Jailian Kaipeng is just one of 20,000 children in India suffering from eye cancer. (Warning: The photos below are graphic.)
It is suspected that Jailian has a cancer called retinoblastoma, but his family is too poor to afford diagnostic tests or medical treatment, reports the Daily Mail.
As explained by the American Cancer Society, during the early stages of fetal development, the eyes have cells called retinoblasts that divide into new cells and fill the retina.
Normally, the cells stop dividing and develop into mature retinal cells that detect light. However, when retinoblasts continue to divide and grow out of control, the result is retinoblastoma.
Jailian is reportedly in constant pain, and the condition has deformed his eyes so much that he cannot close them.
"All the doctors have said we should take him to the big hospitals but they are beyond our affordability," explained his mother, Chengmaite. "People stare at him and are shocked by his condition which breaks my heart. All we can do it wait for a miracle to happen. We are in desperate need of help."
"We were very shocked when we first saw it, we had no idea what to do, or who to turn to," said Jailian's father, Neirbanglal. "We took him to see our local doctors. But they were baffled. They gave him some medicines and sent us home but his eyes just got worse."
In desperation, Neirbanglal sold some of his land and the family cow to pay for further consultation fees, travel expenses and medicines.
But Jailian's condition continued to worsen, and the family has now lost their home.
"We were shocked and helpless by the visibility of his condition. I had no idea where to take my son," said Neirbanglal. "We do not have that kind of knowledge or know how best to help him. We had no money to take him to the city hospitals. But we wasted time, just sitting and staring at him all day, crying. And in that time we could see his eyes getting worse."
Neirbanglal continued: "There's a Christian missionary near my in-laws' house so we asked them for help and they kindly found us a good doctor. The doctor has given my son's disease a name but he's done nothing else because we have no money. We have no idea what it is, whether it can be cured or what to do next, we've had no guidance."
Dr. Shashidhar Tatavarthy, a pediatric physician in Delhi, said: "The boy has not lost his sight yet but if he's left untreated any longer he could lose his sight completely."
The cause of the increase in retinoblastoma cases in India is unknown. However, the cause for the cancer increase in general is better understood.
Dr. Pavan Kumar, an oncologist at a hospital and research institute, says, "The high number of cancer patients in India can be attributed to three things," as quoted by The Times of India. "First, the population boom and higher life expectancy are leading to more cases of cancer, because it is technically an old-age disease. Secondly, there is now early detection of cancer, as people are coming to hospitals to get checked. Third, the pollution in India and the widespread use of pesticides can also contribute to the large number of cancer patients."
Dr. Lloyd Nazareth, president and CEO of American Oncology Institute, adds: "Lifestyle risk factors are deteriorating year on year. India has about 17% of its population consuming tobacco, there is a 50% increase in alcohol use in persons over the age of 15 over the last 20 years, obesity in India is on the increase, and we have 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world. These deteriorating risk factors could increase annual incidence by as much as 3,00,000 cases a year."
As for the tragic case of Jailian, his father summed it up in a heart-wrenching statement. "It is devastating to see my child suffering like this," he said. "He cannot see properly and it kills me to see him like this. I am possibly the most useless father who is not able to help his son."