The founder of one of Philly's hippest businesses is going public with his decision to use a controversial cannabis oil treatment for his young son's cancer.
Brian Dwyer, the founder of Fishtown's Pizza Brain, went public on April 20 – the marijuana enthusiast's holiday – with the fact that for the last year he has been helping his 2-year-old son Waldo fight a rare form of eye cancer with cannabis oil.
“Over the past two years, my journey has taken me all over the world of cannabis,” Dwyer said. “Weed is not just something that people smoke to watch Netflix, eat Cheetos and pull their shades down. … It’s sacred medicine. That’s what it is. And I see it now.”
Dwyer went public with the cannabis oil treatment for his son Waldo on his Facebook page and also announced that he is creating a documentary about his son’s journey.
He has created a Gofundme campaign to cover production costs for the film – which as of Wednesday afternoon had surpassed its goal of $3,000 in less than 12 hours.
Waldo Dwyer, who just turned 2, was diagnosed at six months with bilateral retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer.
Medical professionals prescribed chemotherapy and a variety of prescription drugs that made the baby sicker and sicker, then prescribed more drugs to combat the side effects of the other treatment, according to Dwyer.
After treating his son with cannabis oil, Waldo began breastfeeding, crawling, pooping and laughing again, according to Dwyer. They continued chemotherapy, but eventually stopped using traditional pharmaceuticals entirely. At this point, Waldo is tumor-free, although not technically fully cancer-free yet.
But Dwyer said a bill legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on Sunday won’t do enough to give Waldo his neccessary treatment.
“I saw first-hand walking through different children’s hospitals... it is a dark time if you want to consider what modern medicine actually is. It’s not concerned at all with people’s health,” he said. “It is concerned with yes, making you better, but the road to getting better is full of just the worst stuff. They were trying to give my kid morphine.”
However, there is no scientific research supporting Dwyer’s experience with cannabis oil, said Dr. Michael Dellavecchia, president of the Philadelphia County Medical Society.
“As a physician, as a citizen, I wish something that easy worked. I wish holy water worked,” Dellavecchia said. “A 1-year-old baby can’t tell you how he feels. This kid could have just been high as a kite and oblivious to what his symptoms are.”
Dellavecchia cautioned that stories like Dwyer’s might make other cancer patients consider unproven courses of treatment.
“Going with an unproven treatment with an undocumented substance where you can't guarantee purity, dosage, quantity, versus an approved, tried and true treatment that has been monitored and assessed by the scientific community, I definitely would go with the latter,” he said. “People are going to say, ‘Guess what? I read somewhere and you can do this and this is how you can get rid of your tumor. So let’s try it.’ And how many people because of this are going to die?’”
But Dwyer had no doubt about cannabis oil’s benefits for his son, as well as for other kids he helped provide it to.
“I’ve given it to other parents. At this point I’ve seen 30 to 40 patients in Philly alone – their lives have been changed by cannabis. You’re talking kids with 500 seizures a day having zero seizures,” he said.
Dwyer, who quit Pizza Brain last year, is also planning to soon move to Oregon so he can have guaranteed access to more oil for Waldo.
"I don’t want my medicine grown and sold to me by corporations, I think its bulls----, I’d rather just have my friends grow it non-toxically with no herbicides or pesticides," he said.
Dwyer said he has no idea what the consequences will be of going public with his story, which he previously had not shared with the doctors treating his son's cancer, but said he needs to share his experience.
"I think this story is helping people and I want to help people if I can do that."