Update: A judge ruled that Noah McAdams must complete two more chemotherapy sessions, to finish the first phase of his treatment, WFLA reported Wednesday. Then, McAdams will undergo bone marrow testing, and the judge will decide if he must continue with the final two phases of treatment. His parents are free to pursue other therapies for him while he undergoes chemotherapy.
McAdams remains in the custody of his grandparents, though his parents can attend his medical appointments and are working to arrange unsupervised visits and regain custody.
Two Florida parents are being investigated for possible medical neglect after they stopped taking their 3-year-old son to his chemotherapy treatments, instead opting for natural remedies.
Noah McAdams was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in April. According to the Tampa Bay Times, his parents Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball initially agreed on chemotherapy as his course of treatment.
Treatment for ALL typically takes two years and may include chemotherapy, radiation and/or stem cell transplant. The treatment protocol is highly effective — 98% of children go into remission and 90% of those can be cured (considered to be at least 10 years of remission), according to St. Jude.
However, McAdams testified during a court hearing on Thursday that after 10 days of care at the hospital, he and his wife became dissatisfied with the doctors and social workers. He claimed they told their son’s health care team they were “seeking a second opinion,” then left for Ohio, where Bland-Ball had scheduled appointments for Noah to receive alternative care.
“The hospital’s governing body was disorganized and the doctors were not pleasant or professional to us. It seemed like doctors were disappearing on us and just passing down Noah’s information second hand,” McAdams testified.
Bland-Ball wrote on Facebook April 16 that they “busted on out of that hospital” and that Noah had done two rounds of chemotherapy, plus natural treatments including rosemary, colloidal silver, vitamin C and B complex, Reishi mushroom tea and breastmilk. She wrote he had “no cancer cells left to spare.”
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When Noah didn’t show up for his scheduled chemotherapy treatment on April 22, police began searching for the family and found them in a motel in Kentucky.
Noah is currently in the care of his maternal grandparents while his parents face an investigation into possible medical neglect.
“We want him to receive a treatment that has less side effects, because chemotherapy is so brutal on a body, even an adult body, so think of what it’s doing to a little person who’s only 30 pounds,” Bland-Ball told reporters Wednesday, according to the Washington Post. “We want to get him something that’s healthier, that is more biologically sound for him, specific to him and not just a standard protocol that they use for everybody, because he’s an individual.”
Doctors caution against relying on natural methods to cure cancer. A 2017 study found that those with cancer who chose an alternative approach were 2.5 times more likely to die than those who stuck with conventional medicine.
In an essay for Stat News, Suneel Kamath, hematology/oncology fellow at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, argued for an approach that incorporates alternative techniques like meditation, diet and acupuncture alongside traditional medicine.
“We should focus on making choices that realistically have the best chance to help us. Sometimes, the ‘unnatural’ option is the best one,” Kamath wrote.
Focusing on natural treatments to cure cancer can also be frustrating for people with cancer themselves. Mighty contributor Erika Hansen responded to those who suggest natural supplements for her cancer, acknowledging that while alternative treatments can help, it is unwise to assume it is necessarily better. She wrote:
I still fervently believe that alternative and holistic medicine is an important facet of global health and urge others to pursue this avenue in conjunction with their already established methods of treatment. But certainly not with the ideology that it, and not Western medicine, is the only path to health.