Updated, Friday 11:23 a.m.
Within weeks of discovering his 6-month-old son Waldo had a rare form of eye cancer, former Pizza Brain owner Brian Dwyer was on a plane to California with a friend to meet with a woman known as the inspiration for the TV show Weeds.
She recommended a form of cannabis oil processed only in the West, and Dwyer purchased enough for a year. Then they illegally shipped it back to Fishtown. After Waldo received treatments of chemo, Dwyer mixed the cannabis oil with coconut oil, and dropped a dab the size of a grain of rice on his tongue.
Soon, he and his wife, Danielle, started giving Waldo multiple doses of the cannabis oil a day. Dwyer said Waldo didn’t puke once after chemotherapy while on it, and didn’t need any blood transfusions, both relatively common side effects of the intensive radiation regimen:
“Doctors said, ‘whatever you’re doing at home this is working. This is a miracle.’”
Dwyer is sharing the story publicly for the first time today, given its significance for marijuana users and Pennsylvania’s recent legalization of medical marijuana. He put up a GoFundMe this morning, seeking $3,000 to complete a documentary about Waldo’s journey. Waldo, who was well-known for being one of the largest babies born in Philadelphia history, has now been cancer-free for six months. Dwyer filmed hours of Waldo’s life before, during and after his cancer with a handheld camera he received as a gift. As of 11 a.m., the GoFundMe page had already received more than half its goal.
“It’s a day that’s kind of a joke to most people,” Dwyer said of 4-20, “but for me I want to put a little more attention to it and remind people that there are stories like this.”
Though Dwyer has smoked recreationally for years, the thought of medical marijuana was new to him. But with Waldo suffering from cancer he and Danielle wanted to find anything that could reduce their son’s pain, and hopefully the disease (A study cited by the National Cancer Institute has shown in lab settings cannabis can kill cancer cells).
They shared the diagnosis with close family friends Gary and Mike, who requested their last names not be used. Gary and Mike pulled up stories of other children who suffered from cancer on their phones and showed the stories of how medical marijuana helped them recover. Both were well-connected to a community heavily involved with the drug.
That’s how he and Gary ended up on that flight to California. They met with Dr. Dina, the Los Angeles woman known for inspiring Weeds and who has helped 2 Chainz and Snoop Dogg. They also followed the advice of Brandon Krenzler, known on the Internet as CannaDad.
The medical marijuana treatments were kept secret from everyone except close friends. They couldn’t tell the doctors and couldn’t get any help or advice from them.
“That’s the fucked up part,” Dwyer said. “We had to pretend we were doctors. We’d go to the hospital and go to chemo and then go home and administer it ourselves.”
Pennsylvania’s legalization of medical marijuana hasn’t left him much more optimistic. The bill covers 17 specific medical conditions, including cancer, but Dwyer says it’s not enough. He also says the bill doesn’t allow for enough freedom for growers, who he says are needed to make the best types of medical treatments, like the cannabis oil used to treat Waldo. Dwyer will continue using it on his child until he’s at least 4 years old because of the possibility of a relapse.
That means, most likely, the Dwyer family’s time in Philadelphia is limited. He quit Pizza Brain last year — he was a minority owner and a co-founder — to spend more time with Waldo and to further the cause of medical marijuana. Their plan is to move to Oregon.
“The medicine that really helped him and helps him, I can’t afford to travel every time,” Dwyer said. “That’s sadly the story for most people.”