The Legacy of Chad Green
SCITUATE -- Nearly three decades ago, 3-year-old Chad Green died of leukemia in a small apartment in Tijuana, Mexico. His parents had fled there with their son to treat his cancer with laetrile and a special diet, a decision the boy's doctors back in Massachusetts had fought in court.
The drug made from apricot pits was thought then by many Americans to be a miracle cure for cancer. It has since been declared ineffective and potentially poisonous, and has been outlawed in the United States.
Since her son's death, Diana Green Meyer divorced Chad's father, remarried and raised three children. And in a new book, "Chad's Triumph: The Story of the Life of Chad Green," she tells the story of a mother's deep faith in God as well as the mistakes she made trying to save her son.
Among her greatest regrets: the end of the relationship between the family and Dr. John Truman, Chad's pediatric oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Once fierce opponents -- Truman got a court order to return the boy to the hospital for conventional chemotherapy treatment -- Meyer said she realizes now that they both had Chad's best interests at heart, they just had completely different ideas about how to make him well.
During the five years she spent writing the book, Meyer said she tried to find Truman, whom she last saw in 1980 at a Plymouth Superior Court hearing. He is called Dr. Thedman in the book, which will be released Tuesday.
The Patriot Ledger found him this week in New York City, where he is vice chairman of the pediatrics department at Columbia University Medical Center and Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.
For the first time since Chad's death, Meyer and Truman talked to one another Wednesday through e-mail messages.
Truman said Tuesday: "I always had very high regard for her I never doubted her love for Chad or her personal integrity," he said.
When Chad was being treated for acute lymphocytic leukemia, the survival rate was about 50 percent, Truman said. Now, it is about 80 percent.
What still stands out for those who remember the case is how strongly each side believed in its opinion. As the struggle unfolded in 1978 and 1979, it quickly moved from hospital rooms to courtrooms in Hingham, Plymouth and Boston, and to the front pages of newspapers throughout the United States and beyond.
Taking their case directly to the public, the Greens appeared on the "Phil Donahue Show" three times as media interest grew in the use of unconventional medical treatments and parents' rights to make medical decisions for their children that went against medical opinion.
The story had compelling elements: a winsome toddler, powerful doctors and lawyers from a world-renowned medical institution, and two young, frightened parents, skeptical of the 50-50 survival odds offered by the chemotherapy treatment of that time.
"It wasn't so much that people wanted the opportunity to treat cancer the way we were, but they didn't want their children taken from them in a court action they had no say in," Meyer said. "They didn't want to be forced to follow a medical procedure they hadn't chosen."
On Oct. 12, 1979, Chad died in Tijuana with both his parents at his side He was 3 years, 10 months old. Three months before, Diana Green had stopped the chemotherapy treatments Chad had been receiving at the Tijuana clinic, believing that God would heal her child. Chad's Mexican doctor had tried to persuade her to resume the treatment, but she would not.
Chad Green was buried in Hastings, Neb. More than a year later, in December 1980, the Greens returned to the Plymouth courtroom where they were found guilty of contempt of court but freed from additional punishment.
Referring to the hospital doctors and lawyers, she wrote in "Chad's Triumph":
"When we chose up sides and stood against each other in fierce combat to prove our own positions as 'right,' all failed to recognize their goals had been compromised and tarnished. The trust needed to build together on Chad's behalf had been dealt a devastating blow I deeply regret this and I have grieved and agonized going over and over that fact."
Even if Chad had continued chemotherapy at Mass General and at home, she said, he might still have died. No one knows, but Meyer does believe Truman bought him more time by getting the court order compelling further conventional treatment. Chad's leukemia came back in Massachusetts three months after his parents stopped giving him chemotherapy at home. And in Tijuana, the same thing happened -- the cancer recurred and he died three months after the chemotherapy stopped, Meyer said.
The Greens wanted definite answers, promises of a cure, and conventional medicine could not provide that -- then or now.
Meyer has since watched her stepmother refuse treatment and die of cancer. Her advice for anyone else facing a life-threatening illness is to learn as much about the illness and nutrition as possible.
"But do not negate your doctors' advice or any prescribed medication, unless that option has failed," she said.
Asked why she wrote the book now, Meyer said, "I had it half written in 1984 but then didn't have the time."
She and Jerry Green had two more children -- a daughter, Jessie, in 1982 and a son, Cody in 1985 -- then were divorced in 1989, and after several years as a working single mother, she got remarried in 1991 and had another son, Daniel, who is now 15.
"It was in my heart but I never had time until five years ago," she said. "And it is a benefit of God's timing that the years have provided a better opportunity to look back. I was so young, everything happened so quickly back then, and God kept putting it into my heart to do this."
The 221-page paperback is available online at chadstriumph.com, tatepublishing.com or after July 31 at amazon.com, walmart.com and barnesandnoble.com.
Sue Scheible may be reached at email@example.com.