Chico was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer in December 2012. It all began with one very large swollen tonsil..
He was 10 years old, a normal kid who enjoyed life to the full, he loved skateboarding, dirt biking and soccer, playing at club level for a local team. He had moved to the USA with his now 14 year old brother Sonny and mum and dad from his native Manchester, England, four years before and quickly made friends, first at Topanga Elementary School, then Lupin Hill Elementary in Calabasas where he had just entered the 5th grade.
At first the doctors thought he had a regular throat infection, but it didn’t clear up, then a swelling started to appear on the side of his neck. The doctors were worried that it might be lymphoma, so he had surgery to remove the swollen tonsil in early December 2012, but the biopsy results came back clear. Just as everyone was beginning to breathe a sigh of relief, and prepare for Santa’s arrival, on December 20th 2012 he went to UCLA where his doctor had decided to send him for a second opinion. The specialist there took one look at his scan and immediately called in the pediatric oncologists and admitted him into the hospital for further tests.
By this time the swelling in the back of his throat had grown much bigger, as had the swelling on his neck. The doctors told his parents that they thought he only had 10 more days before the swelling would completely block his airways. His heart rate was very irregular as the growth was also pushing onto his carotid artery. The doctors said there was a chance it was a rare infection, but the more likely scenario that it was a cancerous growth.
Chico was getting more and more poorly and by the time Christmas Day came, he didn’t even have the energy to open his presents in the hospital. The doctors didn’t want to start treatment until they were sure of what kind of cancer they were dealing with, but time was running out. On December 28th 2012, the doctors were finally able to reveal that Chico had a very rare form of soft tissue cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. Because of the location of the tumor, surgery to remove it was deemed too risky, so as time was of the essence, that very day he received his first dose of chemotherapy of a harsh regimen that was to last for 43 weeks. A week later he received his second dose of chemotherapy – on his 11th birthday.
Also in his treatment plan were 28 radiation sessions over a 6 week period which he completed in March 2013.
Chico had a very rough time throughout his treatment. The chemo caused virtually permanent nausea and vomiting and 13 times out of 14 rounds of chemo he ended up being hospitalised for fevers and neutropenia. He got concurrent fungal and bacterial bloodstream infections, C-Difficile and had to be fed first intravenously and then through a stomach tube. The side effects from the harsh chemo landed him in a wheelchair due to damage to the nerves in his legs and feet and of course like many other cancer patients, he lost his hair, eyebrows and eyelashes.
BUT after 10 long months of tortuous treatment, Chico finally, finally finished in October 2013 and was declared to be in remission from the cancer! HOORAY!!! He has to have scans every three months for a while to make sure the cancer stays away and his last scans just before Christmas 2014 showed that everything was great! We are very grateful!
He is currently working on returning to being a normal kid again. His hair has grown back, he is beginning to eat again, although still needs to put back on some of the weight he lost in treatment and he is working hard on being able to walk normally again, although with some intensive physical therapy, he should manage it in time.
Chico's mum spent hundreds of hours researching complementary treatments that might help Chico and stumbled on the curative properties of cannabis oil, which thankfully is legal in the state of California, so half way through his treatment he started ingesting cannabis oil which really helped with the side effects of the chemo, and research suggests that it also helps the chemo to do its job. He was declared to be in remission as of October 2013, but still continues to receive a small daily maintenance dose of cannabis oil to help keep the cancer away. He also gets many other integrative supplements and treatments, all designed to help his body create a hostile environment for cancer.
Chico and his family are passionate about spreading the message that there are other things outside of conventional medicine that can be utilised alongside conventional treatments to help every cancer patient navigate their journey more comfortably and in many cases more successfully. Chico took part in the documentary made by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein called "Weed the People", which is currently in production to help spread the message. He is also about to launch his own campaign to allow everyone who could benefit from cannabis oil to have safe and legal access to it.
To send Chico cards, letters, donations or anything nice, here's the address: #179, 4872 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Woodland Hills, California 91364 USA