Mothers Madeleine Robb and Megan Santos met online through Babyfit.com. Their daughters were born on the same day, so they developed a special connection and kept in contact with each other.
In 2008, Santos posted a picture of her daughter Rowan, who was one year old at that time, to the online group. When Robb saw the photo of baby Rowan, she noticed a white reflection appearing in one of Rowan’s eyes. Robb had read an article about a rare form of cancer that could cause such a reflection and suspected it might be it.
“I didn’t want to scare her,” Robb told TODAY. “But then I weighed out the options. If something wasn’t wrong, then no real harm was done. If something was wrong, I really had no option, so obviously I had to tell her.”
So Robb sent Santos an e-mail.
After reading the e-mail, Santos took her daughter to see a doctor that same day. She was referred to an ophthalmologist and after some tests it was confirmed that Rowan had a cancerous tumor growing on her retina.
“Her prognosis is good, as far as the doctor can tell, [the cancer] had not yet reached her optic nerve, which would have then brought it directly to her brain,” Santos said, according to ABC News.
Retinoblastoma is a potentially deadly form of cancer that affects children. According to the American Cancer Society, a common early sign of retinoblastoma is the change in pupil coloring. Shine a light to the eye, the pupil will be red due to blood vessels in the back of the eye. If the pupil is white or pink, the eye has retinoblastoma. This change is seen when taking a flash photograph. It may appear to be a white glare, or the pupils may have different colors.
Most children survive if treated early, but they may also lose their sight in the affected eye or have their eye removed.
Treatment for Rowan included chemotherapy and surgery to remove the eye. Santos is still ever grateful to her friend.
“Do I consider Madeleine our hero? Most certainly. If she hadn’t sent that e-mail, Rowan’s prognosis wouldn’t be as good as it is.” Santos told Daily Mail.