A mum has revealed how pictures of her toddler hid a potentially-deadly secret, after a white ‘glow’ in his eyes turned out to be cancer.
Leonnie Ord said that she started noticing a glow over her one-year-old son Cillian Coyles’ left pupil in August.
As it would come and go, she put it down to light reflecting off his eye, but sought medical advice when it became more prominent over the next few months.
After undergoing several tests, Leonnie and 36-year-old fiancé Gary Coyles were stunned when Cillian was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare type of eye cancer that commonly affects young children.
Little Cillian has lost vision in his left eye as a result of the tumor growing on his optic nerve, and is now having targeted chemotherapy in order to shrink it.
After a ‘rollercoaster’ couple of months, 33-year-old Leonnie is urging parents to ‘know the glow’, as awareness of this tell-tale sign could save a child’s sight – and ultimately their life.
Leonnie, from Hebburn, Tyne and Wear, said: ‘Essentially that happy, smiling picture of him hides a secret that can be deadly if it’s not caught in time.
‘If you see anything different with your child’s eye, you need to get it checked out.
‘If you notice something with your friend’s child’s eye or if you see a photo on Facebook, don’t be frightened to alert that parent. Because as a parent you would rather be scared for a week waiting for an appointment than it being too late and your child losing their eye or sight, or the cancer has spread.’
The devoted mum-of-two said she didn’t notice the glow in Cillian’s eye very often until the weeks leading up to his diagnosis when it became more apparent.
Leonnie said: ‘It was a white glow over all his pupil, it was as if he had a cat’s eye.
‘When it started becoming more prominent and I was looking down at him I could see this white looking back at me, which now I know is the tumor in his eye.’
Leonnie, who is also mum to five-year-old Aoife, contacted her GP before being referred to a paediatrician who broke the devastating news at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
‘Before we got down to Birmingham, we kind of accepted that we thought he was going to be diagnosed with cancer,’ she said.
‘My main worries were that he was going to lose his little personality, hair and he was going to be really poorly. They were three things that I just couldn’t get out of my head.’
For now, the family are trying to get Cillian through his targeted chemotherapy, which involves intravitreal eye injections.
Leonnie said: ‘The treatment shrinks and also calcifies the tumour. It’s more than likely always going to be in his eye but it will be calcified and it kind of kills the tumour.
‘The way that they described it is that the research had come along massively, but if Cillian had presented five years ago his eye would have been removed straight away.
‘We were told that his chemo was going to stop and that they were really happy with it and at the next check, his chemo needed to restart again.
‘The chemo has started to toxify the healthy part of his eye, so they’re going to have to treat that now as well.’
Alongside their efforts to keep Cillian fighting fit, the family have set up a JustGiving page to raise funds for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust.
Leonnie will also be completing the Great North Run this September.
She added: ‘When he was first diagnosed they talked about it being a rollercoaster – and we didn’t quite understand what that meant until these past few months because it’s very much ups and downs.’
What is retinoblastoma?
According to the NHS: ‘Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that can affect young children, usually under the age of five.
‘If it’s picked up early, retinoblastoma can often be successfully treated. More than nine out of ten children with the condition are cured.
‘Retinoblastoma can either affect one or both eyes. If it affects both eyes, it’s usually diagnosed before a child is one year old. If it affects one eye, it tends to be diagnosed later (between the ages of two and three). It’s unusual for retinoblastoma to progress unnoticed beyond the age of 5.
‘Signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma include: An unusual white reflection in the pupil, a squint, a change in the color of the iris, a red or inflamed eye or poor vision – such as your child may not focus on faces or objects, or they may not be able to control their eye movements.’
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