A mother from Alberta, Canada, saw a white glow in her toddler’s eye and immediately knew what it was. Days prior, she had read about a child with eye cancer; her informed suspicion led to an early diagnosis for her little boy.
“He just looked at me and I kind of caught this flash of this white thing, or white glow, in his pupil,” Teresa LaFrance, from Hinton, told Global News via video interview.
The concerned mother made her 18-month-old son, Carson, an appointment with a doctor. Owing to a cancellation, a specialist called her the same evening to assess Carson via video conference. The toddler received an official diagnosis, bilateral retinoblastoma, at a hospital in Edmonton on Nov. 2.
Teresa admitted that it wasn’t shocking, but it was scary. “I think I already had it in my head,” she explained. “I think it shocked my husband a little more that it was cancer.”
Just four days later, Teresa and her husband, Denis, flew Carson to SickKids Hospital in Toronto for surgery to have his right eye removed, as it was full of tumors, and to get the three small tumors in his left eye treated with a laser. “The prognosis is that because the tumors are small, and if we keep on top of it, he should have 20/20 vision in the left eye,” said Teresa.
While finding it hard to watch Carson confused and nauseated due to his general anesthetic, Teresa praised children’s ability to bounce back. Just 24 hours later, Carson’s bandage was removed. The next day, the energetic toddler was running and playing like any normal day.
Posting an update on Nov. 8, Teresa described her son’s recovery: “He was discharged today and we are back at the hotel. He awoke in super good spirits this morning and took many walks/runs down the halls to use some energy.”
Bilateral retinoblastoma is an eye cancer that typically develops in children younger than 5 years old, according to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It is rare; only about 250 to 300 children are diagnosed in the United States each year, and the main warning signs include a white spot on the pupil, a lazy eye, vision problems, and red or irritated eyes.
As the LaFrance family deals with this unimaginable ordeal, many people have offered their support by way of contributing to a GoFundMe page. At the time of writing, almost $17,000 has been raised, far surpassing the fund’s $10,000 goal.
Teresa posted on “Courageous for Carson,” a Facebook page set up to chronicle her son’s recovery, explaining that the money will go toward trip expenses, future medical trips to either Toronto or Calgary, and Carson’s prosthetics.
“[W]e are humbled by your generosity,” she said.
In an update posted on Nov. 27, the family was informed via a video meeting from the SickKids team that they received the pathology from the eye that was removed. “Carson now needs chemotherapy,” the post read. “The tumor was close to the blood vessels that lead out of the eye and because of that he could have some cancer cells from that right eye tumor floating around his body.”
As a precautionary step to not allow the tumor to develop anywhere else in the body, Carson will need to undergo chemotherapy.
“I’m going to be honest, I’m not handling this news as well as I did the initial diagnosis last time,” Teresa admitted. “My heart is broken… we thought we had dodged this bullet… we didn’t want this to be the route needed to be taken.”
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