- When Danielle and Brian Dwyer’s son Waldo was six months old, he was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer that required chemotherapy.
- After starting chemo, Waldo couldn’t sleep, had trouble eating and going to the bathroom, and kept vomiting.
- In search of a solution, the Philadelphia-based family went to California to get CBD oil for Waldo, which was illegal in their home state at the time.
- “We gave him a drop the size of a grain of rice and he was eating, laughing, going to the bathroom again,” Brian Dwyer said of the cannabis oil’s effects on his son. “Within the first hour of giving it to him, he stopped throwing up.”
- Their story is the topic of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival documentary “Waldo on Weed,” which is executive produced by Whoopi Goldberg.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
When Waldo Dwyer was six months old, his parents Danielle and Brian realised he had trouble seeing.
Soon after, they learned Waldo had a rare childhood form of the eye cancer retinoblastoma. He needed chemotherapy, which caused all sorts of unpleasant side effects, including vomiting, insomnia, and trouble eating.
“Everything we had been growing to know of Waldo [and his personality] was disappearing,” Brian told INSIDER.
Prescription anti-nausea and pain medications didn’t seem to help with the symptoms. The Dwyers were desperate to help their toddler. When Brian’s friends suggested he look into cannabis oil as an alternative treatment, the Dwyers regained a bit of hope.
After doing extensive research, they flew from their Philadelphia, Pennsylvania home to California, where they obtained the CBD oil that ultimately helped Waldo cope with his chemo side effects. Marijuana products (including CBD oil) were illegal in Pennsylvania at the time, but legal in California.
The Tribeca Film Festival documentary “Waldo on Weed,” which was executive produced by cannabis advocate and actress Whoopi Goldberg, premiered on May 3, and details the family’s journey.
The Dwyers saw near-instant results when they gave Waldo cannabis oil
When they gave their son his first dose of CBD oil – “a drop the size of a grain of rice” – Waldo stopped throwing up within an hour. The Dwyers were shocked.
“Before that he was crying on the floor and had lockjaw,” Brian said.
Before giving Waldo the CBD oil, Brian and Danielle spoke with with Dina Browner, a California-based marijuana consultant who owns a dispensary and offers cannabis advice to celebrities like Snoop Dogg. “She gave us dosing instructions and connected us with other parents and helped us feel at ease,” Danielle said.
According to Danielle, Browner suggested starting Waldo off with a small dose of CBD oil. The oil they used contains the active ingredient cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component in cannabis, plus negligible amounts of the psychoactive component THC – not enough to get Waldo high.
“We followed the doctor’s protocol for chemo and blood tests and used cannabis oil alongside of that in secret because it wasn’t legal at the time,” Danielle said.
In addition to hiding the decision from Waldo’s doctors, the Dwyers only told a select few family members and friends about their decision.
“We didn’t want this to get out, child protective services getting involved, and Waldo being taken away. It wasn’t until the bill was passed in Pennsylvania [for medical marijuana] we felt comfortable talking about it,” Brian said.
Some cannabis compounds are found in prescription drugs, but CBD isn’t one of them
While research on the medicinal use of various cannabis compounds is still in the early stages, a pair of prescription drugs containing THC are already on the market.
The synthetic cannabinoids dronabinol and nabilone are available as anti-nausea medications for people going through chemotherapy. The drugs are both synthetic versions of the psychoactive compound THC – they aren’t derived from cannabis plants.
There are no chemo-related prescription CBD drugs on the market, but a cancer pain relief medication called Nabiximols is being tested inclinical trials in the US.It’s a mouth spray that contains a near-equal ratio of THC and CBD, and it’s already available in Canada and some parts of Europe.
No protocol exists for giving kids CBD oil or other cannabis products
The lack of research on the substance and its largely illegal status makes it impossible for medical professionals to offer advice on giving cannabis to kids.
According to Dr. Paul Mitrani, clinical director at the Child Mind Institute, CBD products in particular range in quality, and sellers don’t always properly disclose exactly what’s in the products they’re selling. Other concerns include potential interactions with medications and the possibility of kids building a tolerance or dependence on CBD, according to the Child Mind Institute’s website.
Find the right dosage of CBD oil for kids is also difficult, since clinical doses used in studies may be different than what’s offered in cannabis shops, according to the Child Mind Institute.
Waldo is now healthy, and his story has had a lasting impact
Now five years old, Waldo is tumour-free. His vision, which was damaged during treatment, is being corrected. He wears glasses that his mum says make him look “super cute.”
The now-legal status of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania allowed the Dwyers to openly share their story and participate in the Waldo on Weed documentary. Over the past two years, Brian said he’s been inundated with social media messages from parents who are going through similar situations.
They’re desperate for ways to help their children manage pain and to get their hands on cannabis products that are oftentimes illegal in their home states, so the Dwyers offer as much advice as they can.
“This [film] is for all of the other Waldos who are searching for answers,” Brian said.