothing more could be done. The father knew that cannabis had been known to cure cancer. He asked the doctors about that. Not only didn’t the oncologists take such questions seriously, they said that to even discuss such a treatment within the walls of the hospital could cause the hospital to lose federal funding.

So the parents, receiving advanced cancer care for the boy in a state that does not allow medical marijuana, had a choice to make. They could do the right thing, the legal thing, and let their child die because to try and save him would be illegal. Or they could do the other right thing and give him the oil from a plant that anyone can grow in their backyard–but which happens to be a controlled substance.

That Cash is alive and laughing like a three-year old today tells you all you need to know about his parents. They are outlaws.

The parents started giving the boy cannabis oil on their own, after the fifth round of chemo, sneaking it into the hospital and putting it in the boy’s feeding tube. He began getting better immediately.

Today the cancer is gone and Cash is a normal little boy again. His dad wants you to know this story. His dad wants to help other little kids get the treatment they need. His dad thinks it is time the government let people have the medicine they need to live.

Cash and his dad now travel the country together giving speeches, talking to the media, appearing at medical cannabis events and helping to draw a crowd to fundraisers for the families of pediatric cancer patients.

The Hydes started the Cash Hyde Foundation to raise money and awareness. The foundation website doesn’t even mention cannabis, focusing instead on pediatric cancer generally and enlisting supporters to raise money for kids with cancer and the hospitals that serve them.

Why not just go home to Montana and enjoy family life?

“When Cash started to respond to the cannabis oil, and I had to walk through the hospital every day knowing he was getting better but knowing I couldn’t tell any of the other parents I saw every day why he was getting better, it almost killed me. But I knew if the hospital found out what we were doing, they would take his medicine away.

Once Cash began responding to the cannabis oil, his parents told the doctors to stop giving him all other drugs, which they did. During the sixth round of chemo, he was given none of the usual post-chemo narcotics, only the cannabis oil, which the parents continued to sneak into the hospital.

“I couldn’t pretend it was OK. At least 25 percent of the kids with cancer die and the rest have to live with drugs and chemo and suffer for the rest of their lives. Cash is not taking any of those drugs. His cancer is gone.

“I will not stop until they find a cure for cancer, and this could be it. I will not stop until we know. Cancer picked Cashy for a reason, and God picked us to be his parents for a reason.”

Mike and Cash are somewhat famous in the world of medical cannabis and they are using that fame to raise money. Mike says that some of the fundraisers he has appeared at for other families have brought in as much as $50,000 in a day.

He says people gave them money when they were living out of state and fighting cancer. “It made a huge difference. For ten months, we didn’t work. Our job was to help Cashy get better. We’re obligated to pay it forward. Kids can’t fight cancer alone.”

He say families can’t focus on their kids if they are worried about losing their house, or their car or their jobs. “You have to stay positive or it affects the kids, and it’s hard to stay positive if you are worried about money.”

He says between two and four families a week contact him looking for help, needing money, or wanting to learn about cannabis and its role in fighting cancer.

“I told God to show me a sign and I would follow it, so that is what I am doing. I am in this for the long haul. If Cash would have died, I would still be doing this.”

In addition to raising money for families, the foundation is raising money to buy camping trailers to give to pediatric hospitals so that families in from out of state will have a free place to live. “Ronald McDonald House is great, but it costs $20 to $25 a night, and that adds up. We stayed in a trailer and I want other families to have that option. I want to have a Camp Cashy at every pediatric hospital in the country.”

The foundation also buys wagons for hospitals that kids can use to get around the halls. They saw that the wagons in the Utah hospital they were in were boring, so they bought flags and stickers for Cash’s wagon. “We named it the Reggae Runner and Cashy had many happy times cruising the halls of Primary Children’s in it,” Mike wrote in a brochure he gives potential donors.

Mike Hyde still gives his son a small dose of cannabis oil every day, which he makes himself, using what he calls the Rick Simpson Method.

Basically, he gets about a pound of marijuana and soaks it in alcohol for a few minutes, stirring and pushing on the weed with a stick or tool to break it up. Then he drains it through a filter, creating a green liquid. Then he boils it down to a sludge and cuts that with hemp seed oil, which is available in health food stores, to make a liquid that can be put through a feeding tube. From a pound of marijuana, he gets about a 60-day supply of the oil.

Ask Mike why he waited so long to start the cannabis treatment, and he tells a story about how hard it can be to get medical marijuana even in a state where it is legal, a state, Montana, where the Legislature recently voted to make it even more difficult for patients to get the medicine.

He said the family’s caregiver was shut down. To change caregivers in Montana takes months for new paperwork to be processed.

“It was impossible to get medical marijuana for months. They put Cashy’s life at risk and made him suffer. The state really just does not believe in the healing power of cannabis.”

While Mike gives the chemo and the work of oncologists much of the credit for eradicating Cash’s cancer, he says cannabis played a role in that. He gives cannabis most of the credit for his son’s recovery from chemo, saying the cannabis enables the body to heal and rebuild cells and organ function.

He said his son suffered several strokes, septic shock and cardiac arrest as a result of the cancer treatments and says it is the cannabis that enabled him to recover from those events.

“Cash proves that cannabis is true medicine. It saved his life. He was on adult doses of morphine and other narcotics, and they were killing him. All of his organs had been fried by the chemo,” Mike said, adding that doctors told him that brain damage was unavoidable at that point.

Mike says the drugs Cash was on before he started the cannabis treatment are known to cause heart failure, hallucinations, drug addiction, nausea and schizophrenia, yet are all legal and commonly given to young cancer patients.

“Before we started the hemp oil, he was not getting better. His skin was bright red and pealing like a snake. You couldn’t touch him. His doctors said that was the best quality of life they could offer and that we should expect him to get worse. They said whatever you see on the outside is also happening on the inside to his organs. They told me his odds of living through it without major brain or organ damage was slim to none. They said he would be on dialysis the rest of his life. Today, his liver and kidneys are at 100 percent.

“When we started the cannabis oil, it began to stimulate cell growth and regeneration and he began crapping out membranes and destroyed tissue, then he started eating and had the will to live again.

“The doctors didn’t know what I was doing. They said it was a miracle. They couldn’t explain how he managed to come through it all. They said that whatever I’m doing, I shouldn’t stop.”

There is plenty of literature
on the value of using cannabis as part of a comprehensive cancer treatment.

Click here to visit the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine’s web site. Cannabis Health News Magazine sponsored the Hydes’ recent appearance at the Green Leaf Expo in Colorado Springs.

“There are lots of reports of people who have done real well using highly concentrated cannabis extracts in fighting cancer,” said Dr. Alan Shackelford, a Harvard-educated doctor practicing in the Denver area. Shackelford told the Colorado Independent that about 20 percent of his patients use medical marijuana.

“From what I know of the research, there is clearly something there,” he said. He said the American Cancer Society and the National Institute of Health have known since the 1970s that cannabis can be an effective cancer treatment but have sat on the information.

He said he knows about Cash Hyde in general terms, but has never met the family and can’t speak specifically about his case.

Shackelford said people in their situation “will do anything, and rightly so.”

“Their case and others suggest that we need to study cannabis as a cancer cure in a scientific and medical way, Shackelford said.

He said it makes him a little nervous to see a child as young as Cash using medical marijuana. “First, do no harm,” he repeated several times in an interview. “We as physicians must always err on the side of caution and not do something that could harm someone.”

He said an exception to that is when the risk of harm from doing something, such as prescribing marijuana, is small relative to the potential harm of doing nothing. He said doctors don’t know what the risk of giving cannabis to a baby might be, but they do know what they risk of cancer is, and they know what the risk of chemo is, and they know what they risk of giving heavy narcotics to a baby is, and that adding all of that up, the risk of cannabis may be relatively low.

“In general, cannabis is very safe, but if a child did not have a life threatening illness, you probably wouldn’t do it. You would have to have uniquely compelling circumstances to induce a physician to say, ‘let’s try this.'”

He noted that Cash Hyde’s situation may have been such a compelling case.

Cash is completely cancer free today, his dad says, but there is no way of predicting whether he will stay that way. His dad says that statistically, there is about a 50-80 percent chance of the cancer coming back and a similar chance that the chemo treatments could create a new cancer. The Colorado Independent couldn’t document Hyde’s claim that his son is the youngest medical marijuana patient in the country, but he was barely two when he began cannabis treatments, as prescribed his family practitioner, who did not return a call seeking comment.

“I’m doing a lot of praying,” Mike says. He said he is trying to build a network of 15,000 people on Facebook who pray for Cash. “I would like to get a million people and set it up so other families can log on and ask for prayer support,” he said.

“I am really excited to still have Cashy with us. I’m excited to fight cancer. I know I am doing something really controversial and I don’t know where it will lead, but I’m taking it all the way,” Mike said.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.


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