When Deryn Blackwell was 13 years old, the doctors gave him some horrible news: the boy from England was suffering from leukemia and needed treatment immediately. Deryn fought the disease bravely for a year before being dealt another blow. It turned out that leukemia wasn’t the only form of cancer trying to take his life.
The leukemia was proving difficult enough to beat, but then Deryn was also diagnosed with a very rare disease called Langerhans cell sarcoma. There have been very few documented cases of the disease and never one like Deryn’s where it is combined with leukemia. The young boy was in extreme pain — his mother remembers how horrible it was: “The tips of my son Deryn’s fingers were hard and black from a superbug infection. His nails were peeling away and any remaining live flesh was covered in weeping sores. Every day, he begged me: ‘Please tell them to cut my hand off, Mum. I can’t take this any more.'”
Deryn’s condition got so bad that the doctors held little hope for him. They gave him only two weeks to live and put him in a hospice. His parents were so desperate that they decided to try something very unusual: they wanted to give their son cannabis. The doctors had told them that marijuana could improve his condition, but there had not yet been any studies of its effects on children. Because of this, children were not allowed to use it for medical purposes. So Deryn’s parents were forced to watch him suffer as his condition worsened. Finally they couldn’t take it anymore and came up with a plan.
“We couldn’t sit by and watch him spend his last days in a morphine fog. Enough was enough. So I went into the city and purchased a vaporiser pen – specialist equipment for inhaling an illegal drug,” explained Deryn’s mother. Meanwhile, his father managed to make contact with a marijuana dealer. It was a risky move considering that he would face up to five years in prison if caught, but he was willing to do anything for his son.
Deryn was getting weaker by the day and his parents knew they had nothing to lose. They brought him the vaporizer (which doesn’t create any combustion and is therefore healthier than smoking) and he gave it a try. The results were astonishing: within an hour Deryn was doing noticeably better. It relieved his pain and he could finally speak clearly with his his mom again. It didn’t take long for the British media to pick up on the story.
The doctors and caregivers couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Day by day, Deryn’s condition was improving and only a few weeks after starting his cannabis treatment it was clear that he wasn’t going to die after all. Soon he was even able to leave the hospital and catch up with his schoolwork. That was in 2013. Now Deryn is 17 years old and has fully recovered thanks to his parent’s willingness to risk everything.