Corner Brook toddler battling rare eye cancer

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Corner Brook toddler battling rare eye cancer

A family from Corner Brook had their world turned upside-down earlier this year after finding out their toddler has a rare type of eye cancer.

Stephanie Peckford's two-and-a-half-year old son Levi was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in his left eye — a disease that affects fewer than 25 children in Canada each year.

"This past fall we noticed his eye looked a little odd — it started to turn in, and it got progressively worse," said Peckford.

"On May 9, we went to an optometrist to have an eye exam. An hour later we were off to see a specialist in Corner Brook, and then four hours later we received a call saying we had an appointment at SickKids for May 11."

A team of doctors from the Toronto hospital informed Peckford that her son had a cancerous tumour in his eye, and they would have to stay for treatment for the next several months.

"It's the worst possible news any mother would want to hear. It's your worst nightmare come true — being told your two-year-old has cancer."

To date, Levi has had three rounds of intra-arterial chemotherapy — a procedure that uses a catheter to travel from the groin up to the eye, delivering chemotherapy directly into the eye.

The treatment has helped shrink the tumour by 60 per cent. This week Levi received plaque radiation, a treatment which requires a metal plaque be inserted into his eye with radioactive seeds on one side.

China bound

Because Levi's tumour exploded, he'll be required to have chemo injections beginning in August, and the journey doesn't stop there. Last week, Levi's family was told they'd have to travel to China to see a doctor who will remove tumour particles from the eye, with hopes that it will allow him to have 20/20 vision in the future.

"Honestly, we don't know many of the details yet because it was just told to us last week, so we were kind of taken back by it."

In the meantime, Peckford said Levi is responding well to his treatments and is an otherwise very happy, healthy little boy. The family has been staying at Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto since arriving in May.

"He's feeling great. There hasn't been any side effects for him, in large part I think because the chemotherapy is only being delivered to his eye," she said.

"We will have to travel back [to Toronto] every two to three months until he's five for follow up because there is a chance it can become active again, so they'll have to follow him closely, pretty much for the rest of his life now."

She said before Levi's diagnosis, Peckford never thought about eye exams and just assumed he would get one before starting school. Now, she's encouraging parents everywhere to take their children to see an optometrist.

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