“The Boy of Steel”
By Jonny Appleweed
Cash Michael Hyde (Cashy) was born on June 21, 2008, to Mike and Kalli Hyde, and along with his older brother, Colten John, they complete the Hyde family.
This story is compiled of writings by Kalli and Mike Hyde and brought to you on behalf of The Cash Hyde Foundation.
On May 3, 2010, after 10 weeks of weekly trips to the pediatrician’s office, we were told once again that our beautiful son Cash just had a simple case of mononucleosis and to let him rest and give him Tylenol and ibuprofen for his recurring fevers. He was sleeping 18 hours a day and vomiting in the morning and at night, and in the last week his left eye start-ed drifting and drooping. This had gone on too long. It felt like our son was dying in our arms and there was nothing we could do about it.
After taking Cashy to his pediatrician and being told the same thing again, we left the pediatrician’s office and met my mom for a quick bite to eat. Cash had taken a bite of some macaroni and cheese and instantly threw up. I heard someone in the restaurant say under her breath, “That baby is sick!”
I told my mom that I was going to leave and take him to the emergency room at Community Medical Center. I said to my mom ironically, “Well, I don’t think it’s a brain tumor or anything.” Little did we know we’d be hearing the words no parents ever want to hear.
Cash and I arrived at the emergency room and we were quickly seen by the triage nurse, who was extremely concerned with Cash’s lethargy and weakness. I told her that he’d been like this for two months now, and his doctor kept telling us the same thing: It’s mono. I told her it was time for a second opinion.
We were taken back to a room, where we were seen by the doctor pretty quickly. Even the doctor was a little skeptical on my need to come to the ER. She told me that my pediatri-cian was a great doctor and that I should trust her. I said I did trust her, but I just needed a second opinion and that this had gone on too long. Reluctantly, she said, “Well, I’m going to order a CT scan of his brain, then.” I said, “Ok, let’s do it.” After the scan, the radiology tech told us that the scan looked good and noth-ing was abnormal. We felt relieved. We continued to wait in this small room, and now all of our family had arrived. Finally, after a light knock on the door, the doctor appeared, and taking slow, deliberate steps, she entered the room. Her face was seri-ous, but her eyes were full of compassion and regret.
My 22-month-old son was lying across my lap like a wet, limp rag. His energy was gone and his light was fading. He was no longer the playful, spirited child he had once been. All she said was, “I’m so sorry, I’m so so sorry.” We were like, “WHAT?” Then she said it again: “I’m so sorry, your son has a 4.5-cen-timeter mass in his brain.” Time stopped at that exact moment. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t even talk. I was blown away and scared to death for my baby boy. As the doctor left the room, we sat in silence. Our lives were on the verge of chaos, and there were no words. We were in shock and barely able to process what had just been revealed. We looked at Cash. He had no idea of the magnitude of this discovery, but we knew he would soon suffer its consequences.
“Your child has a mass in his brain.” That sequence of words changed everything. We were utterly terrified. That was one of the worst days of our lives. It felt like a death sentence. Two long hours later, Cash and I were life-flighted on a fixed-wing plane to Salt Lake City, Utah, head-ing to Primary Children’s Medical Center. This was THE scariest air-plane ride I’ve ever been on. There was extreme turbulence and I wasn’t even able to sit next to Cash. Cashy was at the front of the plane and I had to sit in the back, and that was the longest flight I’ve ever endured. There were so many emotions run-ning through my head. I felt so alone and scared.
Why did this happen to my baby? Why Cashy? Why us? That’s all I could think about. Cash and I arrived at Salt Lake City two hours later. We were driven by ambulance to Primary
Children’s Medical Center and taken to the emergency room, where we were greeted by Mike’s loving and caring family, his uncles and his aunt and cousin. Thank God they were there; I needed somebody. Mike and our six-year-old son Colten drove down in record time. We were later transferred to the neurotrauma unit, where they would decide the next plan of action. We were told that this could be a few different types of can-cer, due to positioning of the tumor (in the back of my mind for some rea-son I though possibly it could be benign — just wishful thinking, I guess), but they wouldn’t know for sure and what types of treatment pro-tocol we would need to take until they did a craniotomy and took a biopsy of the tumor. His tumor was wrapped around his optic nerves and intertwined with his hypothalamus and his pituitary gland, so removing the tumor was going to be a risky job: risks for blindness, paralysis, and even death from blood
loss. May 5, 2010, was the longest day of our lives, waiting and waiting for updates from the doctors while our little Cashy was being operated on. Four hours later, the brain sur-geon pulled us into a small waiting room and told us that they were only able to remove approximately 10% of the tumor due to its location and how it was wrapped around vital blood vessels and his optic nerves, and that his tumor was part of the blue cell tumor group, but we would-n’t know more until pathology had a chance to look at it.
We had to wait six days to find out if the tumor was even cancer and what type it was. That Monday evening, after anxiously awaiting the oncolo-gist’s news, we were taken to another small room, where we were told the tumor was in fact cancer and its name was PNET, primitive neuroec-todermal tumor. It was extremely aggressive and malignant. Those words should never, ever be used in the same sentence with child and brain. We were devastated. We were told Cashy would need to undergo three rounds of standard chemother-apy and then three rounds of high-dose chemotherapy, with three stem-cell transplants, and possibly radia-tion and another surgery. After the surgery, Cash was completely blind for six weeks. He was so scared, he wouldn’t even let me get out of the bed to take a shower, go to the bath-room, or even eat, and I would have to sneak out of the room so he wouldn’t know I left.
He would pat on the bed with his arm for me to lie down beside him. His speech and language skills took a major downward spiral two months prior to his diagnosis. It broke my heart seeing him lying in the hospital bed, blind, a bloody scar on his head with stitches, and fear of the unknown.
As I would walk through the halls of
this huge hospital, I would selfishly look at other little boys Cashy’s age and
ask myself and God, Why Cash?
Why not one of these children? Why our baby? I never got an answer. Cash started his first round of chemotherapy on May 21, 2010, after having a central line and a g-tube placed a few days earlier.
He had his first doses of the drugs and did OK until nine o’clock that night, when Cashy had a major seizure where he coded and needed a little resuscitation. The seizure was from extremely low sodium levels in his blood. He was left in full postur-ing (where his arms and legs were sticking out straight and stiff and his back was arched, the most awful thing to see your child go through). That lasted 10 hours in the PICU. They took Cash for an MRI scan of the brain and found that his tumor had grown past the biopsy and larg-er, to 4.7 cm, in just a week and a half. This was terrible news.
Cash finished up round one of chemotherapy in the PICU. We were then transferred back to the oncology floor until we were able to head home for a week’s break. Cash fin-ished up round two of chemotherapy with a bacterial infection in his blood, transferring us to PICU again, but just for two days until his infec-tion cleared up, another code blue episode later, from a little overdose of fentanyl and versed from his central line removal (the source of the bacterial infection). Cash celebrated his second birthday in the hospital, still blind, but happy, and there was a lit-tle glimpse of that boy we once knew and which we yearned so deeply to see again. Over time, Cashy’s com-plex treatment schedule became our new norm.
We cherished each day and celebrat-ed the small victories. We took noth-ing for granted, which included the support and love we received from so many. There is nothing good about cancer. However, it does have the uncanny ability to bring people together — people whose paths, under normal circumstances, would never have crossed. Of course, our family and friends were on the front line offering assistance, but it was the kindness from strangers — those who would later become friends — that moved us even more. Growing up, we were told it is better to give than to receive, but I have learned there is a time and place for both. Those giv-ing walked away with the same big smile and hearts full of joy as they had granted us.
After Cashy’s third and uneventful round of chemotherapy, he had an MRI scan to see what was going on in that brain of his. By the grace of God, Cashy regained his vision slow-ly; it was simply a miracle. We thought our boy was going to be
blind forever. Cash had his MRI on a Friday, and we had to wait till Monday to get the results. We had our camper parked out in the parking lot so Mike and I could take breaks and get some rest once in a while (rest, yeah, right, what’s that??).
So that morning Mike was sleeping in the camper and I was in the room with Cashy, the oncologist came into the room to deliver the news of the MRI. I can’t quite remember the words she said, but overall she told me that Cashy’s 4.7-cm mass that took over his brain was completely GONE! He had little remnants of cancer cells at the base of the skull where the tumor was eroding the skull, but the mass was completely gone!! I hugged the doctor and told all the nurses. It was seriously the best news we’ve had during this whole journey. I hurried and called Mike, but he didn’t answer. So I had one of the nurses sit with Cashy and I ran down to the camper to deliver the good news.
We were elated, excited, overjoyed — every positive word you can think of, that was us! We were on cloud nine, calling everyone and everybody we knew!! Cash then started his high-dose chemotherapy with stem-cell transplants on August 18, 2010. The first round went effortlessly, and Cashy breezed through and was out of the hospital in 12 days! We could-n’t go home to Montana, though; we had to stay local in case something was to happen. His second round of high-dose chemotherapy went all right, with a few minor ups and downs, extreme nausea and vomit-ing, chills, peeling of the skin and dia-per area (leaving a severe diaper rash). The doctors explained to us that whatever was happening on the outside of his body was also happen-ing on the inside of his body. He was then placed on TPN and lipids and his main source of nutrition due to the inability to keep down his tube feedings. During this second round of high-dose chemo, Cash was so incredibly sick and weak, Mike had finally had enough of watching Cashy suffer and took matters into his own hands. Cash had received his medical marijuana card a few months earlier, so Mike went about learning the safest way possible to make cannabis oil for Cashy, and proceed-ed to make a batch.
After a few doses of the cannabis oil, our son transformed. He was able to take bites of food (which he hadn’t done in over 40 days). He was able to sit up and play, laugh, and enjoy a quality of life that he wasn’t getting from the pharmaceutical drugs they were administering to him as a “nau-sea cocktail.” We were so thrilled with his progress, and we continued to give him the cannabis oil through his g-tube. He went from throwing up 10 times a day to maybe two or three. It was a miracle drug.
The thing that kept Mike and me going strong and kept us from going into a slump of depression from the circumstances was our six-year-old son, Colten John. He is an amazing little boy full of energy and spunk and never skips a beat. He was our rock, our most solid thing we had to keep us alive and striving for Cashy’s healing.
Cash went into his third and final stem-cell transplant with high-dose chemo eating, walking with a little assistance, laughing; his nausea was controlled, and he wasn’t in pain. He breezed through the last round of two days of medications and every-eight-hour baths (to wash off the chemo that can seep through the pores and burn the skin). Then on day nine post-stem-cell transplant, Cashy developed a bacterial infection in his blood while still immunocompromised (extremely dangerous). Cashy immediately became very sick, struggling to breathe, and was transferred to the PICU. That next morning, Cash became even sicker and was really having difficulty breathing, so doctors opted to place him on a ventilator to support his lungs. He blew up like a balloon with all of the fluids they were giving him to try and increase his blood pressure. Nothing was working, and his condition was worsening. At one point, Cash had 13 IV pumps flow-ing medication into his body to keep him alive. He had four code blue episodes, which required full resusci-tation. After he was on the vent for two weeks, they told us that he devel-oped a rare condition as a side effect of the stem-cell transplant, it was called diffuse alveolar hemorrhage (severe bleeding in the lungs). He was then placed on an oscillator (after another code blue episode, and the bleeding was worsening). The doctor came to us with terrible news that she thought possibly Cashy’s tumor had spread to his brainstem; she called this micro-invasion of the brainstem. We were scared to death. They said if that was the case, there was nothing they could do, and the only way to find out was to do an MRI. They were able to take Cashy for his MRI only after coding again and requiring CPR through the whole scan. They came back to tell us the news that there was no micro-invasion of the tumor and the cancer was completely gone, but that Cashy had suffered a minor stroke. Relieved that the can-cer was gone, we still had this huge obstacle to overcome: the bleeding lungs.
Things were getting bad really quick-ly. The doctors told us it was very unlikely that he would make it, and they asked us about six times if we wanted to continue resuscitation efforts in the event of another code blue. We told them to continue to do everything they could until all efforts were lost. We brought in a Catholic priest that day, and Cashy was bap-tized with all our family around for support. It was a very emotional serv-ice (if you call it that). After every-thing little Cashy and our family went through, how could God let us lose him now?? It wasn’t fair; I had my first actual “breakdown” that day. I’m usually a very strong person who doesn’t display emotion easily.
But there was no hiding my emotions now; my baby was dying. For six weeks, we watched the rollercoaster of a screen of his vital signs 24 hours a day/seven days a week. No TV ever played, just Michael Franti and Bob Marley on the IPod; it kept us semi-sane. His blood pressure would go up; his heart rate would go down; his blood pres- sure would go down; they would give him epinephrine for it to go back up. It was a vigorous process of ups and downs. Cash had two nurses at all times. He was a busy patient. I could never ever be a PICU nurse. Those nurses are amazing. After four weeks on the oscillator, the doctors told us he was at a “plateau of sickness,” and that if there was any hope of him surviving, we would have to wean him off the oscillator and put him back on the regular ventilator.
This was a huge, stressful process that even the doctors were skeptical to try. They told us Cashy would probably need a trach tube placed and he would most likely be on the ventilator for months due to the extent of lung damage he had.
Well, after only five days, yes, five days, Cash was extubated (breathing tube removed) and he was breathing on his own with a small amount of oxygen. How did this happen???? It was a miracle. And that’s exactly what the doctors said: He was our Christmas miracle! Our goal was to be out of PICU and back to the oncology floor by Christmas 2010, but Cashy was out of the hospital and back at great-grandma’s house by December 17!! Once again, a mir-acle!! Cash spent Christmas with our family members in Salt Lake City. The best Christmas present any par-ent could ever get. We were finally able to leave Salt Lake City after Cashy’s 100-day post bone marrow transplant workup and MRI scans of brain and spine, and head back home to Missoula, Montana, on January 31, 2011, after 10 long months in a strange city. Cashy continues to be cancer free, and we count our bless-ings every day for the second change we get with our amazing son Cash, “The Boy of Steel.”
It felt bittersweet, like it was too good to be true. But it was true! To finally get to bring our baby home to his room and toys and to sleep in our own bed after 10 months of hospital chair beds was beyond amazing. We would have never chosen to be a part of this journey with childhood cancer, but it was chosen for us and our sweet baby boy Cashy. The battle is never gone, never unnoticed, or com-pletely absent from our thoughts, and obviously never lacking from our prayers. Sometimes it is the simple things that serve as the greatest encouragement during this fight.
At times, it’s hard to look back over the past year. And yet there are days I find extreme comfort looking back and seeing God’s faithfulness amidst our own nightmare. If cancer has ever touched your life or the life of someone you know, I don’t have to tell you how devastating it is. There are no words to describe watching cancer and chemotherapy take their effect on someone you love. Cashy survived septic shock, stroke, pulmonary hemorrhage, pulmonary hypertension, all side effects of the chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants he had received. We were told after his fourth cardiac arrest episode he would have brain damage and organ failure, and that he would ultimately die. However, he did not die, and it was because of the cannabinoid therapeutics that he was receiving and their known antioxidant and neuroprotectant capabili-ties. Many say cannabis has anti-tumor effects and could possibly be the cure for cancer. We were very fortunate to have the support of friends and family through Cashy’s incredible journey and would not have been able to bat-tle cancer with Cashy without all of the financial and emotional support we received. Along the way we came across families that were not so fortu-nate and we were able to help them since we had so much support. That’s when we decided to start the Cash Hyde Foundation to continue fighting pediatric cancer and assisting families in need.
The fact is, in one way or another, cancer may affect us all. That’s why it is up to all of us to play a part in fighting cancer during our lifetimes. Cashy’s journey has given us all the opportunity to unite, with the same common goal, helping children fight cancer.
The Cash Hyde Foundation’s mission
is to fight cancer with smiles, prayers, and positive energy, and provide information and financial support for chil-dren with cancer and their families. http://www.cashhydefoundation.com/
What We Do
- Make custom Reggae Runners and donate them to patients at children’s hospitals.
- Raise money to purchase a trailer for families to use at Primary Children’s Medical Center.
- Purchase DVDs, I-Tunes, and CDs and donate them to patients at children’s hospitals.
- Help families in need organize fundraisers so they can concentrate on fighting cancer.
• Collect donations and organize fundraisers to finan cially assist the foundation with its projects and financial sup-port for children with cancer and their families.
- Maintain an open forum and blog on the foundation’s Web site for donors to stay informed and communicate.
- Create childhood cancer awareness in our communities and financial support for children with cancer and their fam-ilies.
On a somber note, due to recent changes in Montana’s medical marijuana laws, Mike Hyde will now only be able to have 12 seedlings, four mature plants, and up to one ounce of cured medicine in his possession to care for Cash with. Where do they come up with these figures for patients’ possession??? This is a CATCH-22 regulation: One mature plant grown indoors under perfect conditions will yield more than four ounces, and outdoors it could yield more than a pound. So by these new laws, you can get busted just after harvesting one of the four plants you are supposed to be able to have legally. And to add insult to injury, according to the new regulations, Cash may have a difficult time renewing his medical marijuana patient card when it expires in 2012.
REGULATIONS BASED ON SPECULATIONS!!!
WHEN WILL THIS MADNESS STOP???
Thanks to Mike and Kalli Hyde for allowing me to bring you Cashy’s story of battling and conquering childhood cancer by using cannabis oil. It’s time to get educated on the beneficial effects of cannabis and its compounds to our bodies.
Peace and God’s Speed