Most parents love taking photos of their kids, but for one U.K. toddler, a close-up photograph helped doctors detect a rare form of cancer.
Emily Smith was admiring a picture of her 11-month-old son Jaxon when she noticed a strange white spot on in the middle of his eye, caught by the camera’s flash.
After doing some quick research online, Smith immediately looked through other photos and noticed that the same white clouding behind his left eye.
“We booked a doctors appointment the following day, upon telling the doctor our concerns she performed a red reflex test on Jaxon, and the results confirmed that there was something behind his eye,” Smith said in an interview with Metro. “She stated that in 16 years she had been a GP she had never seen anything like it.”
After more tests, doctors diagnosed Jaxon with retinoblastoma, a form of cancer that begins in the retina.
According to the American Cancer Society, retinoblastoma is the most common form of eye cancer in children, beginning in utero. During development, eye cells (known as retinoblasts) can grow out of control, which leads to cancerous tumours.
If left undetected and untreated, retinoblastomas can spread outside of the eye causing cancer in other parts of the body such as the brain and lymph nodes.
In December 2016, doctors performed surgery to check the tumour.
‘Waiting for Jaxson to come round was horrific – it was only an hour, but it felt like so much longer,” Smith recalled. “Luckily, following his surgery, Jaxson was pleasantly unaware of what was going on and continued to be our happy, beautiful baby boy… We had Christmas knowing what was going on inside our little boys’ eye and trying to be as positive as possible knowing that this tumour was actively growing, it was an incredibly difficult time.”
Doctors informed the family that the toddler’s cancer hadn’t spread, and could be treated with chemotherapy.
After six months of treatment, doctors declared Jaxon stable. Despite the relief, just six months later, doctors discovered that the cancer had begun growing again and ordered another round of chemotherapy.
“We were heartbroken to find out it was beginning to grow again, despite Jaxson reacting so well to his previous treatment,” said Smith. ‘They had already done laser surgery on the tumour as best they could whilst Jaxson was asleep, then, when they found the laser treatment wasn’t working, they gave him infra-arterial chemotherapy every two weeks until Jaxson had had six sessions of laser under general anaesthetic.”
After another intense round of treatment, the now three-year-old boy has been stable for almost a year.
“We were told by Jaxson’s school that he is on track for everything development-wise with no concerns, I think we have always been aware that he may struggle due to being premature and also an oncology patient but we could not be more proud of our gorgeous little boy,” Smith said. “Even if he was behind we would still be just as proud, but to know despite it all he is still so kind and clever is extraordinary.”