Julie Fitzgerald of Rockford, Illinois, knew something was wrong with her youngest son, 2-year-old Avery. "Probably a couple months I would notice when I was looking at Avery in a light I would see something in the back of his eye,” she said.
While doing some research online, she read about a woman who saw one of her relatives had a white eye instead of the typical red eye in a photo. It turned out the relative had cancer, so she took a photo of her son with her cellphone three weeks ago.
"I took a picture and I did not want to take the picture because I had this dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach and I took the picture and boom. His whole pupil was just white and that's when I knew,” she told WREX.
Julie took Avery to a specialist who diagnosed the toddler with retinoblastoma. "He took one look and said there are multiple, multiple tumors,” she said. In fact, 75 percent of Avery’s eye was covered in tumors and it had to be removed. It’s likely that Avery had been blind in his left eye his entire life, but the tumors had started growing six weeks earlier.
Retinoblastoma is a rare cancer that primarily affects children. The good news is that it has one of the best survival rates for all childhood cancers. More than 9 out of 10 children with the cancer survive into adulthood.
The diagnosis came just in time. Doctors said if she had waited much longer, the cancer could have spread to his brain and blood. Although the family believes all of the cancer has been removed, Avery might have to undergo chemotherapy. He’s currently being tested to see if he has genetic markers that would indicate he’s at risk for more cancer. He will eventually get a prosthetic eye.
Patrick, Julie's husband, has some simple advice fathers: "Listen to your wife, that would be the first thing. Trust your gut."
Julie added: "Trust a momma's gut.”
Image via WREX